Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shaws 140th Anniversary

Last week, one of those dark coincidences which come to all of us at some time or other in our lives occurred in my life.  Kieran Dockery and Nan Clarke lived in Prosperous and both died within a few days of each other.  Both were married and coincidentally their partners in marriage were colleagues of mine in Kildare County Council in the early 1960’s. Carmel Fitzpatrick worked in the Accounts Section and Noel Clarke worked, as I did, in the Health Section of the Council initially under Noel Finn and later Jimmy Tully.  Carmel and Noel were extremely kind to the garrulous gauchy red haired lad from Athy who was assigned to the Health Section early in 1961.

I recall both with great affection and remember the day when Noel and myself conspired to push Carmel’s trusty old motor car down the driveway of St. Mary’s and out of sight causing alarm and much vexation when Carmel came out of work that evening to drive home.  The car was gone and Carmel could not understand why her colleagues could be so casual about what was the apparent theft of her trusted  transporter.  Every strategem was deployed to extract the maximum reaction from the hapless victim short of allowing her to call the local Gardai.

Carmel married Kieran Dockery,  a School Teacher and a talented footballer who played for the County Senior team as goalkeeper in 1961 and 1962.  Noel married  Nan Clarke of Prosperous and last week both Kieran and Nan passed away.  My sympathy on their sad losses go to my old work mates Carmel and Noel.

Last weekend I attended a seminar in the National Museum in Collins Barracks Dublin on World War I. Thomas Burgh was the Architect for the Barracks which was built in the early 18th Century and he was also the Architect for Bert House which he designed for his brother.  A few days later, I came across a photograph in the Irish Independent of the 9th August 1938 showing an open air boxing match between Ireland and Germany which took place in the square in the centre of Collins Barracks.  The photograph was of interest because the Irish Boxing Team which fought that night included an Athy man, Dick Reid.  Dick, who so far as I can find out, was the first Athy man ever to represent Ireland in any sport.  A few days later, I had occasion to contact the Irish Amateur Boxing Association which organises and control Amateur Boxing in Ireland looking for information on the boxing career of Dick Reid.  I was told that Jim Kane, who knew Dick very well had died just a few days previously aged 82 years.  Jim was for a long time the caretaker of the National Stadium in Dublin and as a relation of the Chanders Family of Athy got to know and admire Dick Reid when Dick was boxing in the late 1930’s.  Dick Reid, International Boxer from Blackparks in Athy will be the subject of a future Eye on the past. 

This week attention was caught by succession of large signs in the windows of Shaws Store advertising a sale to celebrate the firms 140th Anniversary.  Shaw’s are synonymous with Athy although the firm has a connection going back to the 1860’s with Mountmellick where Henry Shaw opened his first small drapery shop.  Duncans Department Store owned by Duncans of Fortbarrington House, now Tonlegee House was acquired by Sam Shaw in 1915.  For some years previously, Sam had worked in the Duncan Store and when he took over the store the year before the Easter Rebellion, it marked a further expansion of the Shaw business enterprise which had previously been extended to  Portlaoise.  “The Boot Mart” had been opened in Portlaoise by the Shaw family just 25 years before the Athy store.  Later on, Sam Shaw acquired the premises in Duke Street, previously occupied by Brennan’s where he opened a hardware shop.  By 1919, Shaws consisted of drapery Stores in Mountmellick, Portlaoise and Athy and a Hardware Store in Athy.  Five years later, the enterprise was registered as a Private Limited Company, a legal entity which remains to this day.

Sam Shaw was the Managing Director and under his guidance, the business again expanded with the acquisition of a store in Waterford from Robertson Ledlie Ferguson in 1941. Shaw’s Store in Carlow was opened in June 1949 but following its destruction by fire in November of the following year, it was rebuilt in 1951.  Three years later, Gaze and Jessop’s Hardware Store in Portlaoise was purchased by Shaws and this business was subsequently transferred to the new Centrepoint Centre in 1973.

The Shaw group opened a Wholesale operation in 1960 under the style Shaws Wholesale Limited and the 1960’s marked the initial moves which culminated in Shaws becoming “Almost Nationwide”.  An additional branch was opened in Roscrea followed by another in Fermoy before Shaws moved into Dublin with the opening of a store in Ballymun.  In 1973, Shaws opened a new store in the Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick and three years later acquired Hadden’s which operated stores in Carlow, Dungarvan and Wexford.  Further stores were subsequently opened in Dun Laoghaire and Tralee and a major rebuilding programme saw stores rebuilt in Carlow, Waterford and Dungarvan.

Today the Shaw group of Companies comprises fourteen Department Stores and two Shopping Centres employing over 600 persons.  Henry Shaw who established the first small drapery store in Mountmellick in the 1860’s was succeeded by his son Sam and the business now “Almost Nationwide” is now under the corporate Directorship of Sam’s sons, William, Mervyn and Trevor. It is planned to redevelop Shaw’s Athy Store in the near future and that development when it comes will give enormous fillip to Athy’s retailing sector.  Congratulations to everyone in Shaws for the 140 year old success story.

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