When reminiscing on years gone by in Longford town, the one business name that’s mentioned in almost every conversation is that of the Farrell Brothers premises on Kilashee Street. Operated by the genius that was Anthony Farrell, alongside his twin brother Jack, the little shop was a veritable wonder world of electrical and gas appliances and bicycles!
Born in the townland of Brikeens, Moydow in October 1919, Anthony was one of six brothers and a twin to Jack. The other siblings in the family were Michael, Bill, Paddy Joe and Brian all of whom have now passed on.
Anthony attended Moydow national school and thereafter the Vocational school in Longford town. He then served his time training as a bicycle mechanic in Dennistons, also in Longford town. It was here that Anthony’s keen creative ability was nurtured and he used his time to learn all he could about the bicycle trade. When Mallons Old Forge premises on Kilashee Street became available for rent in 1947, Anthony seized the opportunity to open up his own business.
After a few years Jack, who had been home on the family farm up until that point, joined him in the business and that’s when the now infamous name ‘Farrell Brothers’ was born.
As a new business Anthony and Jack concentrated primarily on the selling and repairing of bicycles, but with the introduction of rural electrification, new opportunities presented themselves for the brothers. They opened up a shop and began to sell electrical and then later gas appliances. Farrell Brothers on Kilashee Street soon became the place to go for everything electrical or gas related.
During this time period there was a great demand for the new gas cookers which provided a curious but welcome comfort from the tradition of using solid fuel cookers. Ireland was changing, modernising, and the Farrell Brothers business changed to meet the needs of its customers. This particular element of the business brought them great success as for a long time there was only one or two people selling gas in the Longford area. Anthony and Jack were the local experts and advisors to both households and businesses.
Their own business was also very successful providing repair services. They were in business during a time when products were built to last and people fixed things instead of throwing them away. Anthony earned the reputation of being able to fix anything at all, from a needle to an anchor. If a question arose about the possibility of repairs to any kind of item, on the tip of everyones tongue would be the response, ‘bring it down to Anthony Farrell, he’ll fix it’. Indeed such was the confidence in his ability to provide a solution to everyday occurrences that on one occasion a lady whose wedding band had become stuck on her ring finger was directed by her GP to present herself at Anthony Farrells shop and he’d be able to assist her.
A lot of the work the men carried out wouldn’t necessarily have been profitable, or perhaps even advisable by todays standards, but they loved being of service to the community in performing these tasks and they were very successful at it. Anthony and the shop were a vital cog in the wheel of the towns life for over sixty years. In 1953 Anthony married Ita O’Connor from Galway and they had a family of four children, two boys and two girls.
The business of the shop meant long hours and hard work, more often than not until after 12pm at night and sometimes even later. This was Anthony’s routine for over fifty years, his whole life wrapped around his family, service to the community of Longford and his busy little shop on Kilashee Street. While his son John had joined the business in 1988, Anthony’s work ethic was such that he was still attending to the shop element right up until a week before he passed on in 2008.
Such an ethic came from having been one of a large family raised on a farm. His father died tragically from pneumonia leaving behind a young widow with six children to care for. This can’t have been an easy task. His youth involved hard work in collaboration with his Mother and brothers in order to ensure the farm provided for their needs. There were always chores to be done, both before and after school, these chores forming an important part of everyday life. It was this work ethic, instilled in him from a young age, which no doubt sustained him during difficult times and propelled him forward in the business world. There is also no doubt that he inherited some of his mothers courage as well as her entrepreneurial spirit.
Anthony’s mother had emigrated to America at a young age. Her fine Irish looks led to an interesting life working as a representative for Ponds face cream. She travelled extensively throughout America while delivering promotional seminars on the product. She had her own company car, business cards and a wardrobe of fine clothes to match her important role in the company. In 1913 however, she resigned from her role and returned to her home in the townland of Knockatarry. In September of that year she married Anthony’s father and they set up home in Brikeens. No one could have foreseen the tragedy that would befall the young family but the community rallied around them in their loss, supporting them by ploughing the land, setting the potatoes and performing other tasks on the farm that they simply could not have done alone. Perhaps it was the memory of this kindness which led Anthony to give so generously of his time to the community of Longford.
In 1985 he was awarded the title of REHAB – Person of the Year in recognition of his contributions to the community. He was again honoured in 1992 by the REHAB Hall of Fame. He was humbled by these titles, receiving them with thanks, but Anthony never sought out recognition for his contributions, doing everything simply because he was a good kind man. Every good deed performed was done with love, from a place of good will and kindness. His contributions to the development of the Farrell Clan were done in exactly the same manner. A vital member of the organising committee from the outset he held the role of treasurer and was very much involved in every element of clan activities .