Rosarii Comber: North Gate Chemist

North Gate Pharmacy.JPG


Rosarii Comber: North Gate Chemist


North Main Street, Cork


Rosarii Comber is a pharmacist at North Gate Pharmacy, a business that has been in her family since 1964. She begins the interview discussing some of the history of the building – that families would have lived above the business and that at one stage there were even little houses out in the back garden in which families lived. All families on the premises would have shared a single small outhouse as well. Additionally, she mentions that they were able to look back at the deeds and ledgers pertaining to the premises and that it would have been a retail location going back into the 1880s. She recounts that there ‘always seems to have been strong women here’ and recounts a story of the first owner, in the 19th century, being a woman who divorced her husband, kept the business, and left him money in her will! Rosarii discusses the owner-occupier nature of North Main Street, mentioning three pharmacies in the area as well as Bradley’s and Leader’s. When discussing memories as a child, she mentions Kilgrew’s toy shop where she would have gotten pre-ordered comics (such as “Misty” for herself and “2000AD” or “Warlord” for her brother). She recalls being told off by her mother for speaking back to a ‘shawlie’ and some discussion of what a shawlie is ensues. She relates that the biggest negatives pertaining to North Main Street now are how quiet it is (she can no longer tell the time of day by the noise outside) and the recent problem of addicts frequenting the street. There is some discussion of the adaptability of North Main Street, that is has been through several recessions and booms, and what needs to occur in the future to maintain business on the street. Rosarii highlights that parking access is a big issue in City Centre, especially for the elderly who cannot easily take the bus or pay for a taxi, and also mentions that the shopping centres in Cork are drawing away a lot of business. Local businesses that are mentioned include Molloy’s, Supermacs, and Waffles.


4 February 2015




Cork; Ireland; 1960s - 2000s;


Penny Johnston based a digital oral history mapping pilot project called ‘Cork’s Main Streets’ on the audio interviews from this collection in 2016, as part of her PhD research. The 2018 website and the map layer can be viewed at:

Penny’s PhD dissertation can be accessed at:

Other Material Relating to Cork's Main Streets:

CFP_SR00448_hinchy_2012: Interview of ex-Beamish Brewery (South Main Street) staff member Ed Hinchy.

CFP_SR00532_davis_2014: Interview with the former manager of The Other Place Resource Centre (South Main Street), Clive Davis, conducted by Stephen Dee and Dermot Casey, as part of the LGBT Archive Collection

CFP_SR00535_wilkins_2014: Mark Wilkins was interviewed by Aisling Byron on the music scene of Cork City in the 1980s and 1990s: the interview contains an in-depth discussion of South Main Street music venue Sir Henry’s and of the South Main Street pub The Liberty.


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project






1.wav File




24 mins 21 secs


12 (North Gate Chemist) North Main Street

Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz


The following is a short extract from the interview transcript, copyright of the Cork Folklore Project. If you wish to access further archival material please contact CFP,

RC: It is just the idea that I will go in in the mornings to Bradley’s to get my newspapers and Pat behind the counter will know my order and have it ready and we’ll have a bit of banter. Basically she’s the sunshine and I’m the rain person so we congratulate each other depending on the weather every morning. We can go into Molloy’s and Caroline knows the exact shoes my mother likes and doesn’t like. I’ve got the boys in Super Macs on Gold Star Competition. If they can remember what’s my order on Friday and Saturday they’ll get a Gold Star not to mix it up. I can go up to the cinema in two minutes.

TW: Less than two minutes.

RC: And Will knows my order, the Manager. It’s just the fact that everything is so convenient. I lived in Manchester while doing my degree. I had been in UCC. You know when you had a twenty minute break you might go into the library and do a bit of reading and in Manchester it would have taken you twenty minutes to go from your lecture to the library. It’s the idea that everything was so far away from each other. Having said that I always thought that Manchester was very like Cork. The idea that it thought it should be the capital city, not those upstarts down south in London. Even though it might not have fantastic features or architecture, it still had people and the people were very accommodating whereas in London, you know what it’s like in London.

TW: Like Patrick Street, generic.

RC: Yes.

DC: Yeah.

RC: You don’t make eye contact and you don’t talk whereas in Manchester you could nod at a person and there’d be no hassle. They wouldn’t be wondering were you trying to mug them or something so.

DC: There’s loads of Irish over there as well in Manchester.

RC: There is a strong community but, bizarrely enough, even though my landlady was Irish I never actually engaged with them. I was coming from having done four years in UCC to do the pharmacy degree in Manchester so I felt I was a little bit older than the average so I didn’t engage as much. I was there really to make sure I got the degree and came back with it. I did microbiology the first time and we came out in ’92. There was a mini recession so we were neither use nor ornament to anybody and so my Dad always liked the idea of an independent profession that you could just set up on your own and do your own thing. So he actually financed me to go and do pharmacy, which is what I wanted to do the first time but I just couldn’t get the marks. Back then there wasn’t the same concept of going away to do the study. You just went to wherever was local.

Interview Format



Cork Folklore Project , “Rosarii Comber: North Gate Chemist,” accessed March 27, 2023,