John Richard’s family were great employers in Killarney

The late John Richard Hilliard who was a great local historian and knew so much about Killarney’s past.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

THE death has occurred in Killarney of John Richard Hilliard, of Cahernane Gardens, whose family was one of the town’s great employers with a number of thriving businesses down through the years.

The Hilliard family operated a busy shoe factory in Killarney since the time of John Richard’s grandfather – a former chairman of Killarney Urban District Council –  in the mid-1800s. Back then they bought leather from various tanneries and also imported finer calf leather from Germany and the UK to serve the many shoemakers operating in the town.

John Richard’s father, Richard, joined the business in 1916 and he set up the Hilliard and Palmer Shoe Factory, off High Street, in 1935.

Billy Palmer’s shares were eventually acquired and the Hilliards took full ownership of the plant which later became known as Tuf Shoes.

The factory specialised in footwear with high quality hand-sewn soles and it made boots for the Royal Irish Constabulary as well as sturdy footwear for those involved in agriculture.

Having served his time learning the drapery and footwear trade in Carlow, as well as in Leicester and Northampton in the UK, John Richard joined the family firm in 1950 and spent many years working as a travelling salesman for the family business.

At its peak the Hilliard’s shoe factory employed 250 people before that was whittled down to 100 with the advent of modern machinery. It eventually closed following the arrival on the scene of low-cost stores.

St Mary’s Church of Ireland: Private funeral service

The family also operated a bustling and sprawling drapery and department store – which was way ahead of its time – on Main Street and that was a great local employer for a whole generation of Killarney people.

John Richard grew up in Coolclogher House at South Hill and his grandfather owned the Lake Hotel in Killarney before it was sold to the Huggard family.

The Hilliards moved to a newly built house on the lakeshore – adjacent to the Cahernane Hotel and formerly part of the Herbert’s Cahernane Estate – and John Richard has lived there ever since.

He was a great local historian and knew so much about Killarney’s history – particularly the story of the Herberts – and he will be remembered as a great wit who was blessed with a wonderful sense of humour.

John Richard was also one of the crew members that rowed a 30ft currach from Derry to Iona in 1963 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of St Columba’s epic journey.

Predeceased by his wife, Pearl, John Richard is survived by his children David, Adrian and Audrey, daughters-in-law Louise and Valerie, son-in-law Bo, grandchildren Sarah, Robert, Rodney, Danielle, Emma, Jonathan and great grandchildren Aiden, Ava, Aoife, Rhys and Quinn. He is further survived by his sisters, Raymonde and Cecily, extended family and many friends.

In accordance with Government and HSE guidelines, and in the interest of public health, a private funeral will take place for John Richard Hilliard in St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Killarney. The funeral service will be live streamed on https://www.churchservices.tv/killarneystmarysloes on Friday at 2.00pm with burial afterwards in Killeagy Cemetery, Muckross.

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