the butcher boys
WHERE'S THE BEEF?: FX Buckley is a Dublin institution mentioned in Ulysses. Owner Tommy Buckley tells Alan O'Keeffe the ingredients for lasting success
a leading Dublin butcher is passing on the skills and secret recipes of his craft to a sixth generation in the meat business.
FX Buckley Butchers has been mentioned in Ulysses, won awards for their meat and is constantly eyeing up business expansion plans.
With the expansion of major supermarket giants right across the city, local businesses are constantly under threat.
But Tommy Buckley (66), owner of three FX Buckley shops, said that their loyal customers trust the quality of their product. And he is delighted his son Darragh (35) is deeply involved in their highly specialised business.
The family business uses a number of "secret recipes" for sausages, white pudding, and spiced beef that have won prizes in craft butcher competitions. The group own shops in Talbot Street and Nutgrove Shopping Centre and their latest shop opened in Deansgrange three months ago.
Recently, this store was visited by a 25-strong delegation of Swedish butchers, eager to see how Ireland's top butchers ply their trade.
For Tommy, the butchery business is a labour of love.
"We've never been busier. As craft butchers, we are passionate about quality which starts by ensuring we've got the best possible cattle to begin with," said Mr Buckley.
"We insist on Aberdeen Angus cattle - they're smaller but have more flavour. The meat is dry-aged in the fridge by being hung for 21 days to improve its flavour and ensure it is tender. And we cut and display our meat fresh every day in our three shops."
In season, the butchers stick to the old tradition and are also purveyors of game, including wild venison, wild pheasant, wild mallard and wild rabbit. Tommy said that butchery is far from a dying trade.
His father Francis Xavier was from Drumcondra and he opened the first FX Buckley victuallers in Moore Street in 1930. On his return from his honeymoon in Paris, FX began using the slogan 'meat par excellence'.
He and his wife Dausie lived in Killiney and they had 13 children. Six of their seven sons entered the meat trade along with one of his six daughters.
And it remains a family affair to this day. Tommy's brother Paddy (64) owns the Moore Street shop. Tommy, his wife Marie, and son Darrragh oversee the three FX Buckley Butchers shops in Talbot Street, Nutgrove , and on Clonkeen Road, Deansgrange, and employ a staff of 30, including craft butchers, apprentices, and office staff.
The Buckley family name even appeared in Ulysses, James Joyce's famous novel on Dublin life more than a century ago. Tommy said his great-grandfather's butcher's shop in Meath Street was mentioned by the author when the character Leopold Bloom declared: 'Thursday: not a good day either for mutton at Buckley's, fried with butter, a shake of pepper.'
He also referred to a mention of corned beef in Ulysses, with a Biblical reference, that stated the beef was "as salty as Lot's wife's arse."
Despite this disparaging review from Joyce, Tommy said corned beef is still as popular and prepared in each of his three shops. It involves the silver side, or tail end, of beef being pickled with salt.
The award-winning recipes for traditional black and white puddings were created over many years by Tommy's brother, Harry, who has a meat factory in Rathcoole.
White pudding contains barley, a selection of different meats, and a unique combination of seasonings.
As far as the master butcher is concerned, a person can be a connoisseur of sausages as much as a connoisseur of wine. However, Tommy was not inclined to divulge the sausage-making secrets that have won gold medals, but added: "You need the right amount of meat and the right amount of spices.
"It's all to do with taste. It's a bit like wine-making. It's not easy to get it exactly right," he said.
Tommy's son Darragh has now taken the great tradition of FX Buckley Butchers very seriously and he earned himself a first class Master's degree at UCD at the Smurfit Business School.
He also moved to London to take up an apprenticeship with a distinguished craft butcher to bring back international experience.
Darragh believes butchering is "an art" and he aims to uphold the reputation of the family's business.
"Members of our staff are real craftsmen with a real knowledge and expertise of the trade. We see meat as a real art form. We've great staff who are knowledgeable and caring. It is very much a team effort," he says.
Darragh is very involved in the local community and launched a 'Back to School Healthy Eating Campaign' last month at three primary schools near the Deansgrange shop.
Master butcher Harry O'Connor advised parents on selecting the best cuts and adults and children watched chef Adrian Martin's cooking demonstration.
Tommy's family have also entered into partnerships with his brother Des, and his sons Stephen and Brian in running three steak restaurants in the city.
One of the restaurants is upstairs over legendary Dublin pub Ryan's of Parkgate Street which the two brothers also own. The other two restaurants are FX Buckley's in Pembroke Street and The Butcher's Bar in Christchurch.
The Buckley family have been around for decades and said that they intend on being a huge part of Dublin city for many more to come.