Callaghan’s butcher shop has been a landmark in Ardee for four generations and more than a hundred years. The business was started in 1906 by Peter Callaghan, great-grandfather of the current owner, also called Peter. It has never moved from its original location. The original Peter Callaghan came to Ardee from small farming stock in Gaffney, near Duleek, to serve his time with Lynch’s butchers in what is now Eagletons footwear store in Castle Street.
In 1906, he acquired the current premises at 58 Market Street and set up his own business. As the new enterprise grew, he invited his brother Thomas to come and give him a hand. The two brothers subsequently married two McKenna sisters from Cappock, Dunleer. After about five years, Thomas set up the Ardee Meat Company, on the site of the present O’Neills Menswear beside Ardee Castle. He gradually concentrated more on the wholesale side of the business, later exporting beef and lamb to Liverpool out of Greenore.
Peter and his wife Mary had 13 children before his untimely death in 1934. The oldest of the children – also called Peter – was just 18. He took over the shop with his brother Pat. Because of their youth, their mother went to Byrne’s butcher shop in West Street, Drogheda, in search of an experienced butcher to assist them. Mr Byrne offered her the services of Dan O’Brien, but with the following warning: “He’s an excellent, top class, tradesman and butcher, but he’s sour to the customers.”
The unperturbed Mrs Callaghan replied: “That’s no problem. If he gets my boys into shape, they’ll look after the customers.”
The two brothers successfully ran the business with the help also of their sister Agnes who in the 1940s became one of Ireland’s first female butchers. In 1951 Pat opened his own butcher shop at Hart’s Corner in Dublin’s Glasnevin.
Peter Callaghan was married to Mary Rowentree, from Reaghstown, and they had ten children. Over time, Peter began taking a back seat, preferring to concentrate on the farming end of the business and the supply of cattle, pigs and lambs to the shop.
In the late ‘60s, his son Johnny – father of the present owner – took over. One of his big innovations, in keeping with the times, was the introduction of the delicatessen alongside the traditional meat counter. In 1988, Johnny’s two sons Peter and Andrew came into the business and served their apprenticeships. In the early 1990s, the baton was passed to the present generation when Peter and Andrew took over. They worked together for ten years before Andrew opened his own successful butcher shop in Bettystown, Co. Meath.
Says the current Peter: “I’m still doing what my great grandfather did. I’m going out and buying cattle and sheep from the same local farmers.”