The generation game at TJ Booth & Sons

20 Sep , 2016  

T.J. Booth & Sons is long established as one of the largest family owned manufacturers and distributors of animal feeds in County Tyrone and the surrounding area. The company’s proud traditions and history spans well over a century through four generations of Booth’s.

The company is based in Ballygawley, where all its activities, from production of feeds in its state-of-the-art mill to distribution, are controlled.

A trace of the company’s roots reveals that T.J. Booth & Sons began trading as Collumbrone Stores in 1904. The firm was founded by Thomas James Booth (1872-1955) and continued by his sons Ernest (1912-1986) and Wesley (born 1922).

Back in 2004, it’s centenary year, it was under the guidance of his grandson, Arnold who has now passed on the baton to to his two sons, Graham and David.

T.J. Booth was one of two sons of Mr John Booth of Collumbrone who farmed at Collumbrone and who had earlier been a butler for the Moutrays at Favour Royal.

His brother William Booth was a corn miller and sub-postmaster at Ballinasaggart before moving to the mill at Milltown, Ballygawley.

T.J. began buying eggs as an agent for the newly established Augher Co-OP in 1902 and then set up on his own two years later. His remuneration in those days was 3d per 10 dozen eggs delivered to the Society’s store at Augher. He was also a milk carter to the Co-Op in those early years.

His first premises were in a shop in the corner of his father’s two storey dwelling house at Collumbrone. This was a new house built by John Booth in 1869 just seven years after he came to reside in the townland.

It was one of the few two storey slated houses in the area at that time. The shop in those early years served the retail needs of a country district that was two miles from Ballygawley and three from Augher.

It had the usual trade in provisions, light hardware, boots and shoes and paraffin oil. The first major diversification from the egg trade was in meal.
The Newforge Co in Lisburn, who manufactured minerals, installed a meal mixer around 1920. It was at this time that the shop moved to new premises beside the house which now traded as Collumbrone Stores.

In the early days some of the shop hands boarded with TJ. This was to enable them to get up in good time in the morning. T.J. normally rose about 5 o’clock and had his doors open by 8.00.

He worked long hours in the old shop which had an open fireplace encourage some customers to keep late night calling. In fact, he regularly used to have to call ‘Time’ at 11.45 on Saturday night as he would not countenance trading on the Sabbath.

By 1930 he had developed a poultry exporting business as well as egg collecting. He was handling turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens and kept two pluckers going night and day.

There was also a great demand for rabbits during the First World War period. The eggs were sent to Belfast by rail on the Clogher Valley from Ballygawley to Tynan and then by Great Northern freight.

The meal business continued to expand side by side with the egg and poultry trade. It was hard work then with the raw materials being carried up the loft where it was mixed, bagged, weighed and then lug sowed, before being delivered by lorry.

T.J. bought a flat-bodied Leyland Beaver about 1936. The principal suppliers of the raw materials were James Clow and Joseph Rank in Belfast and E.T. Green in Derry.

The first telephone was installed in 1930, Booth’s being the first phone on the Ballygawley exchange.

By then, T.J. had been joined by two of his sons. Ernest, who served his time with David Patton in Monaghan, took over the shop and meal business while Wesley took charge of the egg store.

By the mid-thirties, 10 people were employed including four family members. Miss Georgia Heslip was in charge of the shop.

T.J. was now making way for his sons as arthritis forced him into retirement. He died in 1955 and his wife Mary in 1972.

Ernest then extended the meal business into Fermanagh and began offering a bulk delivery service from 1965. The shop was closed shortly afterwards and the egg packing business about the same time.

Wesley then took on travelling around the farmers in extending the meal sales. At this time Ernest’s son Arnold joined him in the business.

Arnold joined the firm after his schooldays at Omagh Academy. He served his time to the grocery and hardware business with T.W. Reynolds in Dungannon and then to the egg trade with Gracey’s in George’s Street, Belfast.

He married Joan Graham in 1973 and soon she joined the business. Ernest gradually handed the running over the Arnold and retired in 1975. He died in November 1986.

Arnold expanded the bulk trade and today the firm have three rigid bulk lorries, one artic, six trailers and one curtain sider. In addition, they use outside haulage to help them meet the demand for their products.

Arnold and Joan’s two sons, Graham and David, are now the fourth generation of the family business, Graham looking after purchasing and sales while David supervises the production of feed.

UFAS registered, TJ Booth & Sons currently have 16 employees on their payroll and the Tyrone company has certainly moved with the times.

“We installed a new mill 10 years ago and that has turned the business around with reference to production efficiency and customer services levels increasing,” Arnold explained. “The new mill consists of 12 outside straight bins, a grinder, four tonne mixer and 12 storage bins.

“We supply our own standard blends and also customer specific blends while we also sell fertliser and grass seed.

“The farmer himself is not getting a good price for his produce so there’s not much spend out there at the moment but we always strive to work with our customers. We’ve a loyal customer base stretching across counties Donegal, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Armagh, Down and Tyrone and we pride ourselves on our customer service.”

T.J. Booth & Sons
Co. Tyrone
BT70 2LZ
Tel: 028 8556 8229

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 4 No 4, April/May 2016