Michael Mullen at his former auction rooms in Oldcastle.
Michael Mullen at his former auction rooms in Oldcastle.View More Images
Michael Mullen, Oldcastle
One of the country’s best known fine art and furniture auctioneers, Michael Mullen of Oldcastle, passed away on 20th September last, aged 80. Retired from the business since 2008, he described himself as a “chattels auctioneer” - one that sold moveable possessions.
Mullens have been trading at the landmark premises in the town since 1916, in one form or another. The family opened up shop on Cogan Street on a momentous day, Easter Monday 1916, when miles away in Dublin, other events were gripping the nation. The building, with its Victorian façade, brick features and stained glass windows, and the shopfront erected by his father, Patrick, in 1927, was an ideal location for the auctioneering business Michael would later open there. His father was from Latton, Co Monaghan, and his mother, Rose Brady, was originally from Cavan.
It was a drapery store that the Mullens opened in 1916, one of those large stores that was almost a mini-department store, selling everything from drapery to furniture. In 1922, Patrick Mullen supplied 1,000 blankets to the army of the new Free State. They were made in Ballinacree Woollen Mill, burnt down later in the Civil War. When Patrick died, his wife carried on the drapery business while her family were being educated. Michael went to Cavan to ‘serve his time’ as an apprentice in a drapery.
In 1961, Michael married Frances Muldoon, whose family ran the famous Round Tower Steakhouse in Kells. The following year, he took obtained his auctioneers licence. He started auctioneering next door to the family business in Oldcastle, but gradually as the old general draperies went out of fashion, he moved the business into the family premises.
He started selling on fair days when all the farmers were in town, but soon decided that it was their wives who would make up the bulk of his customers. Michael decided to have an auction on the first Tuesday of every month, children’s allowance day, and inserted an ad in the paper, for a 2pm auction. However, the paper misprinted it as 7pm, and he went ahead at that time. It was a blessing as many women told him that their husbands were then free to mind the children, leaving them free to come to the auction.
His passion and excitement for the art was clear from the very beginning, and the Mullen Bros auction was held on the first Tuesday of every month until February 2008. Michael also held independent auctions all over the country, often selling the entire contents of a house or property to an ever-large group of bidders. A unique element of his auctions was the fact that paddle boards were never used, he knew everyone by name, having encountered them at viewings, and if he didn’t, he made up a name!
Retiring in part in 2008, he still oversaw sales when requested and continued to pursue his interest in fine art, always enjoying the hustle and bustle of the countries antique fairs and auction rooms. Two of the family of six went into the business – Niall, who has featured on RTE’s ‘The Dealers’ series, has an art deco store on Francis Street in Dublin, and Declan, who worked with Chantal O’Sullivan in her antique shop in Dublin, restored furniture. Even in recent weeks, prior to a sudden deterioration in his health, he had been helping Niall prepare for the antiques fair at the RDS. He had been unwell for about six months.
Michael’s siblings were also an industrious lot – Paddy successfully ran the Tinywear furniture manufacturing business, and the late Tommy was a florist in Kells and Oldcastle. Sister Noeleen became a Dunne of the Premier House Drapery in Kells.
Deceased was involved in many local groups and associations, including Oldcastle Area Development, St Vincent de Paul, and many other community organisations.
His father had been a founder member of St Vincent de Paul branch in Oldcastle, and Michael became involved when he was 19, quietly helping out those in need. In retirement, he volunteered and worked in the local charity shop. He was deeply involved in the Laurence Gilson School Trust, and instrumental in the erection of the Ann Meldon Hugh statue of Gilson in Oldcastle in recent years. He was involved in parish committees, and a group known as the West End Traders, a social gathering of business people at his end of town, in the past.
Deceased had a great sense of humour, and a dramatic ability, and with Bobby Byrne, a Limerick man teaching in Oldcastle, he produced ‘Tops of the Towns’ shows full of comedy, variety, music and entertainment, which were very popular in the north Meath towns, competing against other towns, in the 1970s.
International travel was a great love of Michael Mullen’s, with family, friends or old acquaintances, and he was in Dubai and China last year. Regular visits were to the Olympia Horse Show, and to Lourdes, while a family holiday to Aran island, Inis Mór, was a trip taken in every year for 50 years - the legendary ‘Man of Aran’ was also Mullen.
When some of his sons were running pubs in Kildare and Kilkenny, he went to Africa with them on Vintners’ Federation trips.
Michael Mullen is survived by his wife, Frances; family, Siobhan, Patrick, Declan, Bairbre, Vincent and Niall; sister, Noeleen; brother, Paddy; grandchildren, Fiachra, Sorcha, Aoife, Caoimhe, Niamh, Leah, Max, Ruby, Jude, Conor, Aodan, Lucy and Sonny; extended family, good friends and many close acquaintances with whom he crossed paths over the course of his life.
His removal took place from his home at Church Street, Oldcastle to St Brigid’s Church, Oldcastle, with burial afterwards in the local cemetery.
Monica Squires, Oldcastle
The death occurred peacefully at home on 14th September last of Monica (Mona) Squires (nee Leonard), Oldcastle, and late of Coolock, Dublin (pictured below). She was founder of the Manna Charity Shop for the benefit of the community and missionary endeavours, which now has a number of shops across the region.
Born to Patrick Joseph Leonard and Esther (nee Heffernan) on 14th June 1938, Monica was the youngest in her family, with two sisters and a brother, and two other brothers dying in childhood. She grew up in Donnycarney, Dublin, where she met her husband, John, and after they married they moved to Lancashire, England for a number of years before returning to Donnycarney.
The years that followed saw them living in Griffith Barracks, Ballyfermot and finally, Coolock. Twenty years in Coolock was dissected by another three years in England. Monica had a second-hand furniture and bric-a-brac shop during this period. In 1992-93 the family moved out of Dublin to Meath, living at Fordstown, Athboy.
In 2000, John and Monica bought a new house in Virginia, but as they were planning the move John took ill and passed away. In early 2001, the move to Virginia was completed. Monica lived there for several years before making her final move to Oldcastle.
Monica was mother of five sons and seven daughters, two of whom died in infancy. Extreme poverty was how life was for the Squires family in the early years of raising children. Monica set about alleviating that with a number a money making enterprises – such was buying seconds in stockings from the factory, sewing the holes and selling them on. She used every ounce of entrepreneurial skill to alleviate their situation.
In January each year, she would begin to making toys for the following Christmas, so they would have gifts despite their circumstances. Monica endeavoured to make a point of creating happy memories for her children during very difficult times . When times were financially, a little better she would sit down with them on a Friday night and they would chat or watch a movie eating and drinking small amounts of chocolate and coke.
After John died, Monica turned her attention to mission work, spending months in the Arc Orphanage in South Africa. She went to live in Oldcastle and set up a charity shop for the benefit of the community and missionary endeavours. She was to call it ‘Manna’ meaning ‘bread from heaven.’
Monica Squires not only began one shop in Oldcastle, but also opened shops in Virginia and in Ballymun, Dublin. This year saw four new ones opening and a fifth is planned to open this month. Monica has left behind a fantastic legacy, both in her large family and in the work that she first began in Oldcastle some six years ago, when she was 69 years of age.
In Oldcastle, she was joined by Pastor Richard Mawhinney in prayer to the Lord for Oldcastle and regions beyond, on a weekly basis, for six months in 2010. Monica was dedicated to her family and her community. She was seen by many whom met her as a mother figure. She was very much love by all those around her and they had embraced into their hearts as she did everyone she met. She had been a woman of amazing vitality, tenacity, energy and was often told by those who knew her to “slow”.
Pastor Ray Cotter, Irish Director of Elim International Missions, said it was a great pleasure to be associated with Monica Squires over recent years.
“Her zeal and enthusiasm for Christian work, particularly in developing countries has had to be seen to be believed,” he said. “When I first met Monica she was a lady who should have been thinking of retirement, but her thoughts were on opening charity shops across Ireland to support Christian work and Elim International Missions. She put zeal and great enthusiasm into driving towards this goal. Many people in developing countries, particularly on the African Continent, have benefited from her vision and will continue to do so.”
Monica is survived by her family of 10; with 21 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren, while Monica’s children have fostered 10 additional children into the family with numerous other foster children coming and going in recent years.
A service to celebrate her life was held on the 18th September in St Columba’s Church, Kells, with burial afterwards in the adjoining graveyard.
The annual digital subscription of the Meath Chronicle is 60% cheaper than an annual postal subscription. Click here to subscribe-it's a great gift.