Tommy Leddy’s Sound Shop in Drogheda has been supplying musicians in the wee county of Louth and beyond for five decades. The business, managed by Tommy’s son Adam, operates from a large ground floor premises at the end of Matthew’s Lane in the East Coast Business Park on the outskirts of Drogheda.
The shop is the centre of a cultural hub that includes a commercial theatre and a music school, and it serves a music scene that includes two brass bands, several choirs and many gigging musicians.
It was during the showband era. There were hundreds of showbands. I played bass guitar in the Toppers and then the Chancellors. We played all over the country as far down as Clonakilty.
We started by supplying sound equipment to bands. My partner Sean McEvoy and I had saved £200 between us. Off we went to Dublin and we bought £100 worth of records. Record shops were big at the time.
Then we went to Walton’s and old Martin Walton said to us. ‘Well son — so you want to start a music shop. How much have you?' I said I have £100. He said, ‘You won’t get very far with that but go and pick your £100 worth and come back to me.’ We did that and then he said, ‘Now go and pick another £100 worth’. That is how we started, with a £100’s worth of credit from Martin Walton and that was great.
It was 14 North Quay. We started in 1968 in small premises on the ground floor and then we gradually grew to take over the whole house and then the house next door. The early days were good. We were well known in the showband scene and people came to us because of that. We started a music school after 12 months.
In 1970 we outgrew the space at North Quay, and we moved to the Mayoralty House, until we moved to our present location. It was a difficult decision to move out of the centre, but it was during the great times. We are here 12 years now. We still have our music-school, and our theatre, TLT.
My son Patrick runs the theatre. The boys decided to name it after me. It is 10 years old now and it is going well. We stage a range of performing arts and commercial theatre events there. When we sent in the dimensions to the seating people, they said we could get 1,200 seats into it. I said, No. I want comfort.
It has 900 seats with a metre between the rows. That lad with the long legs, Niall Quinn, was in one day. He was very comfortable.
We carry a lot of stock and there is a lot to be said for having everything on one floor. We specialise in guitars and keyboards. We import Seagull guitars from Canada, and at the less high end we stock Alhambra guitars popular with students. The staff are specialists. Trevor McKevitt is the man for the keyboards. Gary Murphy is the man for electric guitars. On acoustic guitars we have Philip Mcloughlin, Sandra McNamara looks after the music books.
Johnny Logan is a customer of ours. He is a big fan of the Lowden guitars that are made in Northern Ireland. (Johnny Logan’s father Patrick O’Hagan opened the very first Sound Shop). Don Baker trusts Gary to order in his harmonicas for him. Christy Moore shops here and the lads from the 4 of Us often call in on their way home to Newry from gigs.
No. The only businesses that make money are the pubs and restaurants. The first year the Fleadh was here, we lost a fortune. The second year, we were more cautious. We had a small pop up shop and we did ok with it and we had the Kilfenora Céilí Band and Sharon Shannon in the theatre.
We’re a bit worried about Brexit. We have a lot of customers from Newry who find it easier to get to us as to go to Belfast. If there are any border checks, that will affect us. We are just hoping that Boris will get it sorted.
We’re still here! It is not an easy business, but it is a most enjoyable one. I turned 80 in May. I come to work every day on my bicycle. I am here at 9am, six days a week. I love it.