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Donnelly's houseware shops

Peter Donnelly had a number of shops in St Helier in the second half of the 20th century, selling paraffin, houseware, wicker furniture and other goods


The first shop: Gallichan and Nerac paraffin distributors

This article on the history of a prominent St Helier shopkeeper, Peter Donnelly, has been written for us by his daughter, Chris, now Le Mottee

Dad was born in 1940. When his mother returned to the island after the war she put three of her children in the Sacre Coeur Orphanage. Dad was four years old, his brother Dominic was 2½ and his sister Shirley was 1. He stayed there till he was 16 years old. From an orphanage boy to what he became, he did very well.

Taxis and coaches

Dad was a hard-working man driving taxis in the winter and coaches in the summer, both for very long hours, to raise money to buy his first business: Gallichan and Nerac Paraffin Distributors. He also sold household items such as washing powder, soap buckets and bowls, even tin baths, which he would sell to farmers for their French workers to use; as well as pink paraffin.

On 1 October 1973 he sold the business Gallichan and Nerac to Gordon Basil Bullock, for the sum of £3,250. His next business venture was the purchase of Le Mart, in Union Street, which he bought from Reg Roberts. It was a true family business, with my mum Yvonne doing the paperwork and accounts while bring up us three children. We all in turn worked and grew up in the business. I started as a Saturday girl, later running the business with him. My sister Sue and brother Robbie also helped out.

When this property was due to be knocked down for redevelopment, he moved to Bath Street; a property that was then occupied by a shop called the Bargain Box. He changed the name from Le Mart and traded as Donnelly's Ltd. He worked long hours, sometimes into the late evening, once the shop was closed. This property was also redeveloped to make the road wider so we were on the move again.

Dad then moved his business to 22-24 New Street, after persuading the owners to rent him the old garage that had stood empty for quite sometime. He turned it into a large houseware shop, employing up to six staff at one time. He also added the shop House of Wicker, selling first baskets and small wicker items, then moved on to garden furniture and household furniture, for the bedroom and lounge. This property was later sold to a developer, who knocked it down to make way for offices. Dad was on the move again, into 52-54 New Street, just selling cane furniture and wicker items, as House of Wicker. When the island had other firms selling the same furniture he decided to start again selling houseware, which was his main interest. So Donnelly's and the House of Wicker reopened.

After he decided to close the family business in 2006 to enjoy his retirement he kept his hand in selling clothes rails from home as retiring completely was a thing he could not do after always being a true hard worker.

Dad was the person the introduced the soda stream machine to Jersey and did many shows at the Ideal Homes Exhibition with it; also every secondary school pupil had a cookery basket from Donnelly's

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