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Hilliard’s history recalled as Marie and Mary take a step back in time




I had an afternoon with two ladies which I can only describe as ‘a tonic’ as we took a trip down memory lane at the newly revamped Hilliards on Main Street.

STEEPED IN HISTORY: The staff at Hilliard's Department Store 1964 which hangs by the bar at the all new Hilliard's seeped in history of its original existence. Photo: Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan

It was a department store historically home to the finest handcrafted goods, renowned all over Ireland for its quality selection, and that's just exactly how Marie (Ryan) Healy and Mary (O’Driscoll) Harmon remember it.

“Ladies, what is your first impression of the all new Hilliards,” I asked.

“A big change from my memories of Hilliards Marie, but isn’t it a beautiful piece of history restored so tastefully,” Mary replied.

Marie added that she thinks Dick Hilliard, Richard's father, "would be so proud".

"If only they could see the amazing turn around,” she said.

“Wasn’t it known as the Brown Thomas of Killarney ladies - or so I’m told,” Pat Sheahan Jnr said as he busied himself prepping the bar for another day.

“That it was and more,” the women agreed, and from there on in I hardly asked a question! The stories and conversation just flowed and my shorthand was put to the test.

Marie Healy, at just 14-years-old, applied for a position at Hilliards whilst attending the Vocational School.

“My brother Kieran and father Mickey Ryan both worked for Hilliards so I said I’d see where the interview would take me. In April 1962, I began working at the haberdashery with long standing members of staff, Rita Cronin (RIP) and Ann O’Shea. I was soon upgraded to handbags and wool and years later upstairs to ladies underwear. In 1968 I left to be married. In those days Marie, one could not work after marriage. Things changed in the '80s and as Hilliards prepared for their famous August sale I was asked back to help out and there I stayed until they closed their doors in 1994 when I moved further afield to Avoca where I spent the next 18 years."

At the age of 16 Mary Harmon began working at Hilliards.

“I replaced Ann O’Shea in haberdashery, working closely with Rita Cronin. The haberdashery was located at the front door, the concierge of Hilliards so to speak. I later moved across the road to work with Jim Cronin and Ina Breen in the Waterford Crystal and silverware section. Like a magpie, I was a huge fan of all things shiny. We would make weekly deposits from our pay cheques to purchase, slowly working our way through various suites of crystal, Lismore, Tramore etc., and when we were done we’d anticipate our next suite carefully. In 1977 I was married and left Hilliards where I also left the some of the best memories of my life.”

The ladies recalled the Club Card system at Hilliards.

Mary explained that was "not a bit like today's" where customers get a certain amount of points for their shopping which results in money-off vouchers for future purchases.

Much like Mary’s deposits on her array of Waterford Crystal, customers would physically visit the accounts office weekly and pay forward for Christmas - a savings scheme which the Hilliards made no profit.

"What you put in you got out at Christmas, a very special time at Hilliards. Timmy O’Donoghue was our acting Santa and many of the staff, including myself, played elves. Ah the craic was mighty Marie. Anyone who worked at Hilliards became long serving members of staff,” Marie explained.


I asked both of them what their best memory was whilst working at Hilliards.

“Going out the door home,” Mary exclaimed with laughter. “Not at all Marie, we didn’t have a lot of money but by God we had so much fun."

“I’m going to say it was the day we conquered the Germans, what do you think Mary?” Marie asked. See what I mean, these girls kept me intrigued throughout. “Ah that was a great night” Mary replied. “We were taking part in ‘Tops of the Town’ at the Town Hall. Locals would be queueing overnight for tickets to this prestigious event. Rehearsals kept us busy through the most of Lent. We were a determined bunch. The Germans I am referring to were Liebherr Marie. Money was no object and their musical performance came complete with waterfall props. Lucky for us the event took place on St Patrick’s Day and our own performance was Irish themed. We won and we were on cloud nine with the cash prize and our celebratory gathering at the Muckross Hotel which was owned at the time by Anne Colgan.”

I wanted to take the girl's photo with the staff image in the background and had a sneaky look at the impressive cocktail menu on offer. I noticed many of the cocktails were named after the staff we had just mentioned such as ‘Ina in China’, ‘Rita in Hosiery’ and we all laughed as I noted ‘Mary’s Corset’ which immediately raised the question as to the where about of my name's sake "Marie’s Cocktail". At this point, Pat Jnr popped his head up from the bar saying “Oh sure Marie’s ‘The Silhouette’ - didn’t you say you worked in the ladies lingerie Marie?"

We all laughed and I could see that Marie was pleasantly pleased with the response.

On studying the staff image which hangs on the wall by the bar, Marie Healy could name every person. Mary Harmon excused herself saying “I was ‘as láithair’ (absent) that day”.

“Most of the staff have passed away now,” Marie said, as she pointed herself out third from the right, front row standing. “But I know one thing, they would be truly proud of the history seeped in the premises today. I know I am. It’s beautiful.”

Enter Caroline Clarke, complete with clipboard.

“I'd say you sold me my First Holy Communion dress and my first bra Marie!"

Marie laughed, later remarking on how wonderful it was that Hilliards and Reidys were back side by side where they belong.

“Ladies we’re short staffed, is there any chance ye would consider returning to Hilliards part-time?" Pat asked. Click! My job here was done, complete with the look I was going for for this pair of ‘tonics’!

Thank you Marie Healy and Mary Harmon, and also Pat for allowing us our chat for the Killarney Advertiser, outside of opening hours. The pleasure was all mine.

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How to boost your immune system with nutrition

By Tara Tangney from Activate Fitness The immune system is precisely that — a system. To function well, it requires stability. While there is no magic bullet for increasing immunity, […]




By Tara Tangney from Activate Fitness

The immune system is precisely that — a system. To function well, it requires stability.

While there is no magic bullet for increasing immunity, there are ways to keep your immune system strong so that you are better prepared to fight off infections and heal quickly.

As long as your immune system is running smoothly, you don’t notice that it’s there, but if it stops working properly – because it’s weak or can’t fight particularly aggressive germs – you get ill.

Without an immune system, we would have no way to fight harmful things that enter our body from the outside or harmful changes that occur inside our body. Here are five ways to ensure you support a good immune system coming into the wintery months:

1. Eat More Vegetables

While all vegetables have health benefits, some pack a more powerful immune-boosting punch than others. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A), which helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections.

2. Eat Balanced Meals

Include all macronutrients in your meals. Protein is particularly important for healing and recovery. Protein sources include leaner sources of meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, beans, soy, nuts and seeds. These foods are also good sources of zinc, a mineral that promotes healthy immune function and aids in wound healing. Healthy fats are also essential to support our immune health. Try to include a variety of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your daily diet. These are found in avocados, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. These foods provide good fats but are also rich in phytonutrients and fat-soluble vitamins. For example, a small handful of nuts such as almonds is a great source of vitamin E. Wild-caught salmon is one of the only foods naturally rich in vitamin D. Fatty fish are also rich in essential fats called omega-3s, which are known for their multiple health benefits.

3. Regular Exercise

Exercise is one of the main aspects that support a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise promotes cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and offers protection against a variety of diseases. And just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to a healthy immune system, improves blood circulation allowing immune system cells to move through the body more freely and do their job more effectively.

4. Good Quality Sleep

Getting enough sleep has many health benefits. The lack of sleep puts your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing adrenaline and increased stress hormones into the body. Research shows that in general, adults need at least seven hours of sleep for optimal health and well-being. As we sleep our immune system works to heal and repair the body. A few tips for getting a good night’s sleep include avoiding caffeine in the evenings, turning off your screens (TV, laptop, phones, etc.) well before bedtime and sleeping in a cool, dark room.

5. Manage Your Stress

You may not often think about how stress affects your ability to fight off infection, but your state of mind can have a significant impact on your health. When you are experiencing more stress, your immunity is compromised, which puts you at a higher risk of getting sick. Managing stress may help you fight germs and infections. Stress management techniques include breath work, meditation, yoga, moderate exercise, walking etc. Having a support system of close friends and family can also help us feel connected and stay strong throughout stressful times.

Although there is no magical potion for immunity, you can take these five steps to boost your immune system which is very important as we enter the colder and darker mornings of winter. Don’t underestimate your lifestyle’s impact on your ability to help keep your immune system strong. Good nutrition, quality sleep, and managing stress can all have a significant impact on your health. If you need help with your nutrition, send us an email at and we will be happy to help you!

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Ireland’s newest and toughest cycle will be a thrilling challenge

Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist. Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare […]




Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist.

Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare will tackle some of Kerry’s toughest climbs and highest mountain passes.

Taking place on October 22, Velo Kenmare is an 135km timed loop route starting and finishing in Kenmare. The total climbing distance is 1,650m, and organisers hope to appeal to serious cyclists who are looking for a new and thrilling challenge.

No stranger to cycling events, Velo Kenmare is being managed by Elite Events Management, who also successfully deliver iconic cycling events Wicklow 200, Ride Dingle and the Ring of Beara Cycle.
Cyclists are encouraged to register for Velo Kenmare on the Velo Cycle Ireland website but places are limited for the enjoyment and safety of all participants, and anyone interested is urged to sign up soon as places are filling up.


​​​​The tough enough mountain climbs are over Molls Gap, Ballaghbeama Pass, Ballaghasheen and Coomakista. The route will take in breathtaking scenery Kenmare is famous for, and incorporating some of the most stunning parts of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ring of Kerry. It is hoped visitors to the cycle event will be encouraged to stay for a few days, and will all be given €20 vouchers or ‘Velo Dollars’ to spend in local shops which will be redeemable against goods and services in Kenmare.

Riders will be allotted a time slot to allow for a staggered start, taking them along a fully marshalled route, with medical cover, bike mechanic support, and hot food and entertainment at the finish in Kenmare.

Making its mark, Velo Kenmare participant race packs will come inside a yellow Velo Kenmare water bottle and finishers’ medals are in the shape of a yellow cow bell. Prizes will be awarded for the quickest top three male and top three female finishers, and fastest male and female will be awarded the title of King and Queen of the Kerry Mountains.

Experienced cyclists are encouraged to take on this exciting new challenge, testing themselves and their clubmates for the fastest finish across these four gruelling climbs, through some of the most beautiful landscape in the country for the best welcome back at the finish.


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