Great sadness as Donegal town butchers 'McGettigans' prepares to close its doors

'People are shocked and ironically, the shop was never as busy as many come in to speak to Ernan, Diarmuid and the staff'

Gerry McLaughlin

Reporter:

Gerry McLaughlin

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Great sadness as Donegal town butchers 'McGettigans' prepares to close its doors

Diarmuid and Ernan McGettigan with some of their award winning sausages.

Just Champion - and there will be so many people asking genuinely, “Where’s the beef?
For there was never anything secondhand about M. McGettigan and Sons, master butchers, who will sadly be closing their doors for good on Saturday.
And, hundreds of customers from all over South Donegal have been coming to speak to Ernan and Diarmuid as they wind down a legendary business that has served generations of families all over South Donegal.
Last year they had a very special visitor as Prince Charles and Camilla dropped in to sample their prime products.
On Saturday this very well known and much respected family business on the Diamond will be saying Slan to the people of Donegal Town after 65 years in business.
Sadly they are yet another of a growing number of small once vibrant family businesses who have been crushed by the steady march of multi nationals.

Just over a year ago, Prince Charles who included a stop off at McGettigan's as part of his tour in Donegal town.

Loyal staff
Since 1978 Ernan and Diarmuid’s complimentary talents and their very loyal staff helped build a very successful business that was crowned the Supreme Champion in the Sausage Competition as recently as 2012.
“So we had two All-Irelands coming to Donegal that year”, quipped Ernan, who has been very active in all that was good for his community for many years and is a former Mayor of Donegal Town.
And he and Diarmuid were understandably quite emotional as they spoke to the Democrat.
“It’s very sad and emotional not just for us but for our staff as well as we have always been just like a family.
“My daughter came from Newcastle during the week and we were chatting about the time we used to do the turkeys at Christmas and my mother used to make soup and it was called Granny’s Soup.
‘’It has brought a lot of tears to everyone and there are so many great memories.
“It is great that all our staff are coming back to us on social media and saying that they were part of a family and that is the best compliment you can get”.
And McGettigans won several awards for their produce over the years.
“It goes back to 2000 when we entered the first competition when we were the supreme champions in Ireland for our sausages,” said Ernan.
Diarmuid adds:
“And that was the whole of Ireland”.
McGettigan’s went on to win five more Supreme Titles after that.
“We have been here since 1952 and I went to college in 1975 and Diarmuid went in 1976 to study meat technology for three years.
“We got the highest qualifications we could get and we both came back into the business in 1977/78 and we have been here since.

Tucking in, Prince Charles and Camilla in McGettigan's just over a year ago.


“And we brought something different as I brought the sausages and Diarmuid brought the lamb cutting.
“Diarmuid was in the financial side and I came up with some quirky ideas.
“In 2000/2001 we said we had to have our own niche market because the supermarkets were putting us under pressure.
“So we specialized in sausages, cranberry and basil, tomato and herb and hickory and maple and the latter went on to be our first big winner in 2001.
“And in 2011 it was named the best sausage in Europe”.
Ernan and Diarmuid and their staff have particularly happy memories of the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla to their shop in May last year.
“It was the only premises in Donegal that they stood in and we still remember it with great pride.
“It was surreal, it was history and we presented them with our produce and he complimented us on being proper artisans.
“Our motto has always been from farm to fork and this impressed the Prince as he is very much into natural foods”.
But he added tellingly: "The most famous visitors we have are our customers. They were our bread and butter and they kept this place going for years.
“But unfortunately between competition and pressure from supermarkets we just could not continue any longer.
“Parking issues around the town are another factor as our customers cannot park anywhere.
“And nowadays people are less inclined to want to walk, they like to be able to pull up and get their produce."
Both brothers have been at the heart of the community in Donegal Town for many years.
Ernan has been deeply involved in many community organizations and Diarmuid has been carrying on his father Michael’s key role in Murvagh Golf Club.
“But we did not realize until the last few days the history that we have and how dad was respected all over the county.
“Our dad was away ahead of his time and what he did in this shop in 1972 still exists”.
And while McGettigans may be going, their loyal customers are stocking up on those famous sausages.
“People are stocking up and we have people ordering freezer amounts of sausage and we are doing our best to help them”.
But it is the family element that the McGettigan brothers will miss the most.
“We have five brothers and sisters scattered all over the globe and they are on social media and they are in tears because they know what is happening.
“It is very difficult for our five employees who have been with us for so many years and we want to pay tribute to them and everyone that was associated with us in any way, because that is what McGettigans was all about.
“We shared their ups and downs and that’s what a family business is all about”.
Sadly McGettigans is only one of many family businesses that have had to close their doors in recent years.
“The big supermarkets are getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger and small indigenous family businesses are just disappearing off the map.
“We just can’t compete and we can’t diversify until we have nothing left.
“People need to look at it because small businesses provide much more employment than the multi nationals.
“Small businesses are the backbone of small communities.
“Small communities are disappearing, small towns are disappearing.
“Donegal town is doing very well from a tourist point of view but we were always a market town.
“We have lost that”.
And Donegal town has lost something so local, so friendly but something so very special.