Bastion Gallery, Bastion Street, Athlone
There is something special about the Bastion Gallery, its old world charm is alluring and the perfect backdrop to the stock it carries. Run and kept in the family by Kate McCay, the shop is an Aladdin’s cave of gifts crafts and curiosities. Kate reopened the shop back in 1990 but it dates back to about 1850, when her great great grandfather, James Kilkelly opened for business. The shop, originally a drapers was once one of the busiest in Athlone, located on the only road into the West at the time.
Originally Kilkelly’s, the store was the main training school for shop assistants in the midlands, the young people learned the trade and lived upstairs. Many left their mark in graffiti which still can be seen today. One inscription inside a drawer says “Margaret ní Nolan Oct 14th 1921”.
Kate’s grandfather was an enthusiastic musician, he was the choir master in the old St Peter’s Church and one of the early supporters of the towns most famous citizen John McCormack. The young John used to practice his singing upstairs. McCormack was not the only world famous singer to pass through the doors. In 2006 Kate got a phone call from nearby Grouse Lodge, she could not believe her ears when a lady, who turned out to be Michael Jackson’s assistant requested her to open the shop at night so he as his children could shop in private. Naturally Kate obliged.
When Kate took over the shop originally she only stocked handmade Irish crafts but due to demand she had to extend her stock, which involved sourcing outside Ireland. She, still sticks to her original ethics, selling only fair trade goods, ensuring fair remuneration for the craftspeople. A jewellery maker herself, Kate sells her own line of handcrafted silver jewellery, Ogham Treasure, inspired by the ancient secret writing.