Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Keeping it in the Family: Whelan Sawmakers Ltd based in Mullingar for the last 50 years

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Whelan Sawmakers Ltd., is based in Ballinalack, Mullingar for the last 50 years. James Whelan and his son Justin Whelan are proud to bring their business name and that of Mullingar nationwide when they deliver their products throughout Ireland. Topic spoke with Justin Whelan to learn more about this unique family business …

1. When was the business established and were any previous generations involved?
Whelan Sawmakers Ltd. is a family run business started by James (known locally as Jimmy) and Angela Whelan fifty years ago, in 1971.

2. Did the family live in Mullingar for many years / where did they come from?
Justin tells us that his father James comes from Shandonagh and his mother Angela comes from Castletown Geoghegan. They moved to Ballinalack and settled there to start Whelan Sawmakers Ltd.

Left: Justin Whelan Right: Angela Whelan

3. Who are the family members working in the business now?
James (aged 75), and Justin manage the business and Justin mentions his co-worker Peter Fulham who has worked with them for over 40 years now and is almost like a family member.

4. What does the business do?
Whelan Sawmakers Ltd. is a unique company that specialises in the manufacture, sales and very importantly, the servicing and repair of all cutting tools for woodworking, industrial and agricultural/gardening sectors. Their products and services include wide and narrow band saws, stellite tipped band saws, routers, planer knives, chainsaws, mortise chains, sheep sheering blades, horse/cattle clipping blades, hedge cutting blades, baler knives, lawn mowers sales and services and everyday garden cutting/power tools.

James in his workshop at Whelan Sawmakers Ltd.

5. How has the business changed over the years?
Justin points out that their “business has moved into agriculture in a big way, manufacturing and providing blades for sheep shearing, hedge-cutters, grass cutters, blades for horse maintenance, etc”. Another change is the area they cover; the company started off providing local sales and service, they now send their products all over Ireland.

6. Plans for the future?
“The main plan is to keep going” Justin tells us and “since we’re inter-dependant on other trades (agriculture, etc), we hope that we’ll be kept going for years to come”. Whelan Sawmakers were fortunate not to be too badly impacted during the lockdown as they were providing an essential service to many trades, so they kept going throughout.

7. Any memorable moments through the years?
While there is nothing too exciting that springs to mind, Justin brought up the subject of St. Patrick’s Day Parades and how Whelan Sawmakers used to win a prize almost every year for their float entry. “They were great days and I’ll always remember them”, Justin said.

8. In what way do you think you family business adds something special to Mullingar?
The business is nationwide and not just local. Justin says he is proud to do what he does and is aware that their products and services fill an important gap in this niche market. Just is also very proud to come from Mullingar and feels great to be able to promote the town Mullingar to his customers all over Ireland.

9. Pros and Cons of working with family in a business?
“There’s no pressure to behave in a certain way” working with family, Justin laughs and says “they all get on grand”.

Look out for Whelan’s sign as you approach Ballinalack on the N4

10. The last word:
Justin and his father James are very grateful for the support of customers and all their staff through the years. Justin stated “we would not be where we are today, still operating 50 years on if it wasn’t for the loyal support of locals and staff”.

Whelan Sawmakers Ltd. look forward to the future and to the next 50 years of keeping the business in the family.

Next time you have a lawn mower that needs attention, shears or a band saw that needs sharpening, don’t forget to call out to Whelan Sawmakers Ltd in Ballinalack. Give them a call on 087 2613105 or 087 2375906.

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