Friday, November 18, 2022

 

Ken Tucker (Douglas Jewellers) with his son Ivan (3rd right) and daughter Wendy (3rd left) and staff members (l-r), Stuart Graham, Ellen Hayden, Tom Brennan, Mairead Moore, Gillian Sierokosz and Veronica Graham. Photo: michaelorourkephotography.ie

 

 

Ken Tucker age 92 of Douglas Jewellers engraves a trophy in his jewellers on Tullow Street in Carlow. Photo: michaelorourkephotography.ie

 

Photo: michaelorourkephotography.ie

 

By Elizabeth Lee

“I’m 70 years here and I’m as keen as ever! I love what I do and as long as my health allows me, I’ll continue to work here,” said Ken Tucker who is celebrating seven decades in business as owner of Douglas Jewellers on Tullow Street, Carlow.

Ken, who turned 92 this years, dons his suit every day to work alongside his son, Ivan who took over the business in 1990 and his daughter, Wendy, alongside other staff members.

Ken first took over Douglas Jewellers in 1952 after his father Dick, bought the business from George Douglas. He is still deeply grateful to his father for having the wherewithal to invest in such a business when no one in the Tucker family had ever trained as a watchmaker before or had any designs on entering the watchmaking and jewellery business. Dick was a dentist and the plan was for Ken to study dentistry. Ken soon realised that the profession wasn’t for him and he still vividly recalls meeting his father outside Trinity College in Dublin to discuss his future. Dick suggest that Ken should complete an apprenticeship in watchmaking and so Ken’s fate was decided!

“We had no connection whatsoever to watchmaking or anything in the business, so completely out of the blue he told me I’d serve my time in the workshop at Morton’s on Nassau Street, so that’s what I did,” recalled Ken. “He was a very shrewd man. He brought this for me but I don’t know where he got the idea from! I had never stood behind a counter or dressed a window before but I learnt to. It was hard at first but I started to build up the business and it went on from there.”

From window dressing to looking after the watches, handwriting the tags for every single watch or engraving cups, trophies and all sorts of memorabilia, Ken learnt his trade and honed his skills. He’s still tremendously proud of his shop windows, particularly the watch displays which he meticulously organises with an expert eye.

“Window dressing is an art, it’s a labour of love. It’s not as simple as just putting watcges into the window, there’s a definite skill for arranging them,” he says. “I could take a whole day to display the watches and to hand-print their labels. People like to see the watches neatly priced. I started doing that from day one and I’ve been doing it every day since.”

Born and reared on Dublin Street, Carlow, Ken is married to Kay and the couple have three children ‒ Derek, Wendy and Ivan ‒ and five grandchildren. Ivan trained with the world-renowned jewellers of Fields on Grafton Street, Dublin, while he has also received a diploma as a polished diamond grader from the International Gemological Institute  in Antwerp, so his expertise will assist newly-engaged couples when selecting their engagement and wedding rings. Wendy, his daughter, also works in the shop and is a key member of staff.

“She’s a perfectionist, like myself, very methodical, and everything she does, she wants done well.”

When Ken first took over the shop in 1952, it was already a well-established business, with the Douglas family having been in the trade since 1880.

Ken decided to keep the name Douglas Jewellers, which was synonymous with the jewellery business. Ken’s stewardship, supported enormously by his wife Kay, led to the business flourishing and expanding to the beautiful shop it is today.

Ken says that one of the key ingredients in running a successful business is appreciating your staff.

“Staff are so important. I’ve been very lucky with my staff, I have such good people here. We also like to have a bit of fun and for everyone to enjoy their work,” he continues.

Though Ken is a dedicated to his family and business he also makes time to pursue his hobbies of fishing and following sport.

As a younger man in school in Kilkenny College from 1942 to 1946, he was on every team he was eligible for in rugby and hockey while during his stint in Dublin as a trainee watchmaker, he played rugby for Palmerstown. On returning home to Carlow, he continued his rugby career with Carlow Football Club and also got to play at interprovincial level with Leinster. Along with his dear friend, the late Stanley Hegarty, the duo scooped the Leinster doubles championship in table tennis.

A back injury put paid to his sporting career for a while and it was thanks to doctors in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, who successfully operated on him that he’s still standing and mobile today. That, and the fact that his good friend, the late Tom McDonald of Mac’s Menswear, brought him a crucifix relic and put it  on his  back.

“Through the skill of the surgeons and the crucifix placed on my back I made a full recovery and haven’t looked back since,” Ken smiles.

Ken has lived a  long and fulfilling life which was recognised by his colleagues in the jewellery business. He has been presented with an award from the Retail Jewellers of Ireland while he has also received a lifetime achievement award from the Association of Fine Jewellers, a fitting acknowledgement of a life devoted to the industry. In 2011, Co Carlow Chamber presented him with a life time achievement award and Ken is still going strong.

“As long as I have my health, I’ll continue doing what I love,” smiles Ken.

 

 

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