Pamex, the Castlebar pharmaceutical distribution company, is celebrating 25 years of business success this month – a significant milestone. The brainchild of Tom and Mary Murphy, Pamex is in every way a local success story: home founded, home grown and home based. Over the last quarter of a century, its reputation as a leader in its field has been firmly established, as has its instinctive ability to identify and develop new opportunities.
Best known for its trademark shaving oil, De Facto, Pamex has assembled a stable of pharmaceutical products for which it is the main distributor in Ireland and beyond. But it has not all been easy driving, and among the hurdles it has had to cross was a particularly perilous dispute that meant a costly court appeal in the French civil courts in Paris, which, in the end, fell in the favour of the Mayo company.
But it is really the story within the story that has so often captured the admiration of those who have heard Tom Murphy tell of the background that led to the creation of his company in the first place. If ever there was a tale of tenacity, courage and, it has to be said, a little blind faith in providence, then Pamex had all the ingredients rolled into one.
Pamex was a company born out of adversity. Its founder had tasted the bitter fruit of finding himself out of a high-flying job, where the world was at his feet, and what looked like a secure future cut and dried.
Still in his early 40s, Tom Murphy had been at the top of the professional ladder, a leading figure in the pharmaceutical industry, the holder of an executive position with a world-renowned company. And then, almost overnight, his world crumbled; a corporate restructuring of the company meant that his job was no longer there. He became redundant and found himself facing the dole queue, with little hope of comparable employment in a country where the jobless figures were at a record high.
By then, Tom and Mary Murphy were the parents of a young family. It would have been so much easier to wash their hands of the world of business, and get by, as so many others had to do. But that burning instinct to prove his skills as a marketeer, that instinct that had led him to go on the road as a wool salesman on the day he walked out of secondary school, that instinct that had brought him to the top of his profession in a competitive industry, was not to be denied.
Relentlessly positive by nature, and with an innate business acumen, Tom Murphy decided that he had more to give. The career-ending jolt of seeing his job disappear would be merely the closing of one chapter of his life; he would draw a line under the past, and start all over again.
And so was Pamex born. Starting with the shaving oil that first brought him media prominence, Tom and Mary gradually expanded their product range, identifying new opportunities and, by sheer dint of personality, forming strong alliances with some of Europe’s leading manufacturers. As their reputation grew, so did the opportunities; before long, suitors were coming to their door, rather than the other way round.
Now, 25 years on, the Murphys can look back in satisfaction at how that bleak winter of 1995 gave way to the sunny uplands that even they could hardly have envisaged.
Not that they are likely to rest on their laurels; that is not their style. Or, as Tom Murphy likes to say, there are millions of faces yet that are ready for shaving.