Against a backdrop of automation, decreasing demand and increasing crime, Daly’s Post Office in Belharbour closed this summer. Nicola Corless spoke to Rena Linnane, the last Daly to run the post office, about the end of a relationship that lasted for over a century
For 125 years, the Daly family were the masters of communication between Belharbour and the rest of the world. They brought news of love and loss, births and bills, life and death but in recent decades, telegraphs were replaced by telephones, letters by emails.
In Belharbour, people collected their pensions with a personal touch and bought stamps with a side of conversation. That came to an end with the closure of the local post office, though the shop and bar that housed it are still open.
“The shop is still going. The grocery is quiet enough and the bar indeed but sure it is all quiet now. I felt sad really closing the office because my father was here and my grandfather. It is a pity but what could we do, that is modern technology,” Rena lamented.
Reared with the post office, Rena returned to take it over in 1992. Having opened on July 2, 1884, it closed in July.
“I was hoping my family would carry it on but really, they had no interest in it. The boys are outdoors types. They are farming but someone would want to be here all day every day. They had no great interest in the post office so when they hadn’t, there was no point keeping it on,” she explained.
Over the years, the postal system was becoming increasingly computerised and the postmistress was not enamoured at the thought of retraining. In the shop, though Rena has a till, she still likes to do the calculations in her head or on paper.
“Everything would have to become automated. We had no computer and I had no intention of learning how to work a computer at this hour of my life,” the 64-year-old stated.
Another reason for the closure is a little more sinister. The small family-run post office was robbed last February. It wasn’t the first time and Rena felt it probably wouldn’t be the last.
“My mother had a couple of break-ins but there wasn’t anything taken out of the office. It was out of the shop. In the last few years, we have had three or four robberies. The post office is a temptation anyway because people know there is money there all the time.
“We had a few robberies and there are people who go around robbing post offices so between that and the automation, I decided to close it now,” Rena outlined.
Although the impact of the reduction of services in rural villages is well documented, Rena believes that her role was becoming less important.
“There are cars in all the houses now, so of the people who used to come here, some went to Ballyvaughan and the most went to Kinvara. I’d say it isn’t having too much of an effect. Not like long ago. I had a good few pensioners and children’s allowances. In the summer time, you would have the visitors coming in for the stamps but it was quiet enough otherwise really,” she observed.
According to Mary, the shop has been busier than the post office for the last few years but it has always been slightly less of a burden.
“When you have the post office, you have to be there everyday. If you just have the shop, then you can close it for a few hours if you need to. It gives a little bit more freedom and less worry,” she concluded.