My father lived life to the full, lived it at a pace few would keep up with and lived a life less ordinary. But he was a man of his time and those who grew up in fifties Ireland and worked through seventies and eighties Ireland did see it all. He would have valuable advise for young families and business people in an Ireland that has changed a lot but is now affected by economic and international forces that we have been through before.
Dad emigrated to England as a young dentist and came back with my mother and a young family to Carbury in north Kildare to farm and set up his practice. His passion for horses led him to race ride until he was 45 years old. He rode at the Cheltenham festival on a mare he broke, owned and trained at the age of 43. My sisters and I had a rural childhood of freedom, fresh air, hard work, surrounded by cattle, dogs and ponies. My father began his day on the farm, then donned a suit and put in 8 hours in his dental surgery in Edenderry, then fed cattle and horses and walked his fields until dark, usually with me, the boy, by his side.
The advices that resonate every day, of hard work, of fair play, honesty, independence, have stood me in good stead. We took risks and chances, both he and I, in business and in life - with crazy horses on the racetrack and optimistic enterprises to remind ourselves that every failed plan or tumble at the last is just another lesson learnt. The voice that goes on in my head in every day dealings, to walk away, to hold counsel, to keep the cheque book closed or to speak out and support what feels right- that voice is his.
I remember two pieces of advice about business. The first was never to trust a Bank or let them control your affairs. The second was never to owe what you cant easily pay back.
I would say its a bit late to be giving some people those pieces of advice. The next thing he'd say would be - dont let the banks bully you when you are in trouble!- paay them back a bit and dont panic them by telling them too much!
I mention these sayings of his in tongue in cheek fashion as the reality of todays business climate for the SME sector is grim- as grim as the late seventies perhaps. My chairmanship of Kildare Chamber of Commerce has put me in touch with businesses staying open only by will power.
But will power is a much under estimated asset.
If Dad was around he would be just 66. He passed away on a sunny morning up on the Curragh on horse back on the gallops. I cant picture him as an OAP. But I do know that people like him lived with 50 % income tax and 17 % interest rates and worked through that to educate the generation here now and build the nation we have, such as it is, warts and all.
Groome Pet Vets now give OAPs one third off all Vet services on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
If you are an OAP- you know thats the least you deserve!