George Matthews, who will go down in history as Lurgan’s first driving instructor, shared his family’s amazing entrepreneurial story this week.
It started with stage coaches when George was but a boy, though as he grew he played a role in all facets of the ever-changing business, eventually taking up the role of driving instructor.
As well as being a staging post and a driving school, the TJ Buckley name was associated with selling petrol, dairy products and running a taxi service.
George (76) said: “It was my grandfather Thomas James Buckley who started the whole thing off. He had three interests which led him to become a posting establishment, a dairyman and a petrol seller.
“He started in Church Place. then moved to High Street. It all started with horses and traps.
“The horses who stopped here drank water from a huge butt. We still have it out in the garden.
“He sold petrol by the cans, that was how it was sold then.
“For two gallons you put down a three shilling deposit for the tin. When you brought it back you got your three bob back.
“The petrol pumps came later. Many will remember the pumps that we had out in the street. You got out of the car and rang the bell and someone, maybe myself, came out to fill up your car.
He continued: “When the Model Dairy started it was the first dairy in Lurgan.
“The cows were milked in the morning. As a young lad I remember having to wash and brush the bottles every day so they were ready for the next morning’s milk.
“All the bottles were marked with the TJ Buckley Model Dairy logo and the lids had the same brand on it.
“When the dairy business started Uncle Billy did the deliveries in the van. Then we got a bicycle with a crate on it that allowed us to carry 20 bottles.
“I used to do the deliveries on the bike, but when my Uncle Alfie was killed in an accident on the Portadown Road that closed that chapter.
“At the same time we had a taxi service that evolved from the horse and carts.
“We had two Buicks. They were six volt cars. The lights were pathetic.”
Of his childhood he said: “My dad had served his time in the Flush Factory but had to move to Dublin through work. I was just a baby then.
“I grew up in Dublin, but the older I got I was spending more and more time in Lurgan.
“I came up here at every opportunity. My aunt Olive Buckley was like a mother to me when I came to High Street. I couldn’t have been happier here with everything that was going on. There was so much to do with the milk, taxis and petrol.
“When my father died we moved back permanently. Those trips back and forth to Dublin were how I got interested in trains.”
In 1960 George was working for Roadside Motors when an opportunity arose.
He recalled: “I was working for the Roadside for a few shilling when the opportunity came up to start a driving school.
“Cars were growing in number in the town and I became the first person in Lurgan to start to teach people to drive in 1963.
“We started the TJ Buckely Model Driving School. It was 19 shilling per lesson.
“My grandfather used the name Model because he followed a strict regime with everything he did. Any business he started was a Model business. That’s why we stuck with the same name for the driving school.”
George, who also worked for Sureline and was a member of the police reserve, said: “I’ve enjoyed my life.
“I loved everything about the family business. I loved teaching people to drive. From 1963 to 1998, 35 years, I took eight lessons a day, so that’s 40 a week. I’m sure there’s people who could work out how many that is in 35 years. I still have a licence believe it or not, but once I got MS I had to stop. That was a big blow.”
The 76-year-old who is a member of Lurgan Baptist Church is also a second tenor in Banbridge Male Voice Choir. Before that George had been a member of Lurgan Male Voice Choir where he was secretary for many years.
George is married to Eileen, they have no children, but enjoy spending time with Eileen’s extended family.
George has a brother named Tom who has been a missionary in Brazil for the past 50 years.