Archive for May, 2007

The high price paid in the name of development

May 25, 2007

Today in Dublin we say goodbye to an institution. After 240 years Greenes bookshop opposite Trinity College in the very centre of the city, is closing. They are moving to a wharehouse distribution centre and changing to on-line sales only.

This shop is legendary in Dublin and has been one of those landmark buildings for as long as it has existed. How many people over the years have said “I’ll meet you off the bus at Greenes”

It had a famous winding staircase lined with books and crazily an open fire. There was also a post office in the ground floor which acted as a meeting place for the local community

Oscar Wilde lived across the road from the shop on the corner of Merrion Square where his statue now stands (actually it sort of reclines) and was a frequent visitor

It is a sad, sad loss to the city and country as a whole and follows close on the heals of the famous Kennys bookshop and gallery which closed for the same reason in Galway last year

Some things are worth more than profit and should not be lost to pure economics

This is a short potted history:-

Goodbye To Greene’s Bookshop of 16 Clare Street, Dublin, Ireland


Greenes is a building that is steeped in more than 240 years of history, having being built in the late 1700’s. The original owners lived and worked here. Many notable authors such as Brendan Behan, W.B. Yeats, Frank O’Connor, Jack B. Yeats and Sammuel Beckett (whose father had an office across the road) have browsed the shelves over the years.

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The Room John Greene Was Laid Out In

This upstairs room has featured in about half a dozen movies and TV documentaries. And it was in this room that old John Greene, the founder, was laid out in 1899. A visitor to this room in the 1940’s would have found members of the staff frying their sausages and breakfast on a pan over the fire!

Greene’s of Clare Street has been a book shop since 1843, prior to this it has been a ladies Hoisery Store. There are many interesting characteristic features of this store including, the Glass canopy, the old wooden bookstands and the intricate ironwork supports. The original lettering has never been changed since the shop opened in 1843.

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The Shop with it’s distinctive Glass Canopy

The Pembrey family has run the business since 1912 when it was taken over by Herbert H. Pembrey, then passed onto his son Herbert Seymour Pembrey, who looked after the business along with his son Eric until the year 2000, when sadly both Eric and Herbert passed away. The family firm is now being run by Eric’s son David.

“…..because of it’s central location, Greene’s has been a handy source for school texts over the years, and generations of Dubliners remember queuing with their book lists in hand…..”

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Local Map

Greene’s Bookshop Ltd. was located in the heart of Georgian Dublin. We are within three minutes walk of Westland Row (Pearse) railway station (suburban & DART services). This station was the first to be built in Ireland (for the line to Dun Laoghaire built by William Dargan in 1831).

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