WG’s shop recreated at Ulster Folk Park

WG O'Doherty's shop on Bishop Street pictured in the 1960s.
WG O'Doherty's shop on Bishop Street pictured in the 1960s.

A famous Derry grocery shop which opened in the city centre more than 100 years ago has been recreated at the Ulster American Folk Park on the outskirts of Omagh.

WG O’Doherty’s store has been rebuilt thanks to the memories of a young apprentice who worked there in the 1930s.

The store first opened in 1869 as a grocery and public house.

Robert Toland’s father bought the shop - located at Bishop Street - in the 1930s.

Mr Toland recalls being in the shop as a young schoolboy.

“The one vivid thing I remember is the Vincent De Paul Society always issued little documents to give people money to buy groceries,” he said.

“If they walked into WG’s or other shops that document would be worth five bob. It indicates just how many people didn’t have enough.”

Mr Toland said the prices of some items in the 1940s and 1950s would surprise young people today.

“A box of matches is one of the easier ones,” he recalled. “There were 240 pence in a pound, and one box of matches was half a penny.

“So, you could get 480 boxes of matches for a pound!”

He also remembered that 32 litres of petrol could be bought for two shillings and sixpence.

“Not a lot of people had a lot of anything,” he said. “Life was simple.”

Operating for a period as the China Tea Shop, the premises was known locally as ‘WG’s’, after the original owner, WG O’Doherty.

Between 1873 and 1883, a bottling plant operated in the basement of the business and a stoneware beer bottle bearing WG O’Doherty’s own-brand label is included in the Ulster American Folk Park collection.

The Ulster American Folk Park is an outdoor museum which tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.