Archive (September 2011) Crosshaven’s Much Loved Butchers Call It A day
Writes Jack White
Tom Marah and Michael Quinn, of Marah and Quinn Butchers, Crosshaven, have decided to blow the full time whistle on their long careers and take well deserved retirement after over fifty years working as top class craft butchers.
The premises, on the Lower Road, has been a butchers since the 1930’s, initially run by Condons, and later Jimmy Kidney, whom Tom and Michael served under from fourteen years of age, after leaving school. After around ten years of working under Jimmy Kidney, the two men took over the business in 1959 and have worked there ever since. After taking over the enterprise, the men found the transition challenging, however, soon they became accustomed to the change. They shared the responsibilities of business administration and meat preparation between them and soon found the right balance which saw solid foundations laid for over half a century in business. A strong friendship was also forged between the two men.
During my interview both Tom and Michael recalled fondly, the days when business was booming and the influx of visitors during the summer months in the 1960’s and 70’s in particular, which saw them preside over a thriving business. Michael recalls the days during June, July and August in the early years, when foreign holidays were unheard of and the city population flocked to Crosshaven and the bays, factory workers from Fords and Dunlops, and their families came for a few weeks at a time, and he says their custom was a welcome boost. Deliveries also took off at this time, when helpers and messenger boys, as well as Michael and Tom, delivered all over Crosshaven and the Bays, as far as Fountainstown and the Faheens. Both bicycles and a van were used and deliveries were constant at this time as many people did not have fridges, and meat was eaten soon after purchase, and so the order and delivery element of the business was huge at this time, something which was to dissipate in latter years.
Though the summer increase was valuable to the business, Michael and Tom also recall with a great gratitude, the loyalty shown by locals in supporting them over the years. The meat, prepared and sold at the butchers has always been seen as of a very high quality, and both men believe this has been the key to keeping their customers coming back for more. They are both very grateful to all of their regular customers, and say, that it is with some sadness that they are now parting company with them. During the interview both men happily talked of the days, when the community feeling in the shop was strong and people would often stop and chat for some time when buying meat. They recall how, as one of the most long-established businesses in Crosshaven, people saw the shop as part of the village and community, and so, at times it became a focal point for people to gather.
The days of meat hanging from the ceiling and at the window, and sawdust on the floor are now long gone say the men, and they say the days when that was commonplace, were the best days of the business, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Those days came to an end in the 1980’s as health and safety regulations began to affect how business was conducted.
Christmas time, according to Tom and Michael, was always the highlight of the year for the business, as it was their busiest and most enjoyable time spent as butchers. They talk about preparation of turkey, ham and making their own spiced beef in a timber barrell, of how the atmosphere in the shop was lively and vibrant, and of the general good-feeling in the community at that time.
The pair feel that numbers of butchers nationally will probably decline further with the increase in supermarkets, something they say, that has affected their business somewhat since the 1990’s. They believe, however, what butchers still remain will do well, as the Associated Craft Butchers Of Ireland said recently that customers are returning to butchers for their expertise in meat preparation and sales.
As the business is now finally closed, both Michael and Tom will be doing work on the premises and paper work as they wind up the enterprise over the coming month. They speak with emotion and a poignancy on retirement and the end of their careers and the business. They say they will miss “the banter with the customers and with each other”. They have thanked everyone that has wished them well, and say they are quite stunned at the outpouring of emotion and thanks from the community, saying the cards, presents and words of congratulations have been part of a warm, but nevertheless upsetting send off. When asked of plans for retirement, they laughed and said a long rest and a break is in order, they say the transition will be strange, but feel they are up to the task. “Everything has its time” remarks Tom, “One can’t go forever”. Michael agrees, saying, “It’s time now to move on, we have been discussing retirement for sometime, it’s not due to business, it’s just time we retire now”.
The feeling of the empty shop when talking with the two men was dramatically different one feels, to the days in the 1960’s when business was thriving. Crosshaven too will miss the business, as it is one of the longest surviving enterprises in the village, and has survived through the years. Yet every chapter has its end, and now their last move as businessmen is to thank everyone who has helped them over the years, something they were very keen to do. They wish to thank family, friends and customers for their unwavering loyalty and support. Congratulations Tom Marah & Michael Quinn.