By Stephen McKenna
MICKEY McCrory retired this week from the retail outlet which he has ran in John Street, Omagh for the past 20 years.
He established the business in the summer of 1997 and it was soon to become a popular newsagents, confectionery, tobacconists and light grocery – one of the last of its kind in central Omagh.
The shop traded at 6 John Street as ‘News at Six’, taking its name from a tea-time news programme which came out on BBC Northern Ireland television.
Mickey not only sold newspapers and magazines, he was a virtual one-man news agency in himself. Customers, should they enquire, would be kept up with the latest news, gossip and rumour about events in the local area. So much so that he was known as ‘The Oracle’, after the teletext headline service.
Astute businessman that he was, Mickey understood that news was a commodity, a fact that he had realised over the many years as barman and manager of The Monument Bar, at the head of High Street, where his brother, the late Owen McCrory was also a barman.
Mickey still speaks of the proprietor, the late Michael J O’Kane, with great affection. MJ’s, one of the first off-licences in the town, was always a busy place. The bar trade, like the retail trade, has become an increasingly impersonal process.
Mickey knew that being a barman was a vocation and had a remarkable facility in knowing his many patrons by name, and knowing their interests.
Visitors to the town would be given details of B&B providers, as well as directions to outlying destinations.
As barman or shopkeeper, Mickey, with his cheery disposition was always in good humour and could deal with any unpleasantness that might arise in a public house, with practical psychology, diplomacy and native wit. He had begun his career in the hospitality business at the Silverbirch Hotel.
A travelled man in his younger days, he had spent some time as an iron ore miner in Port Edlanton in Western Australia. He had the misfortune of losing his passport in Bangkok. The Thai authorities allowed him to fly on to Moscow, where he was kept for a few days in his hotel, virtually under house arrest, in the Cold War era.
Mickey wishes to express his thanks to the many customers who have given him their support over the years. He also expresses his appreciation to Mr Art Kelly and his family, owners of the premises, for the amicable relations that have prevailed between both parties over the years.
Mickey McCrory’s familiar presence on John Street will be greatly missed. The business is to continue under a new proprietorship.