Michael looking forward to hitting the high seas after his retirement

March 27th, 2024 12:45 PM

By Emma Connolly

Michael Walsh with his wife Sharon ahead of his retirement, after being in business for almost 50 years in Skibbereen. (Photos: Anne Minihane)

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RENOWNED Skibbereen plumbing supply business MJ Walsh is to close later this month after nearly 50 years in operation.

Owner Michael Walsh made what he said was ‘the difficult decision’ and will turn the key in the door for the last time over the coming weeks.

‘I’m 70 years old now, so the time has come to slow down a little,’ said Michael who specialised in supplying tradesmen from all over Cork, from the Mizen Peninsula to Macroom, the islands, fishing boats and beyond. He even exported goods to the US and Europe.

Michael moved here from the UK in 1970 when his parents, Ellen and Michael moved back to their native West Cork to run the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen.

He worked there for a while before branching out on his own and setting up the plumbing and heating business. He started in a unit in Glencurragh before moving to his current premises in Market Street in the late 70s where he has traded since.

Michael Walsh at his business M.J. Walsh plumbing supplies business on Market Street in Skibbereen. Photo; Anne Minihane.

His unique selling point was having speciality stock that wasn’t available elsewhere. ‘We had a niche market, and a direct relationship with tradesmen. We understood plumbers, and they understood us,’ he said.

Their reputation was renowned and over the years, they’ve shipped items including ceramics and taps to the US, and Germany.

They’ve also supplied countless hotels and restaurants throughout the region, as well as counting Jeremy Irons as among their customers, supplying items for the renovation of Kilcoe Castle.

Meeting people was what Michael liked most about his career, and he said dealing with ‘red tape’ was what he liked the least.

‘We had highs and lows over the years, recessions and crashes, and of course Brexit which really interfered with things, but we kept going and I have to say I very much enjoyed being in business,’ said Michael.

‘We are pretty unique in that we’re a small independent operation in a big world so we’ve done well to keep going!’ he said, thanking his employees over the years in particular Brendan Terry.

Michael is an avid sailor, with a boat in Baltimore, and is looking forward to hitting the high seas with more time on his hands.

He’s also looking forward to spending more time with family including his wife Sharon, an engineer; sons Michael, an engineer in New York; Cian, who has an auto business in Cork, and daughter Iseult, a nurse in Bantry Hospital.

His advice for anyone starting out in business? ‘Build up relationships with your customers and look after them,’ he said.

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