My childhood began on a medium sized Co. Meath farm at a place called Wintergrass, Bellewstown, Co. Meath approx. 5km south of Drogheda. My parents were both born in Co. Leitrim and my father moved to Co. Meath at the age of 12. My upbringing was a mix of Leitrim and Meath cultures. Our farm was a mixed farm with the main income coming from our dairy herd. I grew up with a great love of animals and nature, from fruit and vegetable growing to bee keeping and everything in between.
I got my primary school education in the local country school, Mount Hanover, it is still a vibrant National School and is well placed to remain an important part of Duleek/Bellewstown parish. When the time came to choosing Secondary School, I was packed off to St.Finan’s in Mullingar where my brother John had gone the previous year. It was a tough and regimented place for two home loving young lads. However, through good and bad we sat our Leaving Certificates there and completed our 5 years away from home. It was tough and we only got home every month.
Our farm was a mixed farm with the main income coming from our dairy herd.
I wasn’t particularly interested in studying and found it hard to spend time in the evenings in the study hall, my mind frequently wandering back to Bellewstown and my home. I believe my saving grace at school was my love of Gaelic football and it saved me many times from been expelled. When I finished my Leaving Certificate I went off to Warrenstown College for further agri studies. It was a popular place for the sons of farmers from Co. Meath. It was a really good experience and I really developed socially in the college. You were allowed to be an adult and I made great friends and connections that I still have to this day.
I was very interested in pig husbandry and indeed I was going to pursue further studies in Galway but I changed direction and decided to serve by time as a butcher. I started my career in Mike Byrne’s in West Street, Drogheda. It was a modern shop at that time and a very busy shop. I learned so much about slaughtering, boning and presentation. It gave me a huge insight into business and all the different aspect s of dealing with the public.
I then decided I needed more experience and I took up a job in C.R. Tormey’s in Tullamore. I had a fantastic opportunity to learn from an extremely good butcher and they excelled at what they done. They were modern and innovative and paid great attention to detail. After the shop closed in the evening we would spend an hour or more cleaning, they were so particular about hygiene and I have never forgotten the discipline that I got in that shop. I have brought it with me everywhere else I travelled. It was tough and you needed to be tough to endure the training and meet with their expectations. Needless to say it set me up for life and I employed many of their ideas when I opened my own business. I look back on those days and I know that the training I received there was the backdrop that I employed when I opened my own shops.
It was a modern shop at that time and a very busy shop.
Old School Butcher Shop
I returned again to Drogheda for five years where I worked for Jim Markey in Lawrence’s Street. This was a traditional “old school” butcher shop. Jim gave me the opportunity to manage the shop and allowed me the freedom to buy the cattle and make sure to choose good quality stock. He was from a generation of butchers that regarded quality as a key aspect of the product on offer. Again this training was of major benefit to me when I opened my own business. Quality was and is always on the top of my agenda.
Quality was and is always on the top of my agenda.
I left Drogheda to take up a position with David and Celle Mullen in Trimgate Street, Navan. This was a very busy shop at that time. I was there for 12 months when I got an opportunity to manage a meat counter in SuperValu in Virginia. I worked there with Paddy McEvoy and his son Pauric. This was a new Supermarket with a new Meat Counter and I was able to bring fresh innovative ideas to the business which proved very useful and it soon became a well-recognised place to buy your meat.
Shortly after getting married to Caroline in 1990, the shop that I had worked in previously in Navan came to the market for sale and I grasped the idea of purchasing the business. I was successful at auction and took over the property in March 1991 and began trading there successfully for a number of years. At this stage my brother William decided to leave college and come to serve his time with me. He is now my Manager in Ashbourne.
We traded there for 16 years and after a lot of physical changes to the street scape of the town, it became more difficult to make a living there and we had to make changes and luckily I got an opportunity to open in the new town centre in Ashbourne in 2004. It was in Ashbourne that William and I were able to put our modern ideas into practice. Ashbourne was a growing town with a new town centre and also a commuter belt for Dublin. Our ideas were well received and we got fantastic support from the community in Ashbourne. We also gave great support to the local community and this worked to everyone’s advantage.