THOMAS Collins is the third generation to run the family business from Castle Street, Castlebar, writes Tom Gillespie.
The auctioneer and music store owner is proud to continue the work founded at the turn of the last century by his grandfather J.J. - John Joseph - Collins,
Thomas told me about him: "He was a businessman, politician, journalist, newspaper owner, registrar of births, deaths and marriages, and he had his own radio programme on Radio 2, broadcasting from O’Connell Street, Dublin.
"He was born in Castle Street in the 1870s and we are there since then. He had a huge portfolio in property. He distributed the land for the Land Commission, he worked for the county council, he had a furniture business and was elected for Sinn Féin to the then Castlebar town council in 1917.
"He burned the minutes book on the Mall because he could not use a book that condemned the heroes of the 1916 Rising."
He added: "He opened his own newspaper, The Mayoman, in 1917. He left a legacy in Castle Street and for the Collins’s in the town. In his view the town came first.
"The British Army were still up in the Military Barracks then and on one particular weekend a young solidier came back to the barracks. He was told to stop and he didn’t and he was shot by one of his own men.
"J.J. wrote an article either in The Connaught Telegraph or The Mayoman saying he did not want to see this in his town and it was time these young men went home. He did not want to see a young man die needlessly."
J.J’s sons and daughters all had musical backgrounds and were involved in the music business.
Thomas added: "My father, Tom, and my uncles Kevin and Mick were also involved and I am still continuing that business.
"That little shop reared a family that had a presence in Castle Street for generations and must be the oldest family in Castle Street.
"The new editor of The Connaught Telegraph, Tom Kelly’s father Seanie and his grandfather Tom had a barber shop in Castle Street. Tom’s grandfather shaved and cut J.J.’s hair. He cut my father’s hair, and cut my hair, but the one sad thing I regret is that Seanie Kelly was not photographed cutting my son’s hair.
"All the families in the street were linked and supported each other. There was a camaraderie between them.
"When I was young there were a whole lot of old piano keys at the back of our shop, black and white keys. Later I heard the story behind them.
"Jackie Elliott on Spencer Street and his brother had a delivery truck. They collected a piano from our shop, put it up on the back of the truck and headed to Station Road to deliver it to a house there.
"When they arrived at Station Road to take the piano off there was no piano. Seanie Kelly and his father were cutting hair in the barber shop when they heard this massive bang and all they could see was piano keys and strings all over the street where the piano had fallen off the truck as they went up the hill at Duxie Steward’s.
"So the keys were kept in our store."
Thomas continued: "The Black and Tans burned out my grandfather’s newspaper premises - where Elverys are now located. The Black and Tans came down to take him out of the house. His father-in-law was in the RIC, a McCormack from Turlough. He was in the Stockport police and fire service and he came home here when he got a job.
"He knew all the troop movements. He was able to tip off J.J., who was putting it in the paper. The Black and Tans got fed up with the paper and they went down and pulled him out of the house and were going to bring him to the barracks but his brother, T.R., who had resigned his commission from World War 1 and had come back to Ireland, and only for he donned the Scotts officer’s uniform J.J. would have been shot. T.R. said ‘Release that man into my custody’ and when they saw an officer they just did it. Otherwise I would not be here today."
J.J. and T.R. both served on the council together.
J.J. and Tom Lavelle from the bakery were very close, J.J. was godfather to a couple of his children. They had a great tradition of people working together in the town for the town.
Thomas is married to Anne and they live at Mallard Lodge, Newport Road, Castlebar, with their children Jack (15), Ruth (13) and Alexandra (9).
The auctioneering business is built on friendliness and good business practice. Thomas took over the business in 1986 and was president of the Institute of Auctioneers in 1996 and has served on the Council of Auctioneers for the past 25 years.
Collins Estate Agents services are auctions, lettings, land sales, estate agents, valuers, all forms of property sales - commercial and private and court work.
Thomas was educated at St. Patrick’s National School and Davitt College, Castlebar. He worked in the fire service for 15 years and he stood for election in 1993 after he left the fire service.
He opened the auctioneering business in 1986. His father Tom died the previous year.
An artist of note, Thomas has undertaken commissioned work and his paintings have raised thousands of euro for Mayo Roscommon Hospice and the Western Care Association.
Thomas’s mother Tess runs the music sector, which is stocked with instruments of all shapes and sizes.
Thomas Collins can be contacted on (094) 9022701 or (087) 2555711 and the music store can be contacted on (094) 9028668.