De Búrca’s first year in photos!

Front of McHale's - April 2014

Front of McHale’s – April 2014

This is kinda our first year in De Búrca in photos – it looks like it happened all in one week. But it happened over nights and weekends and two days closed for business in October. It was a mad year. We’re happy it happened and we’re happy it’s over! Settling in now. Thanks to everyone that helped us.

History repeating.



This last weekend, our shop was one year old. To say that time has flown would be an understatement, but it still feels like we have been on Main Street for a very long time. But not quite as long as a butchering business has been in the building it seems.

We started looking into the history of the building as soon as we started our lease on the 4th of April 2014. We didn’t get very far as things like digging up floors and tiling took up most of our time. The previous occupant, and our current landlord, Martin McHale, had been in the shop since 1976 and he ran it as McHale’s Butchers. We knew that the Flannelly family had been in it prior to that and we are very grateful to Patrick Flannelly, who ran it as a butcher shop before Martin,  for coming in to us those first few weeks  to give us information on his family history in the building. He gave us a copy of the front page of the Connaught Telegraph from June 1st 1889 which displayed an advertisement for the shop, then run by his grandfather.

Front page 2

He also had a photograph, or part of a photograph, taken of the building next door which at that time was a pharmacy. The photograph happened to capture the panel that the shop has on the left hand side of the front, which historically was used for advertising. It clearly shows that the Flannelly family business was established there in 1812.

It’s a lot of history between four walls which we love! I wonder was it a butcher shop before that? And what was Main Street like in 1812? If anyone has any information, we would greatly appreciate it. More than anything, we would treasure a photo of the shop front from those long ago days.

In the meantime, this Saturday 18th April, we are having a party in the shop during the day, to celebrate our relatively short time here on Main Street – there will be plenty of sausage tastings as we are introducing some new recipes: Apple, Cider and Sage; Wild Garlic; and what we call the ‘Breaffy Blue Banger’, which is a blue cheese and plum sausage.

We would like to thank everyone who has given us much needed help this last year, our families and friends, the supportive people of Main Street and our wonderful customers.

Call in on Saturday – we would love to see you.

(First published in The Western People 13th April 2015)


The Launch – 13th October 2014

Seeing as my brain is still not operating at full capacity, I’m going to do a lazy post again and publish a mix of the press release we sent the local print media around Castlebar and what we posted ourselves on Facebook. I include some photos of the night also. All photos on the night were taken by Robert Justynski from Castlebar. His facebook link can be found through our FB page for those interested in his work.

back of invite

After a gruelling week of renovations, with the replacement of the shop front, and the complete retiling and reorganisation of the interior, De Búrca’s Traditional Butcher Shop had its launch, exactly one week after it removed the front façade of the building. Seán Bourke and Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin, the husband and wife team behind the shop, were relieved the launch could go ahead in a relatively completed interior.

Peter and Mary Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh travelled to join their friends and help them launch the night. Family joined them from Connemara and Breaffy and there was a huge turnout from neighbours on Main Street and adjoining streets. Both Seán and Sarah wanted the food to reflect the ethos of their shop –  it was mainly local Slow Food with Rua responsible for searing De Búrca’s 32 day dry-aged sirloin of Mayo beef and supplying accompaniments such as the horseradish sauce, pickled cucumber, Rua brown bread and Cuinneóg Buttermilk Panna cottas with Blackberry for dessert. Andrew of Carrowholly Cheese supplied them with some of his cheeses for the night.  Peter and Mary Ward brought some Tipperary Country Choice Pork Terrine that was paired with Westport Grove’s Quince with Star Anise jelly. The Connemara Smokehouse supplied their Organic Smoked Salmon. Pat Grimes from Reek View brought some Rocket for the beef and some beautiful edible flowers. Caroline and Ian Price from West Mayo Brewery in Islandeady served their Clew Bay Ale with tap and gas kindly provided by BarOne.

The stars of the evening were Seán and Sarah’s two little girls Elly and Sadhbh who rounded off the speeches with their own rehearsed addition: De Búrca’s Traditional Butcher Shop is now officially open!

All attached photographs were taken by Robert Justynski.

The Start!

De Búrca Launch - 13/10/2014

De Búrca Launch – 13/10/2014

Re-post of article published her in October 2014.


Below is the extract of what has been published in the press since we’ve opened. Because it is mishmash of what I’ve submitted to the press and what has been published, I won’t quote anyone, but it’s pretty true (except for the bit about me dancing on the block naked at the launch):


Seán Bourke and Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin had talked about opening their own butcher shop for a very long time. The conversation started in earnest on their honeymoon in Normandy where they had rented a cottage on the outskirts of a small town called Coutances. Every afternoon they used to go to the local butcher shop in the town. They could get loin pork chops on the bone, rind on or shin of beef or a rib of beef on the bone with a lovely spattering of yellow fat. And the meat tasted really good. They remembered meat like it from when they were children and they wondered why they couldn’t get these cuts so readily in Ireland anymore.

Coutances 1

Seán had trained as a butcher in Castlebar before moving to Dublin with Sarah in 1998 where she studied Biomedical Science. Seán worked in Troy’s Butcher Shop on Moore Street and in Dugpak on the North Strand Road. They both then moved to Nenagh in Tipperary in 2001 where Sean worked in Hanlon’s butcher Shop and Sarah worked as a Medical Scientist with the HSE. The conversation continued about meat and their own butcher shop.


Nenagh was too small for another butcher shop and so they looked back home to the west. Seán is a local from Breaffy and Sarah is from Loch con Aortha in Connemara. They looked at Galway and at Mayo and finally settled on Castlebar. They were originally interested in premises just off Main Street but thankfully that didn’t work out, because they took a chance and walked into McHale’s on Main Street to chat with Martin and to say to him that if he was ever thinking of renting the shop that they might be interested. He took their number, and three months later in January 2014, he called. It was only a matter of weeks before the lease was signed and Sean started work in the shop on Friday the 4th of April. Sarah was to stay in Nenagh with their two little girls until things got up and running in the shop. However, it became clear on that Friday that this was something they were going to do together as a family. Sarah handed in her notice to the HSE the following Monday and she and the girls joined Sean in Castlebar two weeks later. The renovation of the shop started almost immediately. They couldn’t afford to close the shop to renovate so they spent nights and weekends working to reorganise the layout to suit the very clear vision they had for De Búrca’s. Sarah had been gathering images and photos of shops and renovation ideas since their honeymoon in 2007 for their own shop one day – alot of the ideas have now being implemented. They wanted to open a shop that was sustainable in terms of meat – in other words they buy in locally reared whole animals on the bone and used the whole animal nose to tail. They are very close to reaching their target of complete sustainability. Chicken is a stumbling block for them in this aim because customers want more chicken fillets than what they can afford to buy in whole. Developing their processing side has helped them in being more sustainable in terms of meat because it allows them to use the whole animal more easily and the wonderful by-products of this are their sausages.


They have always had a keen interest in making sausages and have practiced sausage making for years at home. It was a more daunting prospect to make sausages for the public and they wondered how they would be received. Their sausages are very meaty. They are made with the best locally-reared pork and their own spice and herb blends in natural casings. They have been experimenting with recipes for years and currently have their version of a Traditional sausage, a Cumberland sausage and a Hot Italian sausage for sale in the shop. They are currently working on a North African Merguez-style lamb sausage and a Garlic Pork sausage. In their counter you will see the usual cuts of meat, the striploin and T-bone steaks, the legs of lamb and the roasts of beef. You will also see shin of beef with a neat pile of marrow bones beside it for stews. You will see the pork loin chops on the bone and pork shoulder chops for braising. You might see an oxtail tied neatly in a circle if you’re lucky because the minute it’s put out in the counter it is sold. You can have your ox tongue plain or pickled. Seán takes great pride in his counter display and especially now as the shop is almost nearing the end of the renovation and is starting to look how they envisioned it.

One-of-a-kind Butcher Shop in Sydney

De Búrca

There is a butcher shop in Sydney called Victor Churchill. It was established in 1876 and in 2009 was redesigned by Dreamtime Australia Design.

From the front it looks like something Dickensian. The display in the window of the shop, however, gives a little hint of what is waiting inside.

The interior of this shop is unbelievable. To me, it is like a meat-themed art installation. It is so far removed from what I would have imagined a butcher’s shop could be, that I find it fascinating. There is a revolving meat rack, and what appears like the most security protected tiny piece of meat in the world.

 I have never visited this shop in person, but would love to do so. However, I don’t think it would fit quietly into small town Ireland. Think of the talk it would generate?

 … did you see the cameras? I felt like I was with Marty on Winning Streak…   

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