LARGE crowds gathered in Ballinrobe yesterday (Monday) to pay their final respects to well known businessman John Valentine (Val) Cummins.
Mr Cummins passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. A man with ‘great foresight’ who always ‘stood up to a challenge’, he is predeceased by wife Clare (nee Mellotte, The Neale), daughter Anna, and son John.
Val took the helm of what is now one of Connacht’s best-known family business concerns, Cummins and Sons Ltd, Ballinrobe - a wholesalers and general merchants - in 1950, with his father John V, a native of Ballymagibbon, Cross, who had ran the business since 1920.
In 1990, Cummins’ expanded their business by opening up a supermarket across from the hardware on New Street in the town. Though not having an active part in either business in recent years, Mr Cummins was very influential, passing on his business acumen to sons John (RIP), Richard and Vincent.
Mr Cummins navigated the business through tough times, with a fire on St Stephen’s night in 1978, destroying the family home, shop and well known bar. “He had ups and downs but came back bigger and better and developed the business,” said friend and former employee John O’Connell.
“He was my boss for over 30 years, he was a great businessman...He had one of the biggest ballrooms in the west and brought all the big stars, the Dubliners, Brendan Grace, Big Tom,” Mr O’Connell recalled.
His former employee says he remembers the businessman working in the family travelling shop, which was a regular sight on country roads. Mr O’Connell aided Val in officially opening their sister Homevalue store in Claremorris in 2006, a shop that has gone from strength-to-strength, winning national awards.
Mr Cummins was known for always supporting the town and ‘took great pride in his business’.
Legend has it that after opening the first funeral home in the west in 1986, Mr Cummins was the first funeral director to don the now standard attire of the black suit.
Mr Cummins was the last remaining generation of both the Cummins, and the Mellotte families.
Celebrating the company’s 65th anniversary in 2015, Mr Cummins recalled the old days.
“The business depended greatly on events such as the Fair Day. The farmers would be in town as early as 6am to get the best stands, and we would open for refreshments.” And speaking of the popular singing lounge, Mr Cummins noted, “We had some magnificent nights here.”
Val will be sadly missed by his loving sons Richard and Vincent, daughters Paula (Sydney) and Fiona (Navan), son-in-law Mario, daughter-in-law Martina, Richard’s partner Denise, grandchildren Mark, Rachel, Paul, Anna, Lydia, Isabelle, Laura, J V, Sarah, David, James, Aoibhinn, Caitlin and Rebecca, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours, and a large circle of friends.
Requiem Mass today (Tuesday) at 1pm in St Mary’s Church, with burial immediately afterwards in New Cemetery.