Sunday, February 1, 2015
Recently, I strolled into Mullaney Brothers, a clothing shop that has a traditional look offering Magee handwoven tweed jackets, trousers, waistcoats, Barbour wax jackets shirts and knitwear, Bonner & Kennedy of Ardara aran knitwear, Texier leather bags and Hourihan wool/cashmere capes to give you a sense of the place. Macy's it is not.
In the course of browsing and looking at a selection of scarves, a pleasant gentleman approached me and we struck up a conversation. His name is John Mullaney, grandson of Michael Mullaney the original owner of the store which John now runs. Dressed immaculately in a blue pinstriped suit, his old-world, soft spoken manner reminded me of my good friend from times past Wilfred (W.J.D.) Clarke whom I got to know in my teens when I was buying Bentleys in London.
John and I spoke of many things and he was intrigued by my early visits to England. His eyes lit up at the mention of Bentley automobiles. "I have a story you might appreciate. Do you know what an Alvis is?"
I smiled and assured him I knew the Alvis brand of cars very well with their famous red triangle badge.
"There was a time I was looking to buy something special and I came upon an advertisement for an Alvis drophead (convertible)." I knew the model he spoke of which would have been a lovely alternative to what Wilfred used to refer to as executive tin with its Mulliner Park Ward body, leather upholstery and 3-litre engine. "They were asking quite a bit for it and I hesitated," he told me. "A few days later, I was still thinking about the Alvis and came to the conclusion that I should go ahead and purchase the car." Hoping for the best, I waited for the next part of the story. "When I called, they told me it had been purchased by someone else soon after I'd spoken to them." One that got away...
John Mullaney belongs at the wheel of an Alvis drophead, if I may say so. It is a car that exudes the same gentlemanly qualities as the man himself. There is a line of dialogue in the movie Twelve O'clock High spoken by Dean Jagger as he comes out of an English hat shop which went something like this: "I've bought a hat before but I never spent three hours doing it."
Like Dean Jagger's character in the movie, I found my time in John's shop rewarding and it was a pleasure meeting him.