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Friday 20 April 2018

This auctioneer remembers when the Purcells would come looking for hundreds of cattle

George Candler
George Candler
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

All regular buyers have their own way of conveying a bid to the auctioneer, according to veteran auctioneer George Candler.

They might give a nod, wink or a finger gesture. But the strangest one George ever encountered was the man who used to slip forward his lower set of false teeth.

"You have to be very observant," says George (pictured). "Each animal is only in the ring for 45-60 seconds. It's a small window to make a sale."

"And some sellers get confused about what's happening. A lot of them would only go to the mart once or twice a year. So they are dependent on you to look after them in getting a fair price."

Thus George's motto is, "look after the seller, as the buyer can look after himself".

Read also: After 45 years as an auctioneer, selling cattle, horses and ‘slaves’ George Chandler has no plans to quit

Though George has recently received an award from the IFA in recognition of 45 years of service to Kilkenny Mart and to farmers, he has no intention of parking his gavel.

"I enjoy what I do and will continue to work as long as I have the health to do so."

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He says he hates to hear radio presenters regularly say things like, "only three days to the weekend," and he urges people to "never wish your life away".

When he was starting out, a farmer many decades older than George addressed him as, "sir". He instantly said, "my name is George."

More often, there have been times when George has had to show that he is in charge of the rostrum, "you need a certain strength and confidence".

For example, a buyer might make a show of putting on the first bid on a particular animal, in an attempt to put others off bidding.

For all that, George believes that you have to, "bring buyers with you".

"It's a long day, maybe four to five hours, so there has to be an element of entertainment and theatricality." For anyone who has ever seen George in action, his approach could be described as jovial. He would be well known for cajoling another bid out of someone who had just moments earlier indicated that he was finished.

"A good auctioneer needs to be a judge of stock, a valuer and an arbitrator," he says.

He has very fond memories from the 1980s and 90s of dealing with the Purcell brothers, "decent men" and "great cattle men".

On one particular morning, he remembers Seamus Purcell coming in dressed up in a Crombie coat with scarf and gloves, saying "George, I think we'll want a few cattle today." A "few" meant 200-300. They were the world's biggest live exporters. The whole trade would get a boost if the word went out, "Purcells are here".

In terms of the future for marts, George believes that they will eventually move to trade online. It is already possible to view some marts live, on Farmersforum.ie.

But he adds that there will always be a need for marts. How else will people be able to gauge the value of their stock? He never got as many phone calls asking him to price stock as he did during the 2001 FMD crisis when the marts were closed.


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