Remembering Belgooly’s Entrepreneurial Son
Writes JJ Hurley
On the 18th of September last, Sean Allen, affectionately known as ‘Seanie’, called time on a life that had marked a generation who had overcome some of the most difficult economic times of the new fledgling Irish state.
The son of blacksmith, John Robert, the Allen family, twelve in all, had arrived in the South County village from Ringabella, after his father acquired the local forge. With the horse being steadily replaced by motor engines, the Allens began selling a number of items to supplement their income. Over time the shop began to grow as a source of income, as the blacksmith business continued to wane.
Interestingly, the village had a total of four shops during those early years, including Dalys, Jagoes, and Cronins, now the Huntsman Bar and Restaurant. In the late ‘30s, the shop acquired the post office franchise, which still continues to thrive today. Educated initially in Belgooly, he attended the Presentation Secondary School in Kinsale, accompanied by a number of local lads, including the late Karl Daly, generally making the journey on foot.
Returning to the family business, which had during the war years, (1939 to 1945), secured a lucrative contract to export rabbits to the UK. The family business also engaged in buying turkeys at the annual turkey fair held in Kilgarvan. This link with the farming community was further enhanced with the business branching out into selling seeds to local farmers, through a company based in the UK: Hunts of Cheshire. This continued into the ‘60s and early ‘70s, when the Belgooly business secured an agency for farming sheds from Kilkenny sheds.
Reacting to an ever changing and emerging economy, paraffin oil and old style batteries were replaced on the shop’s shelves, with LPG gas and other types of fuel – as the rural electrification scheme only reached the area in the early ‘60s. Certainly, at the current time when much commentary is being written about the demise of rural Ireland, the lessons from Seanie Allen’s entrepreneurial generation could be well learned.
Indeed delivering and selling directly by a “shop on wheels”, still operated by his brother, Noel, today, from Tracton to Courcey parish, proved very lucrative, as did the shop’s reputation for having everything the customer needed, including at one stage hardware, as well as adding fresh salmon to the shop’s inventory. It was an ability to turn a pound at every opportunity that makes men like Seanie a role model for today’s generation.
Outside of his entrepreneurial skills, the warm smile that greeted visitors to the shop was a clear demonstration of a man who genuinely enjoyed meeting people. Seanie had what could best be described as a vocation for his chosen career. Noted for his quick wit, it was very rarely that anyone left the Belgooly shop without a smile. Working tirelessly to provide for his family, following his marriage to Peig (nee Murray), with whom he spent 60 happy years, he once held not just the post office master’s position but managed to complete a postman’s round too. Indeed, he often boasted, when he was forced to choose between the two roles, it took four men to replace him on his round, ably assisted by two other postmen. Sonny Ireland and Charlie O’Shea.
The one local telephone based at the Belgooly post office, often became something of a bit of ‘mischief’ , with many callers hanging up, after the quick-witted postman, Sonny, replied to their question: Is this Belgooly, no it’s Ireland. Without doubt his proudest moment came in 1999, when they family business moved a couple of hundred metres to a new state-of-the-art premises. For a man who had worked six and half days per week, from 6am to 9pm, it was a demonstration of further progress from a time when his later father had began to sell Gillette razors and Woodbines to supplement his income in the ‘20s.
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