Whatever happened to City Spares?

Once upon a time in Francis Street, there was a unique, and most important place, the like of which, alas is gone, but should never ever be forgotten.

Two parking meter inspectors stroll past City Spares, back in the 1980s. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

To the locals, and to those passing through, a glance through its gates may have looked like a bit of an eyesore, a natty mess of closely squashed together machines, but to bikers everywhere in Ireland, it was a wonderous oasis, a treasure throve, and a veritable holy grail, of hard to come by, much sought after, motorcycle bits and bobs.

The City Spares Yard in the late 1970s. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

Open five days a week, including Saturday, it had a steady stream of visitors, eager and desperate to get their hands on used bike parts, in order to keep their pride and joy on the road.

There was so many bikes crammed in the yard, that they didn’t have time to dismantle them all.

Joe O’Sullivan, 59, from Celbridge

Saturdays especially was very busy, as bikers from all over Ireland and beyond, would have a mini holiday day out driving run to The Liberties in Dublin, to hunt down a specific part, and perhaps stock up on as many spares for their bikes as they could find in the yard, while they were in town.

Damien, Paddy, and Hugh. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

The business was a godsend for most bikers back then. Being able to get second hand used parts was a great and cherished alternative, to buying brand new parts from a genuine motorcycle manufacturer, as money, in those days, was as scarce as hen’s teeth for many.

City Spares was founded in the 1970s, by a man named Paddy Kerrigan, who also owned an antique shop called Handkerchief Alley. Initially it was located near the top of Francis Street. Later it was moved down the road beside Sugan Antiques shop.

Damien in the yard. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

Very soon after, Paddy was joined in the business by his sons Damian and Hugh, who eventually, took the breakers yard over.

Also, down around the corner in The Liberties, back in the day, was the motorcycle shop Jack Nolan (Motorcycles) & Co LTD, which is also a fondly remembered place for many bikers. The shop closed a few years ago and unfortunately, Jack passed away on the 23rd of July 2018.

Asked about City spares, Joe O’Sullivan, 59, from Celbridge said:

“Ah God! What a place that was. It was mainly an open yard with no roof or anything. Manys a rainy day, I’d head up there for parts for my old Honda Silverwing, and my Yammy DT. The lads would look around the yard and point at the bike I needed the parts from, show me where their tools were, and say that if I wanted the parts, to climb over a few bikes, take the part off myself, and then they’d sell it to me. There was so many bikes crammed in the yard, that they didn’t have time to dismantle them all. I didn’t mind at all, because it was good experience for fixing my own bikes. A great place. I really miss it being in The Liberties. One of a kind.”

City Spares in 2005 just before the move. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

Another long-time customer, Johnny Lyons, 55, from Coolock said:

“That brings back memories. A blast from the past. That place was the business! Amazing! The amount of stuff I bought from them, and it was worth every penny. There wasn’t a lot of bike breaking yards around, and I doubt if I would have been able to travel to somewhere further like Gorey, in Wexford, when I needed parts. Riding up to Francis Street was so dead handy from where I live. 20 minutes and I was there. If they didn’t have the parts I needed, they were buying in so many bikes, that within two or three weeks, they’d have the parts in stock then. The lads were straight talkers, no nonsense, take it or leave it, which I liked, and they didn’t waste my time. Such a shame it’s not there anymore.”

The Handkerchief Alley sign that was retained, and exhibited at City Spares. (Image courtesy of City Spares)

City Spares was a very important place, with a personally of its own, on Francis Street up until 2005.

Now, these days, in its place, is yet another drab, characterless, Dublin City block of apartments, with no evidence that such a virtual Mecca for bikers ever existed.

Paddy Kerrigan and Handkerchief Alley can be seen in this clip 28 seconds in.

The good news is that the business moved over to Cherry Orchard Industrial Estate that very same year, where happily it remains, and is still in business today.

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