Popular Ballybofey garage to shut its doors next week
By paddy Walsh
For forty-three years the name Dunnions has been synonymous with the motoring industry in the Twin Towns. But on Monday next the bonnets will come down and the wheel braces put away for the last time when the well known Ballybofey establishment shuts its garage doors and motors into the pages of local history.
Last year, Lidl Ireland made an offer for the site of Dunnions Whitehouse Motor Service, the adjacent Gregory Cottage and surrounding grounds on the town's Donegal Street. And after due consideration, proprietor Peter Dunnion agreed to take up the offer.
"It will be very sad after having been so long in the business. I'll certainly miss the business and the clientele. We had a lot of very good customers down the years," said Peter yesterday.
The original garage on the site was built by the late Mickey Bradley in 1935. Peter reflected on a conversation with Willie McGranaghan of Sessioghneill who worked there as a mechanic in 1940. "He told me his wages were 3-10 shillings per week."
Peter and his brother, Michael, purchased the garage in 1958 at the knock down price of 15,900 when it went on the market with the estate agent being the late Seamus Meehan.
Not that the motor trade was where Peter Dunnion expected to end up even if he always had an interest in the cars of that period. He had originally gone to England and took up employment in the hairdressing business which he remained in until 1967. Returning home, he secured a job in a Gents hairdressers in Omagh where he worked for a year. But unable to secure a permit, Peter was forced to give up his job.
That coincided with the garage Mickey Bradley had built going on the market and a complete change of career for Peter Dunnion. It wasn't long before he realised he had a flare for selling cars and that he could make a decent living from it.
He re-employed the same staff who had worked there previously including the late Michael Timony who was a sales manager and the mechanics, Frank Mullen and Maurice Dowds, both of whom are deceased, and Willie McGranaghan.
Peter recalls the mid to late sixties when the Morris Minor and the Volkswagen Beetle were popular choices among car buyers at a price tag of 475. He also had the main dealership for Standard Triumph Motors in the county. "We sold a a huge amount of them throughout the North West," he maintains.
A number of the mechanics who worked at Dunnions have on to open their own successful businesses including Seamus Gallagher, Tommy Gallen, Tommy Dullaghan, Joe Thompson and Harry Gillespie. Terence Doherty and his son, Barry, are due to open their own workshop after January 31st.
As for Peter himself, he's unsure where his next venture will take him but wife, Angela, is now hoping to see more of him! "He'll miss it for sure but hopefully he can relax for a while."
And while the people of the Twin Towns and surrounds will miss the presence of the long established garage and its employees, Peter considers that the arrival of a major multi-national will help transform the commercial face of Ballybofey bringing much needed employment for the future.