Peter Hanley Motors is one of the midland’s most iconic and well known businesses. From its early years to the present day, it remains the first port of call for locals seeking a quality car purchase or service. A family business firmly rooted in the community. Peter Hanley Motors is also the story of a remarkable man, Peter himself. A man who followed his dream to become a leading car dealership, with a reputation for honesty, integrity and good service.
Peter always has a friendly welcome for everyone, always keeps the personal touch and has a profound gratitude to the community and friends that have supported him from humble beginnings to where he is today.
Peter Hanley was one of seven children born to Paddy and Annie Hanley, who enjoyed a rural, simple upbringing in Ballagh, Newtowncashel, Co Longford. There wasn’t too much emphasis on schooling and that suited the young Peter. He was more interested in practical skills than formal education. At 12 years of age, he was already driving machinery, digging out ditches for neighbours and tinkering around with engines. It was to set the tone for his life ahead. He was never idle and there was always a tractor or a digger to be worked at home or in a nearby farm till he nabbed the coveted post for all local lads. He started work in Bord na Mona.
Like most people in this region, Bord Na Mona was to play a huge part in the early life of the Hanley family. It was probably inevitable that Peter, with his love of all things mechanical, would find work as a Fitter and Machine Maintenance worker in the Bord Na Mona Plant at Mount Dillon, Lanesborough. Here, lifetime friendships were formed, which are still vibrant to this day. The plant, unlike recent times, was seen as being secure, solid employment and steady work. These were the heady days of the 1990’s when all social, sporting and cultural events of the entire community revolved around Bord na Mona, in some way or another. A job here was seen to set you up for life and in a time of emigration and unemployment, people were grateful for that. But Peter, while happy at his work, had other dreams.
He longed to run his own business. He loved the car business. The lack of formal education never held back his drive for entrepreneurship and he spent all his free time setting up his own car sales and service business. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, buying and reselling cars, Peter Hanley soon established his reputation for a great bargain and a reputable sale.
Peter married Liz in March 1980. Laura was born in 1981 and David in 1984. As the family grew, so did the family business. And it was always a family business. David, who now runs the car dealership alongside his Dad, remembers that there were always callers to the house, weekend and late night travels to car auctions and a constant buzz about the latest news in the motoring world. Peter continued to work the ‘day job’ in Bord na Mona, and built this fledgling business at night and over weekends. Finally, in 1989, Peter took the bold step of leaving Bord na Mona to run his own business full time. With no working capital, and a young family to support, many thought he was brave, and others thought him crazy. He would be doing what he loved best, buying and selling cars.
Peter Hanley credits the established car dealers of the Midlands for supporting his fledgling business with generosity and goodwill as he struggled to get on his feet in those first years. It is a kindness that he remembers and treasures to this day. The garage was now beside the house in Newtowncashel and its proximity to the family home, which was more than handy for a fully involved family, as they set to work to build the business. The kitchen was often abuzz with customers taking tea and chatting. Liz, took care of all clerical responsibilities and the children spent the next few years racing from school to do homework and then go straight to the garage. Late nights were not unusual in the workshop and it was a great place for chats and laughter. Peter Hanley’s garage was off to a great start.
The World Cup of 1990 was in full swing. Bunting and Irish flags were festooned everywhere as the crowds gathered in every pub and club to cheer on our own Irish team and the bould, Packie Bonner. It was in the midst of this optimism and celebrations that disaster struck for the Hanleys. One fateful evening, the garage burnt to the ground. Everything was lost. Not a car jack or a spanner survived. The only consolation was that there had been no serious or lasting injuries, but it was devastating. The local community, neighbours and friends rallied to the families’ aid. Once again, Peter saw an outpouring of generosity and support from local business’s friends and neighbours. Tools were donated. Help of all sorts was offered. This practical assistance and kind encouragement gave Peter and his young family the strength and the will to rebuild and to rise from the ashes. To build from nothing again. Peter Hanley set up his new garage in Newtowncashel.
Peter Hanley Motors went from strength to strength following this extraordinary setback. Peter left the devastation of that fire behind and moved forward fearlessly. He went on to supply and service cars to the local people of the midland’s area for more than 10 years at Newtowncashel, before progressing to a new site and garage development at Terlicken, Ballymahon, Co. Longford in 1999.
Thirty years on, and the family business is still going strong. With its state of the art motor dealership at Terlicken, Ballymahon. David Hanley is now managing the business, alongside Peter, who is as involved as always. ‘We pride ourselves on a high level of after sales and services and it gives us great pleasure to see our customers coming back through the generations’. A lot has changed in the car dealership business. Car auctions are no longer a prominent feature and an online presence is of paramount importance and is certainly done well by the Hanleys. Full car history checks and competitive car finance is on offer for the over a hundred and fifty cars in stock at any one time. While Peter Hanley Motors has moved with the times and embraced new technology and requirements, it keeps its friendly local approach to business. Peter Hanley Motors prides itself on remaining firmly rooted in its family and community setting. Peter still has that friendly word and banter for all who pass through the door. Local sponsorship and involvement in sporting and charitable events is important. Peter’s ethos, his friendly manner and solid work ethic is still reflected in the way he conducts business today. With a staff of over 20 people and a large consignment of cars, the garage goes from strength to strength, from their humble beginnings to a bright future.