You need to know the charming sense of humour behind Shane Hickie’s shy demeanour. This was his answer, when I enquired if there was a possibility of a seventh-generation butcher going into the family business.
Hickie’s Victuallers, on O’Connell Street, just as you come into Kilkee has been supplying the Town since his family moved from Shanagolden in County Limerick, when Kilkee was a beach full of sand dunes with a cluster of houses at one end.
Shane is the sixth generation of the same family, who grew up around the corner from the shop in Gratton Street, immersed in the business from birth.
He remembers when his father, who was the first to drive in the family, would collect the live sheep in his land rover and trailer. Shane would be squashed into the front seat, as a little boy, surrounded by as many wriggling sheep as they could fit in. “They used to lick my ears!”
Prior to that his grandfather used to cycle the 47 Kilometers up to Ennistymon to fetch the sheep, returning with his bike and the live sheep on the West Clare Railway.
This picture, taken around 1905 was taken where the shop used to be, (now the two windows to Hickies Restaurant and Bar on the corner of O’Connell Street) There was no refrigeration at this time, so the days produce had to be sold on the day. The display shows the local beef, sheep and rabbits sold by the shop. At this time there was no pork because every household in Kilkee kept their own pig!
A photograph was a special occasion so everyone including the dog proudly gathered around to be included. In pride of place was the butchers block featuring their latest and most innovative possession, the set of scales. Prior to this the meat was apportioned to fit three different sizes of skillet pots, the scales represented another big change for the family business.
As Kilkee expanded during Victorian times when the Anglo- Irish Gentry fashion for taking the waters and visiting the seaside combined with the introduction of the railway made it more accessible the business continued.
Hickie’s also supplied the raw materials for a thriving Cobblers industry as well as the local candlestick makers. The basement of what is now the Central Bar was a cobblers called “Cock of the Walk” run by Gilbert Heaney’s family up until the 1960’s.
Everything changed again after Ireland became a Republic in 1949, the Anglo- Irish all left and visitors from Limerick filled the lodges for the summer months. At this time there were 16 butchers in total in Kilkee, including summer or winter butchers. The summer ones only opening for the season.
Throughout the major expansions of 80’s with the introduction of the mobile parks and the 90’s during the Celtic Tiger when mass development of holiday homes was encouraged Hickey’s continued to adapt to the changing tastes and times.
Shane can remember his grandfather working in the shop in the 80’s. as a young man, Shane spent some time working behind the bar of the Stella Maris hotel before setting off to work in New York for four years bar tending just off Madison Square Gardens, catering for the huge crowds attending the major sporting and music events, quite a contrast to Kilkee! Returning home, he joined his father in the family business and worked beside him for the next 20 years.
Taking on the mantle a few years ago, Shane continues to innovate and pays close attention to the trends, continuing to provide the finest quality locally sourced and prepared meats alongside local jams, chutneys, honey, and a range of spices and sauces. Adapting to the needs of modern working families, many of the meats are pre-prepared to offer convenience to busy locals and holiday makers.
Today,Hickie’s Victuallers is the only remaining butchers store in Kilkee.
The question remains, will one of his four sons become the seventh generation?
No pressure at all!