One John Deere machinery dealership hit a major milestone this year – with Co. Louth firm Hanlon Machinery recently celebrating 40 years in business.

Initially opening its doors in 1981, the Dundalk-based company has seen plenty of ups and downs over the intervening years – and is still going strong four decades later.

Speaking to Agriland about hitting the impressive milestone, managing director Michael Hanlon explained the rollercoaster ride since that early eighties entry-point.

“We’re John Deere dealers; we signed up with John Deere originally in 1981. I actually sold Ford with McGees of Ardee for seven years before that,” Michael explained.

“We do John Deere and a lot of He-Va equipment. We don’t do a big pile of machinery – but, with the ones we do, we try and do them that bit better.

“We’ve a big agency for a stone rake that we bring in, and we sell that all over the south,” the managing director added.

“Paddy Callan of Ardee and myself set up the agency in 1981. In 1982 McGees of Ardee closed and the Ford agency was up for grabs.

“Because I was selling Fords before that, Ford wanted me to take it – but I couldn’t take it because we were doing John Deere. But Paddy took it in Ardee.

“Myself and him did a deal and we parted company – and we’ve been friends ever since.”

In terms of the progress made by the company, Michael explained that Hanlon Machinery initially rented a premises up until 1983, when it bought its current home in Haggardstown, Dundalk, moving in 1984.

Since then he explained: “There have been lots of changes and it wasn’t always easy – but we got there.

“First of all we had a recession, then we had the Foot and Mouth disease, which was big in this area in the time, and then we had Covid-19 – and thank God we got through them all.

Commenting on the changes he has seen over this timeframe, Michael added:

“Over the years from the get-go at the beginning, when I started with John Deere, all you needed was a toolbox. Now you need a toolbox and a laptop.

“Going back to the John Deere 2140, when they went to 3040 my father, Lord have mercy on him, asked me ‘where are you going with them big tractors? You’re going to trample all the ground in the country’. Imagine if he saw the ones now.

“But there have been a lot of changes over the years. We did a bit of work to the premises over the years.

“It’s a family-run business. When we started off it was myself and my wife and a storeman. I was doing the sales and the repairs at that time. My daughter is with us now – she’s here 20 years believe it or not.

Highlighting that the family-run ethos is key for him, Michael added:

“At the minute we hope and plan to keep going; Michelle will continue the business. But we plan to keep going. We are busy.

“Brexit was a bit of a hiccup at the beginning getting stuff in but we got over that hump as well and things are back to normal.”

Michael noted that, during the Covid lockdowns the company was taking orders over the phone and through the gate, but the doors were closed. As the first lockdown eased, following Covid-19 protocols they were able to allow one or two customers into the premises. But business kept going throughout he added.  

“A neighbour of ours who actually worked for my brother when we signed up as a John Deere dealer, she told me that she remembers getting hand-written invoices from us when we started.

“She put a poem together about when we started,” Michael concluded.