Edward J. law
The name David Shelleman does not figure large in Kilkenny history. He was one of the many ordinary' citizens who left little or no mark, just a part of city life in the eighteenth century. He might not have been noted even now if the writer had not an interest in markets.
He came to my notice through an advertisement1 which he placed over 200 years ago and which I reproduce here as an interesting catalogue of just some of the multitude of items which might be sold by a general dealer in a provincia1 Irish city in the eighteenth century:-
Said SHELLEMAN will give the highest price for all kinds of Feathers and Quills; old Gold, Silver and Silver Lace; old Brass and Pewter; Calf, Lamb, Kid, Goat, Otter, Fox and Martin's Skins; Buck-Horns, Bees Wax, Horse-Hair, Trums, and Pig's Brushes; He will also be constantly supplied with Geese Feathers of the best kinds, which he will sell very reasonable. July 5, 1769.
This advertisement was of interest to the writer in showing parallels with retailing development in England at a similar period, with small traders commencing activities on a market stall, with the minimum of overheads, and, as a clientele was built-up, progressing to a shop in the same area.
Soon after I had this first encounter with David I read the announcement2 of his marriage:
So, David Shelleman was making his way in the world. It must have been a period of great excitement for him. The launch of a new trading venture, with prospects that he might some day join the ranks of the great commercial figures of the city, and, sharing the excitement a new young wife whose fortune, we may suppose, would be of great benefit in the establishment and expansion of the new shop.
How quickly fortunes can change! A week later the newspaper which had carried the joyful news of the marriage had to record3 the mournful news of their parting:
One would have felt that such devastation was as much as one man should have to bear. However, a few months later his resolution was again called on. In April 1770 Davids creditors announced4 the sale of his stock in trade and it seems that the new enterprise on which he had embarked less than nine months earlier was at an end. We cannot know the reason now, but it would not be surprising if it resulted from the tragic loss of his wife.
So David Shelleman comes into our view and passes from it. History, over two hundred years ago, but poignant none the less.
1 Finns Leinster Journal 2 Aug 1769.
2 Finns Leinster Journal 9 Aug. 1769.
3 Finns Leinster Journal 16 Aug. 1769.
4 Finns Leinster Journal 21 Apr. 1770.
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Page revised 22 June 2001