DURING the 1980s and 90s, the mart trade experienced many a crisis, but the one that really stands out for Kilkenny-based auctioneer, George Candler, was the Foot and Mouth Disease of 2001.
When movement restrictions were lifted, cattle numbers, “had fallen off a precipice” and many small marts never recovered.
“Some people don’t like to hear this but there are just too many marts in the country,” says George who has been in the business for 45 years. “Kilkenny only has one but other similar counties might have eight. It is a particular issue in the west.”
George himself was born in that part of the world, in Roscommon, in 1950.
His father James was born in Dublin but moved to London where he joined the British Army and met his wife-to-be Ursula, marrying in 1946. His uncle James Conry lived and farmed at Tinny House, Ball- intubber and, having no heir, left the farm to his nephew. It was here that George was raised, along with his five sisters.
James was chairman of the IFA national livestock committee in the 1950s and was founding chairman of Roscommon Mart in 1959, a position which he held until his death in 1986.
“Marts were rare at the time and my father thought they were a great thing,” says George, who juggled his time in secondary school with regular forays to the mart, “where I did everything, from reading cattle, to penning them, to clerking,” he says. “It was a great grounding.”
Through his work with the IFA, James got to know Michael Gibbons who was chairman of Kilkenny Mart and, in 1972, George was dispatched to the Marble City, to train as an auctioneer.
When George’s training was complete, he was offered a job to stay on. Having made a lot of friends in the area and gotten involved in various choirs and musical groups, he took up the offer.
Looking back now, George realises that his father envisioned that he would come home to farm while doing a bit of selling at some of the marts in the west.
“He must have been disappointed when I didn’t but never said a word.” At the time, Kilkenny Mart was a very busy place, handling up to 3,500 cattle a week. The figure now is less than half that.
In terms of reporting prices, George firmly believes that “per kilo” is the only method that means anything.
“A price of €X over the 100kg’ means something totally different when an animal is 750kg compared to one of 350kg.”
As well as his mart job, George also does some pedigree cattle and sheep sales.
It might seem like an obvious thing to say but George believes it is important for an auctioneer to be able to be understood. Especially when doing pedigree sales, as there may be overseas buyers present. He also points to the need to have a knowledge of pedigrees.
On one occasion, he was asked to do a pedigree cattle sale in Westmeath.
The farmer felt that the stock were worth more than they were making. He refused to sell and after the first eight to