A MAJOR MILESTONE will be celebrated by one of the county’s top farm machinery businesses this week.

PJ Ryan’s Tractor and Grasscare mark fifty years in operation this Monday (March 13th). Specialising in the sales of tractors, agriculture and grasscare machinery, the Sixmilebridge based business supply to customers ranging from main contractors in the agricultural industry to the trade and DIY markets.

It all began “in a little garage in Kilkishen” on March 13th in 1973, PJ Ryan recounted. Prior to this, he had been doing repairs in the garage of his house in Cratloe during the evenings with the day job at Shiels Garage in Landsdowne.

After ten years of managing both, PJ decided based on the demand for business that he would open up his own garage. “I worked an awful lot on diesel engines originally, my original qualification was as a motor engineer, I felt there wasn’t many people working on diesel because more were working on petrol”.

Coincidence led him to meeting Patsy Kett who owned the unit at Kilkishen. “I thought about it for a while but I felt it was a big opportunity even though Kilkishen is a quite village. First of all, I dealt with motor vehicles and then started importing machinery from the UK, there was a changeover from farming business at the time with people going from horses to tractors”.

For the early days, PJ was joined by his late brother Tom as a mechanic while the books and accounts were managed by his sister Geraldine and wife Mary.

September 1995 is forever an era remembered in Clare history, it was also a significant month for the business as they began operating out of their current base at The Mill Yard in Sixmilebridge.

With a staff of five, Cratloe native PJ said it is “basically a family run business”. It includes his two sons Gearoid and Robert who look after the tractor, machinery, grass care and oil side of the business. Newmarket-on-Fergus woman Aileen McMahon is labelled by PJ as “the anchor pin” of the business looking after accounts while their team of fitters Michael Keane and Christoph are very familiar faces to all customers.

PJ Ryan. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Speaking to The Clare Echo, PJ pinpointed differing downturns in the economy as the biggest challenges. “There was a massive downturn in 1974 when the farming business went into total decline, cattle were virtually given away, calves you could get for nothing. In the early 1980s, there was a massive rise in interest rates which caused massive problems, they were between 22-25%, farmers and people in general suffered an awful lot at the time, they depended on borrowings at the time to keep them over, they had to have some sort of finance to keep them going. Then in the mid to late 2000s which was another massive downturn, the building industry collapsed and hit a lot of part-time farmers and blocklayers who had been working in construction”.

Each adversity was met on by Ryan Tractor Parts. Grant schemes from Governments in the United Kingdom and Ireland helped people to dispose of small tractors and to assist purchasing machinery “were an advantage to my business because people had the funding to purchase farm machinery, there are no better people to spend money when they have it than farmers. The local economy has always benefitted when farmers have money”.

Facilities in the yard supply kerosene, tractor and road diesel with activity boosted by the presence of the Mart in Sixmilebridge which Ryan noted as “a big business generator”. Other visitors would typically be looking for parts, batteries, tyres, nuts, bolts and lubricants.

An oil business set up by PJ in the early 1990s operates side by side the farm machinery operations. Initially it focused on delivering diesel to farmers but he later divested to home heating oil. “That became a big enough business,” PJ acknowledged while pointing to the growth of housing estates in Meelick, Shannon, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Broadford and Sixmilebridge as a help in this aspect. “It is still a thriving business,” he noted.

Customers are well aware of the skills PJ brings to the table but it became known to a wider audience when he was involved with the restoration of Eamon de Valera’s famous Dodge alongside the late Danny Moloney and Cratloe’s David Browne, “it turned out beautiful. I’m very proud that it’s now on display”.

He said, “It has been an achievement to stay in business with all the downturns esp 2007/08 we took very severe knocks in the oil business and business overall because a lot of people went to the wall, we ended up suffering the consequences. We battled and kept going. It has been an achievement to be able to provide employment for my two sons, two mechanics and Aileen”.

PJ concluded, “It’s a business that will be there for the future, like all businesses there’s ups and downs, we’ve survived three recessions but like all ordeals you have to overcome it. I’m most proud to have kept the business running, when I started there was thirty to forty people in that business, now it’s down to five or six”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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