New Face, Same Place
There is a narrative which sums up the pivotal role played by any bank in any small town in Ireland. Its title is ‘Charley’s Mate’, written by Joe Redmond. He wrote: “In the mid-1930s I spent three years in the Roscommon branch of what was then the National Bank. Most of our customers were livestock farmers, and over many years it had been a tradition that we would finish up as early as possible on fair days, and go down the town to have a few jars and a chat with a number of them.” (See full article alongside in this feature).
From 1971 until retiring in 1986, Bill Finn was manager of such a community bank, the old Bank of Ireland, then located on the site now occupied by ETL. I met with Elizabeth Finn, daughter of the late Bill Finn. She told me there were three boys and three girls in the family.
I asked her what it was like living on the business premises, one that played such an important part in the life of the town?
“We made it our home for a few years and then moved to a private house opposite the Golf Links.”
I asked if she interacted with staff and met customers?
“When the staff had a coffee break we would chat to them and sometimes meet people who came into the bank.”
Elizabeth was born in Kilkenny, later moving to Ballinrobe and “when I was aged 13 we came to Roscommon.”
How did Roscommon differ to other towns?
“I found Roscommon very lively, with many shops and a great atmosphere – I remember Donnellans, Heatons, Mary Hicks, Miss Higgins.” Familiar names to so many of us still today.
Elizabeth further told me the whole family were very musical. “We were always listening to music on the radio or record player and both my parents played the piano. My mother was indeed a great musician.”
I asked Elizabeth what she remembers most about her father in his position of Bank Manager?
“He was a frontline man, always eager and ready to meet the public. He chatted to everyone. He enjoyed his golf and my mother was a regular there too in her role of playing the piano at the Golf Club.”
Today, on the same central spot, ETL (formerly ‘Eight ‘Til Late’) has long been established as a location for all manner of goods including giftware, arts and crafts and newspapers and magazines (or any number of other items) and of course a quick ‘hello’ to proprietor Michael Oates, his wife Rita or one of their friendly assistants. It’s also true to say that you go into ETL in Main Street in Roscommon town and you actually forget to come out!
It has become a place where you tend to linger as it is so captivating. Now ETL Craft and Giftware Centre, the premises was established in 1984 (then as Eight ‘Til Late), a family business in the heart of the town.
Michael Oates says: “We specialise in sourcing the perfect gift for every occasion, stocking an impressive collection of designer handbags, textiles and jewellery at affordable prices. We have a fantastic range of both Irish and International brands.”
Some of the leading Irish designers stocked at ETL include Orla Kiely Handbags and Jewellery; Alan Ardiff Jewellery; Enibas Jewellery; Galway Crystal;Beleek; Genesis and Mindy Brown; Newgrange and Shannonbridge.
“We also support local designers, including Fine Arts by Black Hen of Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; Homefarm Woodturning, Roscommon, and Button Studio – Athlone, County Westmeath.”
Michael continues: “Here at ETL we have a professional framing service and FUJI photographic Digital Centre. We enjoy providing quality, individuality and creativity to all aspects of this service. We custom-make any size frame to cradle that cherished memory – from the family photograph, graduation certificate, jersey or marathon medal. A popular gift amongst our visitors is our wide range of vintage photographs of Roscommon.”
ETL has it all: crafts, giftware, jewellery, accessories –not to mention a wide variety of artwork from both local and international artists!
‘Charley’s Mate’ – Narrated by JOE REDMOND’ is reproduced from Golden Guineas Tales of Irish Bankers 1920-1970 with permission. Collected and compiled by Des Smyth, Edited by Eilis O’Brien.