MARIE Hogan has been the friendly face that welcomed both locals and visitors alike to Kilfenora Post Office for 18 years.On Friday, her tenure as postmistress came to an end with the closure of the North Clare outlet for An Post services.
Despite a strong public campaign last year to save several rural post office around the county, some have closed and the day of reckoning has finally arrived for Kilfenora. Marie would have loved to remain open for business but her operation did not fit the criteria set out by An Post in its rationalisation programme.
“There are about 400 people in the area served by Kilfenora Post Office but An Post dictated that there should be at least 500 people living within a 10 kilometre radius of any give office. We don’t have the numbers. I had no choice but to close; it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. The Kilfenora people will now be served by Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna or Corofin,” Marie told The Clare Champion ahead of the closure.
“In addition postmen/women will collect mail from Lisdoonvarna. I enjoyed meeting the last early in the morning and having them on their way in a short time. From Monday, they will heading to Lisdoonvarna.
Kilfenora Post Office has been a hub for interaction among a quite diverse spectrum of customers with different demands on the services provided. The closure is a big blow to the community, not only from the perspective of the loss of services but also the loss to the public of a person who has been described as “a great ambassador for the village and wider area”.
There is an important social cost of the post office closure to the village and the surrounding area. It is a sad day for everybody in the community,” according to one local person.
“Marie Hogan has served the community diligently and conscientiously as post mistress and for that she has the gratitude of the community. Marie was also the ambassador for tourists and the information point for community events. For postmen, the post office was the sorting office and somewhere to leave the parcels difficult to deliver and a meeting point with customers,” the community figure added.
Last year, when The Clare Champion had a special focus on Kilfenora, Frances Connole, Burren Centre manager spoke of the need to “protect all elements of a small community”.
“A post office is very import in our village. It is important to me because of the change [cash] it provides, as well as other services. Forms can be filled out there and photocopying. It is also important to visitors who want to send postcards home,” she said, adding that postmistress Marie Hogan has a “friendly smile for all”.
Marie, nee Hennessy, from Carhugar, Lahinch, married into a Kilfenora family, the Hogans. At the time she was working in Lorcan O’Connor’s shop in Ennistymon.
Her husband, Gerard’s family ran a small grocery shop on the Main Street. The post office, just two doors down, was run by Mary Lysaght. When she retired in 2000, Marie took over the licence.
The rural post office is something quite tangible and as a postmistress you have to embrace that concept, according to Marie. In this role, she has come to see everybody in Kilfenora as part of her extended family.
“I know them all, young and old, and many are very close friends. That’s what makes it hard to let go. It’s with a heavy heart I’m closing up. I know the locals will miss the post office and I will really miss them.
Marie is worried about the future. “I am a person they know and trust for many years. They will find it difficult to go elsewhere. I will even find it strange to go to another post office to do business.
“The older people are my main concern. I loved Fridays when they came in to collect the pension. We’d have great chats and I’d try to help them with forms and solve problems. It was often a case of taking pension money out with one hand and lodging it with the other. I might be the only person they’d talk to all week unless they happened to meet the postman on his rounds.
“It was the same with farmers when they came in to sent off forms to the department. A few might need a hand,” she said.
Marie spoke about the impact the post office closure would have on the village. “Any day customers came in here they might have some other call to make at a shop. That’s gone now; people will have to make a conscious decision to come to Kilfenora rather than where they conduct post office business.
One of the big changes Marie has seen is the demise of the old fashion tradition of handwritten letters.
“The art of writing letters has been lost. Technology has ruined it. Nobody writes a letter any more; it’s mobile phones – texts, photos, aps and lots besides. The only letters are bills.
“We saw this a good while back with tourists coming to the area. There was a time when there were stacks of post cards available at the post office or tourist shops. Now very few are sold. People have camera phones to take their own landscape shots or selfies.”
As regards famous customers, from Ireland or overseas, there is nobody special, according to Marie. What about politicians? “The only time I see them is before the elections,” she smiled. “It’s the regular customers that count.”
Marie made quiet exit on Friday. She invited a few people to the post office for tea and cakes.
The green door was then locked permanently on yet another rural post office in Clare.