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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Pat Purcell Papers


Mr. John Slater.

1921-1978

Source: Michael Purcell 2013


[note added by Michael Purcell, September 2011.

John Slater was the only surviving son of local money-maker Frank "Slabs" Slater and Maria Ralph. [Frank also had a son, Ned by his first marriage to Minnie Fennell]

John Slater died in Carlow on 15th September 1978.

During his last illness he was looked after by John Hargaden of The Irishman's public house.

Aidan Murray penned this Appreciation in memory of John.

In the appreciation Aidan refers to "The Slater Empire", the first time I heard that term was on national radio when the well-known Bookmaker Terry Rogers was interviewed one morning on Radio Éireann.

Terry was making the case to have the Betting Tax reduced, during the course of the interview Terry stated - "we all know what happened to the Slater Empire some years back when it collapsed leading to the closure of a string of Bookie Offices and the loss of over 100 jobs".

Nationalist and Leinster Times.

22nd September 1978.

John Slater.

(An Appreciation).

TO PUT John in perspective one must have lived through the heady days of the Slater Empire, when his father, Frank Slater, was the greatest employer of labour after the sugar factory.

With a string of betting offices from Bundoran to Bantry; a poultry business; a bakery, what is now Crotty's Bakery, and he also built from the ground a fish shop now owned by Tom Meighan.

Frank owned property in every part of Carlow town [and also owned extensive property throughout the county].

In Carlow he built the circle of houses which comprised Hanover Terrace, situated on north side of Granby Row and Hanover Villas on the Hanover Road.

Just when the "talkies" were to make cinemas a gold mine, he bought the old cinema in Burrin Street, on the site of the present post office, and aided by M.J. Deasy of Tynan's Hotel, he created one of the finest cinemas in the provinces.

Frank's home, Hanover House, became the centre of a social life which defies description.

When Father Dunny, then administrator of Carlow Cathedral Parish, asked me to form a choir to be the nucleus of concerts in aid of the building of the Bishop Foley Christian Brother's School, John, who had a lovely voice, joined up, and invited us to rehearse in the drawing-room, where there was a Bechstein Grand Piano.

On the side-board there was every kind of refreshment from Napoleon Brandy down. Like his father, John was liberal in his hospitality.

Around that time in the 1930s I became captain of the Rugby Club, and started on building up a new team; John was one of the first to assist me.

In those days club funds were low; we had to hire cars, and John would always put one of their numerous fleet of Buick cars at our disposal. The difficulty was that his passengers of Sunday might not arrive back in Carlow until Wednesday. John had an impish sense of humour, and when the "craic" was good, and the company convivial, time meant nothing to him.

His greatest success was at golf where the professional employed by the Golf Club said he was the finest hitter of the ball he had ever trained. But he tired in time even where he excelled.

He went to live at the old Jury's Hotel in Dublin, and thereafter visited Carlow only sporadically.

Annie Mulhall (Minnie of the Riordans) once told me that her husband, Louis D'Alton, the playwright and one time producer at the Abbey Theatre, had written two plays on the Slater saga, from data supplied by her. One play was titled, I think, "The Money Doesn't Matter".

Louis, on tour with the Abbey Junior Company, in the early 40s, came to supper one night at our home, with a young Denis O'Dea and others who also subsequently became famous. He was fascinated by the Slater theme. I told him of the ladies' hockey team, made up of girls from Frank's offices, and which the star was Judie Mulhall, who later went on the stage.

One of the highlights of the year was Slater's staff dance at Tynan's Ballroom [later the Ritz Ballroom]. A magnificent supper was supplied free by Frank; Peter Keogh's Band (specially augmented), and lashings of drink, sent us all scurrying to be among those invited.

I have many reasons to hold the Slater family in gratitude and respect. One of his fleet of cars went daily through my mother's town in Tipperary. There was an open invitation to any of our family to get a lift down or back from Frank.

Legends have grown around Frank's name and a parallel folklore was created by John. John's friendship with R.M. Smylie (the editor of the "Irish Times") and Myles na Gopaleen (Brian O’Nuallain) at the Palace Bar in Fleet Street, where Tom Meighan and I tracked him down when Tom was contemplating opening a fish business in Carlow.

Nothing, they say in Irish, is worse than the death of friends or the scattering of companions.

Many, reading of John's untimely death, will look back with nostalgia on a family whose only fault was their generosity. John dissipated his huge fortune lavishly, even foolishly.

It is heartening to think that in his last illness he had loyal friends who gave him back the generosity and loyalty by which I shall always remember him.

A.M.


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