Earlier in the month I did an interview in Dublin with Marian Finucane for RTE Radio. The interview came about as a result of an article that Sandra O Connell had written in The Sunday Times last year on the new business I had set up called Ted Dwyer Family Business. A business designed to help family businesses with their succession planning.

There were two other family business people on the panel, Alan Crosbie whose family owned the Irish Examiner newspaper through five generations and Caroline Keeling whose family own the wonderfully successful Keeling’s fruit business. Caroline is the third generation of her family in the business. If you didn’t hear the interview you should be able to hear it on the RTE podcast.

Before the interview I had a chance to talk with Alan Crosbie and mentioned to him something that he hadn’t known, that the founder of the Irish Examiner, John Francis Maguire was related to me.  Cork is a small place!  He was my grandmother’s grandfather.  When Maguire died he bequeathed the newspaper to Tom Crosbie the editor, who had joined the Cork Examiner as it was then the year after it was started.  Tom was a young 15 year old from Kerry when he joined.  The only cost to Tom Crosbie for the ownership of the paper was an agreement to pay Maguire’s widow a little pension for life.  The Crosbie family then successfully managed the newspaper for five generations from 1872 to the end of last year when it was sold to the Irish Times Group.

Maguire was an interesting man. He was not really a businessman, more of a politician and the only reason he founded The Cork Examiner in 1841 was for political purposes. He was an MP for Dungarvan in 1852 and then an MP for Cork from 1865 to 1872. He was also Mayor of Cork (the Lord wasn’t added till 1900) in1853, 1862 1863 and 1864. No twitter or Facebook back then! If you wanted some social media coverage you started a newspaper.

He was a supporter of Catholic Emancipation and Home Rule and a major supporter of the women’s suffragette movement. He was also an author of many well-known books including “The Irish in America” He was also a supporter of Father Matthew’s total abstinence from alcohol movement and during his time as Mayor of Cork he performed the opening ceremony of the famous statue of Father Matthew on Patrick St where over the years so many Cork young people arranged to meet their first dates before heading off to the pictures and a hoped for cuddle in the back row!

Marian introduced her programme by stating the importance of family businesses to the Irish Economy

  • More than 75% of companies in the private Sector in Ireland are family businesses.
  • Family businesses employ more than 50% of the entire workforce.

Both the Examiner Group and my old family firm Dwyer & Co lasted through five generations and in our case 160 years from 1820 till it closed in 1980. Alan Crosbie was interesting as he talked about the loyalty of the employees and the many other families who worked for his newspaper. Back then jobs were so scarce that a job, if you were lucky to get one was often for life. Today the average employment only lasts about 5 years.

 Caroline’s grandparents started their wonderful fruit business as farmers and Caroline now works in the business with her Dad, my friend Joe Keeling and with two of her brothers. The succession planning at Keelings is going to be interesting in the years ahead. This firm currently employs over 2,000 people.

I mentioned that I can still remember the day Dwyer & Co closed, it was like a death in the family. My brother George, my father John, my grandfather George and godfather John Harding all worked there and many of the loyal employees became family friends. Thankfully the closure of the business was handled really well in the main by Pat Dwyer and Mike Dwyer and as far as I know all of the money due to their suppliers was paid in full and according to Mary Leland who wrote our book Dwyers of Cork in 2008, about £1 million was owed to the company by its customers. Pat and Mike managed to collect nearly all of that and the Dwyer building situated opposite the courthouse on Washington St in Cork was also sold to Power Securities for £750,000 at the same time.

Thankfully also many of the employees were able and indeed encouraged to start their own businesses after the closure. Dwyers was always a great training ground for people to start a new business.

Rachel Allen from Ballymaloe recently opened a fine restaurant on the ground floor of that same building and we had a splendid nostalgic meal there a few weeks ago reminiscing about the old days.

Our family have been doing business in Cork for a long time. Dwyer & Co started, as I mentioned in 1820. My brother George’s company Eurostyle and our company City Life were both started in the early 1970’s and have both moved on to the second generation. This is 2018 so in total our family have been in business in Cork and employing people in our various family businesses in Cork for 198 years. That gives me a good feeling.

Ted Dwyer Family Business

January 2018