PHILIP Purcell, who stepped down from the rostrum for the final time in Tattersalls Ireland at the February Sale in 2011, has died. He was 73.
He retired after an honourable 36 years wielding the gavel. At a dinner held in his honour on the eve of the sale, many of the people associated with the company from those opening days gathered.
Ballsbridge International Bloodstock Sales, the forerunner of Tattersalls Ireland, held its first sale, the Derby Sale, in June 1975. The original line-up of auctioneers was David Pim, Denis Mahony (father of Tattersalls chairman Edmond) and Philip Purcell. Philip’s death brings the curtain down on an era that many today will not have known, operating out of temporary facilities in Ballsbridge.
When I joined Ballsbridge Sales for the 1976 Derby Sale, I recall that Philip, just 12 years my senior but someone I looked up to, was the first person in the company to befriend me, assuring me that he was open to an approach anytime I had a problem or a query. That simple act of kindness has remained imbued in me for more than four decades.
Selling horses then was quite different, a tough time within the business for a fledgling company to be taking on the big boys, Goffs and Tattersalls. However, the company had a family feel to it, with people of Philip’s calibre and kindness at its heart. Michael Opperman was then the managing director, being succeeded in 1979 by the late Willie O’Rourke. Michael Hillman and John Clarke were other key members.
Philip described some of the qualities a good auctioneer must have. “You’ve got to be sharp and on the ball,” before adding, “you’re in a position of trust; the vendor has put you in that position of trust and you must honour that position.”
After retiring from Tattersalls Ireland, Philip continued to sell, but his other real passion was for hunting, a pursuit he enjoyed until a few years ago. Always a pleasure to meet, and a man who treated everyone the same, Philip’s death will be most acutely felt by his family and by many devoted friends. May he rest in peace.
Philip is survived by his beloved wife Maura (nee Hayes), children Sonia, Kenneth and Nigel, his niece Rachel, daughters-in-law Mel and Fernanda, grandchildren Jonty, Georgina, Ruairi, Charlie and Clementine, extended family, relatives and friends. Requiem mass will be held today (Saturday 11th) in St. Ailbe’s Church, Emly, Co Tipperary at 11.30am, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery. Family flowers only. Donations, if desired, to the Palliative Care Unit Clonmel.