Tom Murphy’s History – Selling Mens Suits and Suit Hire in Cork for Generations

Tom Murphy's in the 1920s

Tom Murphy’s in the 1920s

If you ever pay a visit to our store on Patrick street, you will see that we have a lot of memorabilia hanging on our walls. It all helps describe the history of our store’s colourful past, and how it evolved into what it is today. There’s all sorts of pictures from times past adorning the walls of the shop. The pictures alone can tell the story about the growth of Tom Murphys.

Tom Murphys over 100 years ago

Tom Murphys over 100 years ago

There was a  fashion related shop at number 58, Patrick Street as far back as 1857 (excluding a decade of a Music Warehouse phase). Originally wwned by Chabrel and called The French House. It was the place to go for, “best fashionable hats”, as well as the clerical kind.

In 1883, John O’Brien & Co. took over number 58 and it became the Cork Woollen & Hat Warehouse. It was then the place to go for, “West of England black and blue cloths”, and, “silk, felt and tweed hats”.

Then in 1907, the business went to one D Mullane, who sold ladies corsets and baby clothes until 1921, when the Rosehill family moved in and opened a music warehouse. Back in 1938, when the Rosehills sold up and moved on, Tom Murphy from North Main Street and his wife to be, Anne Welsh from Aherla, got engaged and bought the lease to the shop on the same day. Tom, roughly 30 at the time, had served his apprenticeship, in Heagarty on Castle Street, as a draper’s assistant had set himself up to sell menswear.

Michael, son of Tom, took over completely in 1960/61 and the next decade saw him selling, “Cheesecloth shirts and mohair suits”.  It was the 60s that saw the introduction of the dress hire side of the business, while the later 60’s school wear was also added. The popularity of Levis and Wranglers jeans, in the 70’s, caused Tom Murphys to focus most of thier attention to this latest trend, however in the 80’s they moved more into the suit, jacket and trouser industry.

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When I asked Michael to reflect on some of his memories, he told me, “We had a great hat business and every Saturday morning you’d have to go to Lyon & Co on the South Main Street to collect them. You’d sell 2 or 3 dozen hats, either the ‘Set Shape’ or the ‘Fur Felt'”. One of Tom Murphy’s constant suppliers has been Magees. Michael remembers his father having, “hard times in the shop in the early 1950s when the polio epidemic hit and children were evacuated from the city and schools were shut down. Magees of Donegal were very good to us at the time and I still buy from them”.

He also recalls Jack Lynch as a Cork TD in the early 60s coming to buy Forest Hill shirts and Christy Ring buying suits and dress suits. Ring and Lynch were, “Great friends of my father’s, who used to play with Glen Roveers. They’d gather in the shop on Monday mornings to discuss sporting outcomes and results”.

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