John Hyland didn't expect there to be so much fuss when he decided to retire after 35 years selling newspapers and magazines in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. The owner of 'Dun Leary’s Last Corner Shop’ told Ray D’Arcy that he was getting customers stopping by to thank him and children writing cards wishing him a happy retirement. It was quite overwhelming, he said.
John’s dad was a newsagent – "I learned a lot from him," he says – in Kilmainham and when John opened his shop in Dún Laoghaire, he wanted to make sure the best newspapers and magazines were available and he tried to get them into as many hands as possible:
"I always pushed magazines and newspapers. I love newspapers. I pushed the quality magazines more than the rubbish, but I’d sell the rubbish as well. People want to buy what they want, you know?"
Ray tells John that the shop reminds him of those shops you see on holiday on the continent, the ones that sell yesterday’s Irish Independent, along with Der Spiegel and Le Figaro. John’s shop sells newspapers from almost every county in Ireland, as well as the quality magazines he spoke about: The New York Review of Books, The Literary Review and (of course) The TLS. What’s that? Ray asks. The Times Literary Supplement, naturally. (Ray must not have been one of the customers buying quality magazines). Then when Ray waxed nostalgic about all the comics he used to buy as a kid growing up – The Beano, The Dandy, Whizzer and Chips – John tells him that the only comic left now is The Beano. And young people still love it, he adds. The golden age of comics often saw free gifts being stuck on the cover, which always led to a rush:
"When they’d have a gift cover, we’d order a hundred extra, in those days. Wouldn’t sell anything like a hundred anything now."
Newspapers have, as we’ve been hearing for years, been experiencing falling sales. But, bizarrely, John tells Ray that Covid led to a boom in newspaper sales – at least at the weekend:
"When Covid came, sales of the Saturday Irish Times rose a huge amount. And the Sunday papers went up, but the daily papers didn’t go up, they stayed the same."
In his time in the shop, John said that the event that resulted in the biggest number of papers being sold was the Stardust fire in 1981. The deliveries – by scooter in those days – would be bought as soon as they came in and more had to be ordered throughout the day.
"Nowadays no news story sells a paper."
John himself has been something of a newspaper sensation in the last few days. An article on him in the Irish Times was the most read story on their website for several days running. Which is clearly a case of when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Dún Laoghaire residents will be relieved to know that the shop will reopen under new management. You can hear Ray’s full chat with John Hyland You can hear Ray's full chat with John Hyland – including how many copies of Playboy magazine he sold when it was unbanned in Ireland – by going here.