Thursday, 06 June 2019 22:16

GreatGas Business Pioneer Took On Petroleum Giants

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Incorporation of Mr. Gerry Murphy, "The Accidental Entrepreneur" of Churchtown, Co. Cork, Ireland,

to Irish Business Hall Of Fame Online Gallery @ www.ScoreBoardMemories.com

 

From Churchtown, Co. Cork, Ireland, Entrepreneur Gerry Murphy, Had No Shortage Of Fuel

To Challenge Adversity In The Irish Petroleum Market.........................

 

Brave and Ambitious: I do remember the very first time I saw a sign proclaiming ‘GreatGas’. My mind wandered to the days when thousands of Irish motorists considered converting their cars to gas for savings on petrol, but many were reluctant to designate so much boot space to the gas tank. Also conversion to gas had its quandaries.

Cost factor for conversion and convenience of supply were major items around Ireland and reliability of performance always deterred me. Ballyhea, deep in the Golden Vale, was a Co. Cork village a few miles from Charleville, and well known for its stock of great hurlers over many decades. However passing through Ballyhea was achieved in less than one minute, and this was an advantage for GreatGas. The signage had great impact, couldn’t be missed in such a small village, but what it meant, had to be investigated.

Anytime I passed through Ballhea thereafter, I pondered about the GreatGas sign. I thought someone was re-inventing gas propelled engines, but this was a more fuelled up version. I never stopped to enquire or even Google GreatGas, simply because stopping at a small countryside petrol station was not on my agenda. Penny pinching high mileage motorists such as myself, believed we would pay top dollar for our fuel at small country filling stations. I will return to the GreatGas story deeper in my entrepreneur tribute to Gerry Murphy.

 

Boss Murphy Heritage: Several years before I saw the GreatGas signage, I was informed on my travels around 1997, that a new pub would soon be opening in the nearby village of Churchtown, just a few miles from Ballyhea. I was also informed that a native son of the parish was on a mission to upscale the profile of his native heath and that he had major plans to redress the impoverished impressions of Churchtown. The village was caught in a trap of depression and my informant stated ‘this man means business’.

The location was a hamlet nestling off the Cork-Limerick thoroughfare and greatly orientated by agricultural pastures, but I pondered, what motivated this entrepreneur to invest such huge sums. He had to be a man of great wealth to go in amongst the people he and his family grew up with, and sell his dream project to the local people. That is precisely what he did, and some years later, he had GreatGas in neighbouring Ballyhea also. That’s the GreatGas I sped past.

 

The Banker: The native son of Churchtown and the Ballyhea Great Gas project, all centred on the same entrepreneur. The entrepreneur was a former banker who spent twenty five years between Bank of Ireland and First National Building Society, and he was Dublin based since his twenties. He came from a farming background in Churchtown, but raking over grasslands and fertilising the soils, was not in his aspirations. His links to Churchtown were his heritage, established by his forebears, and now that he had financial diesel in his armoury, he was going home to help create a new and vibrant Churctown village.

Of immense benefit to Gerry Murphy before he turned a solitary sod in his native place, was his acquisition of numerous badges of business qualifications and these were all achieved as a priority in the formative years of his banking career. These qualifications were priceless tools for a professional business man and would be seen as proof, that Gerry Murphy was commercially equipped to launch and guide his own business ship.

Coming home to transform his native village required deep pockets, but equally important was gaining the trust and respect of the local community. One of his pioneering Churchtown projects was acquiring a former public house premises, reconstructing it, and making it the social centre of activity for the community.

 

Churchtown; Just One Pub: Many business people around Ireland had bought landmark public houses in need of a total rebuild, but Churchtown was something really different. The village was on its knees and required a total rejuvenation and the community needed an inspirational leader across several bridges. Gerry Murphy bought up a portfolio of properties on arrival home, set out a business plan and sold himself to his own people, as a person with ambition and drive to make Churchtown a template for other Irish villages to emulate.

A forebear of Gerrry’s was a local 19th century legend, a man revered in times past by his own community and also by neighbouring parishes. That legend was Boss Murphy, a great grandfather of Gerry’s, and a man whose musical prowess was renowned, but his heritage had gathered a lot of dust over several decades.

Gerry Murphy intended to reintroduce Boss Murphy. He also had extended plans to reclaim village life in a vibrant transformation and that required out of town citizens to come and live in Churchtown and to achieve this goal, new houses needed to be built. The village had just one trading pub when Gerry blew in with his finances intact and he envisaged Boss Murphy’s new pub, complete with restaurant and accommodation, as the hub of social life for Churchtown and districts.

However, in his own words, I was never a publican... and he off loaded Boss Murphy’s from his business portfolio within four years. In 2019 Boss Murphy’s premises is still trading successfully in the centre of the village.

 

Churchtown Heritage & The Local G.A.A. Club: Preserving the village history and educating the current Churchtown population of the importance of this preservation, came under the influence of Gerry also and the new Churchtown Heritage Society was a venture undertaken with great pride and enthusiasm. One man was leading by example and spared no funds to ensure, upcoming Churchtown generations had a mine of historical information all about their native place.

Churchtown Heritage Society was set up as a not-for-profit venture, but it still needed inspiration and leadership and that was delivered in spades.

Meantime the local G.A.A. club  were also beneficiaries of Gerry Murphy’s influence and passing through the village, the new stadium makes for compelling viewing. Equipped with its own magnificent stand, state of the art gymnasium facility and ultra modern dressing rooms, this impressive facility would be a welcome addition to any senior club.

My personal tour around the club facilities on a wet and windy Friday afternoon, in April 2019, was a remarkable insight to an extreme level of community ambition. The end product is worthy of inspection by gaels from all over Ireland who may envisage a similar major development for their club. A fundraising steering committee, with Gerry Murphy on board, set extremely high ambitions for a small junior club in north county Cork, and achieving your target was always possible. The new G.A.A. complex, officially opened in 2016, is now monumental proof, that ambition and drive, mingled with ability, are essential tools for all trades.

 

A Tough But Fruitful Pioneering Project: On a brief journey around the hinterlands of Churchtown, the fingerprints of Gerry Murphy from property development to retail business are evident, and yet I have not scribbled a meaningful word about GreatGas. Entry to the petroleum business arose when Gerry purchased a small filling station and grocery shop in nearby Ballyhea village.

He inherited a petroleum franchise from the previous owner that restricted and dictated profit margins on fuel sales and meant a survival profit was off the radar. Unable to live on such dictatorship, he sought new viable terms from the distributor, but the door was firmly closed in his face. The terms of the agreement with his supplier were about to cease and freedom to negotiate with an alternative supplier was around the corner, but that freedom was very limited. In a marketplace where Gerry had zero trading experience, and as the owner of a small village filling station, he researched the possibility of establishing his own petroleum distribution business.

After many weeks of negotiation he struck oil, when a Co. Cork multi national corporation agreed to supply Gerry and his company directors, with a supply line, tied up with very stringent financial conditions. And now Great Gas signage would be showcased at the Ballyhea forecourt and a brand new petroleum distributor went about securing a network of independent petrol retailers.

The company base was Churchtown and though small in manpower, Great Gas had entered one of most competitive markets imaginable and hoped to expand all over Ireland, excluding Northern Ireland. The expansion journey depended on their Cork based importer maintaining supplies, but the financial stakes imposed on GreatGas, required never ending strict compliance.

Finally GreatGas didn’t run of gas, but Beecher’s Brook guarantees were getting higher and higher and when a major player saw an opportunity to take over GreatGas, that is exactly what the Churchtown entrepreneur signed up to willingly.

From a tiny acorn, Gerry Murphy and his team built a GreatGas empire and the enterprise finally moved from its Churchtown base to a major midlands town location. Unprecedented in achievement, and having regard to the limitations of the spiritual home of Great Gas in Churchtown, the arrival of GreatGas in the petroleum marketplace, was indeed a remarkable achievement.

Gerry Murphy, entrepreneur and business explorer extraordinary, is still roaming around the roads of Churchtown and held in great esteem and it’s always possible that Gerry is cooking up another major Churchtown exploration.

Recognising Gerry Murphy’s achievements and the contributions he has made to his native village of Churchtown, is worthy of national and international acclaim. He built bricks and mortar for current and future generations of Churchtown residents and on behalf of all the people of his native land, it is our privilege to incorporate Gerry Murphy into our E All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery

@ www.ScoreBoardMemories.com  The category is Irish Business Hall Of Fame…

The category is Irish Entrepreneurs.

 

All Ireland Hall Of Fame Tribute

composed by

Derry JF Doody

Editor/Promoter

@ All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery

Last modified on Thursday, 06 June 2019 22:27