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Butcher Eddie O' Loughlin. Photograph by John Kelly.

Eddie a cut above the rest

WORKING as a butcher for 50 years, recently retired Eddie O’Loughlin has many great memories. But none better than hearing the sound of his newborn daughter’s first cries down through the telephone line.

Eddie, who has just retired from Ryan’s Centra, starting off when it was Pat Hanrahan’s back in 1966, recalls, “Like everything else, you have sad and happy memories. I think one of the happiest was in 1978, when the telephone was in the old shop and people would come in and ring and get phonecalls.

“I remember I was using it one time – my late wife, Marie, was expecting our first child, Sarah, and she was after breaking her ankle so she was in hospital with her feet up. I was just ringing to see how she was and the nurse at the other end said this is the maternity. I heard this bawl at the back and she said, ‘would you believe it, your timing is good, that’s your first child’. It was pure luck, I just rang to see how things were. And Sarah had her own baby three weeks ago.”

Eddie was brought up in St Michael’s Villas and was still in school when he took a part-time job at Pat Hanrahan’s, eventually going full-time in 1969. “I was one of the local boys and Pat asked me would I like a few hours and that was the way it happened. I started off packing shelves, weighing potatoes, doing everything. Then one of the lads was leaving the butchery department and I stepped in. And I never got out of it again,” he laughs.

He has seen many changes in the trade over the decades. “There was no such thing as the HACCP (Hazard, Analysis and Critical Control Point) or Excellence Ireland or anything like that. You just had the health inspector’s call. It’s a different type of situation. At that time, you’d get in 10 sides of pork or bacon and you’d have to cut them all up and bone them all individually, but now you can buy the cuts that you want. It’s not as labouring as it was. It’s more paperwork now, it’s a lot of paperwork. For every cut of meat you put out now, you have to show where it came from, where it was killed, date of purchase, expiry date… There’s about 10 lines for every product.”

Customers’ tastes have also altered. “At that time, you had the full side of beef to cut up, so you only had so much of everything. Now you can buy in and now everyone likes their striploin steak boneless, they want it all cut out. They’d nearly expect you to cook it for them, and no better man to cook it,” he smiles.

An avid cook, Eddie says he would “make a meal out of an egg”, though he also likes to eat out. He will have plenty of time for that now, as well as indulging his hobbies of photography and art. Of course, he will also be making time for his family. His late wife, Marie, passed away 12 years ago and the pair shared five children, with 12 grandchildren, ranging in age from 18 to just three weeks old.
“With 12 grandchildren, there will always be something to do. There will be nothing easy about my retirement, we’ll keep going.”

On his last day of work, he was surprised with a party instore. Eddie’s loyal customers from over the years were there to wish him well, along with his family. “It was a big surprise, I didn’t expect at all. Loads of customers came in and wished me well with cards, it was great. There was a great celebration.”
Another retirement celebration has been organised by store owners Paul and Kay Ryan next month in The Old Ground Hotel.

Eddie turned 65 this week, explaining that he had always intended on retiring once he reached this milestone age. “I said when I was 65, I was going to go and that was it. You would miss the customers and the staff and the banter. But sure, there’s more to life. We will get on with it.”

By Jessica Quinn

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