Business Farming

Friday 30 September 2016

It started on the Late Late Show

The recent appearance of his fellow Galwayman TJ Gormley on the Late Late brought the memories flooding back for agri-entrepreneur John Concannon

Ken Whelan

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

John Concannon has built a €50m manufacturing business from Tuam, Co Galway.
John Concannon has built a €50m manufacturing business from Tuam, Co Galway.

John Concannon was running an agri manufacturing company in Tuam with an annual turnover of 12,000 old pounds in 1987 when he got his big break with an appearance on the Late Late Show then hosted by Gay Byrne.

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He had invented a triple bucket which could feed three calves at the same time and was invited on to the show to explain what it was all about.

Gay Byrne, in his usual knock about comedic fashion turned the appearance into jackeen versus culchie encounter with plenty of jokes about 'holes in the buckets' and double entendres about the teats which were attached to the equipment.

"Some people thought Gay was taking the piss but I was grateful for the opportunity to publicise the buckets. Publicity is publicity and that's the way it is. I was certainly grateful for the opportunity to appear on the show," says John.

He was commenting against the backdrop of the social media row over the sheep tagging carousel invented by fellow Tuam man, TJ Gormley which was recently given an outing on the Ryan Tubridy version of evergreen RTE show.

TJ's carousel is designed to speed up the tagging of lambs which is a labour intensive task at this time of year. He was asked to apply himself to the problem by a Donegal farmer who annually has a stock of some 400 newly born hundred lambs to tag over a four week calving period.

His television demonstration generated a 'twitter storm' with some people alleging animal cruelty.

John Concannon is dismissive of the social media criticism and believes his fellow Galway man's invention is more than fit for purchase.

As far as John is concerned it's time for TJ top get the carousels out the door and hit the road.

"I thought the lambs on the carousel looked perfectly happy. They looked as though they were looking forward to be shorn. The reaction from some people, especially on social media, would give you the impression that TJ was tightening steel bolts on the lambs' nuts."

It all reminded him of his appearance on the show which helped launch JFC into the agri manufacturer it is today with a turnover in excess of €50m.

Back then the company was a one-man show. It now employs 110 in Tuam and a further 250 at its subsidiaries in Poland, Holland, Britain and South Africa and exports its products to 40 countries.

John is ideally placed to navigate the road which TJ is about to travel with his sheep tagging carousel.

"I appeared on the Late Late Show on December 17, 1987 which was a good time to be promoting the bucket but then we had mould problems which were sorted out by our manufacturer in Glenamaddy and then we lost more valuable time because of the Christmas break but we eventually caught up on the orders," John recalls.

'The bucket man'

With these hiccups sorted it out it was time to hit the road with the buckets and it wasn't long before John became known as 'the bucket man" in Irish agricultural circles.

"I was on the road selling the buckets either straight to farmers or through the co-ops. I remember being in a farm supplies shop in Letterfrack one day and putting the bucket on the counter. "'I've have them', said shop owner. 'Where did you get them?', I asked. 'I went down to a creamery in Connemara and bought the buckets there', came the reply."

That shows how valuable publicity can be, says John.

"In those days it was all about displaying and selling them at agricultural shows. I was over at a show in Scotland one day and took to the podium to sell the buckets. I sold nearly 500 buckets at that show," he recalls.

How John got onto the Late Late was a master class in pure commercial tenacity.

"I sent one of the buckets to the show to see if they would give the product a plug and got no reply. So then every time I was in Dublin I would leave another bucket over to the researchers at RTE to remind them of the invention.

"They must have had a pile of them by the time I was invited on the show to talk about the new fangled bucket."

Ever the businessman, he even used a picture of himself and Gay Byrne on publicity material for his new product afterwards.

"And it was free of charge," John emphasises.

"And that's not something you would get in today's world of image rights and the value placed on image rights by TV celebrities."

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