Background

50 Years in Business

Corkman Con Celebrates Notable Business Milestone!
Harrington PLC has become a very well established name in the London-based construction industry in the past five decades. But while that fact will be well-known throughout the greater London Irish community and beyond very little is known outside his own tight-knit circle of friends and staff members about the amazing success story of the publicity-shy man behind this achievement - Corkman Con Harrington.
Hailing from a farming background near Bantry in west Cork it seems such a long time ago since Cornelius Harrington first set foot in London to join his older sister in Hanwell at the tender age of sixteen. And like so many other members of large families (in his case a family of 8) back in 1957 there seemed no other option other than to take the boat to England. But although not academically gifted Con still proved to be a very fast learner from the day he began his first job as a labourer on a construction site. After meeting his wife-to-be and Offaly native Christine Murtagh at a dance hall in Hammersmith they married and settled in Acton and so within ten years of leaving Ireland Con had set up his business - CF Harrington in 1967. Initially Christine and her younger sister Kathleen ran the office from the family home in Acton, while Con got his hands dirty on the road either on site or acquiring mainly groundworks contracts. By the early 70s Con Harrington was beginning to develop an expanding network within the construction industry and he had also forged a very good working relationship with Tom Buglar and Dan McInernery. The McInerney’s were fast becoming a household name within the industry at that time having also been responsible for around 10% of the homes in a number of the main cities in Ireland. They had also built the new Hogan stand in Croke Park and among their other high profile projects included one of Shannon airport’s runways and part of the University College Dublin complex at Belfield.
By the mid-1970s, McInerney’s operation in Britain was the biggest local authority housing contractor in London – CF Harringtons did all the groundworks and civil-engineering work for McInerneys in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. CF Harrington’s had also moved from Acton to set up their headquarters in Wembley at that time. However a re-structuring at McInernerys in the mid 1980’s led to their former chief financial officer - Cyril Mullen joining CF Harrington. The spin-off from the McInerney’s expansion was therefore a key factor in the growth of CF Harrington during the 1970’s and 1980’s and led to the acquisition of land for development into an industrial estate in the shadow of Wembley Stadium. Apart from rebranding the company Harrington Builders PLC in 2001 the company built its own head office on the recently acquired site. The company also got involved in building many flats projects as well as building the Palmerstone Centre in Harrow. The company’s expansion also included developing a lucrative plant-hire business offering JCBs, Hia-Abs, Grab Lorries, Low-Loaders and vans, located in yards at Wembley and Ruislip. From a modest start in Acton in 1967 Harrington Builders PLC was now turning over £30m and employing 150 people. Con Harrington’s only son Tony, who had also in that period in the 90s joined his father’s business in 1995, recently spoke about how he got involved in his father’s successful business: “I had always been going to work with my Dad at weekends and in the school holidays for as long as I could remember. As a youngster, I was often out with him at auctions, looking at machinery and plant or looking at potential sites he was interested to buy.” Tony worked on various building projects while at the same time studying Quantity Surveying at college. Tony became a director of the business in 2001. Tony has now been working in the business over 20 years. And another notable factor in the Harringtons’ success story is the company’s staff loyalty and Con’s ability to employ the right people. Two keys staff today are Gary Fagg Commercial Director and Jim Kavanagh Operations Director, both with over twenty years’ service. And although now taking a bit of a back seat in the business these days while his son Tony steers the good ship ‘Harrington Builders PLC’, 77-year-old Con still keeps an eye on the business that he founded back in 1967 “Dad started from nothing and although he is very wealthy man now he still works every day getting his hands dirty, involved in every aspect of the business, he gets into the Wembley yard at 5.30am!” confirmed his son Tony.
But believe or not, Con Harrington’s entire life-story has not wholly been just about ‘bricks and mortar’. Widowed since 2006 and as well as rearing a son and daughter, Con also became interested in Horse Racing in the late 80s and with also a fair degree of success along the way. His greatest claim to fame in the sport of kings was undoubtedly when he was joint-owner of ‘Indian Ridge’ with fellow London-Irish construction business man Sean Coughlan. That horse won a big race at Ascot in 1989 and went on to have a very successful career as a sire. Desert Orchid trainer David Ellsworth was its trainer and the jockey was Steve Cauthen. As well as owning a stud farm on the Curragh where he continues to breed horses, Con also has four horses currently in training in Lambourn in Berkshire. But Con has also maintained his links with his native west Cork by building a house near his own homestead in Bantry. And despite all the amazing success he has achieved in his lifetime Con Harrington still maintains his affinity with Hanwell, the place where he first ‘dropped achor’ in 1957. After all these years Con has continued to practice his strong religious upbringing and supports all worthy charitable causes. He is a regular face in St. Joseph’s club in Hanwell, The Pig and The Kings Arms where many of the regulars in these popular places in west London also worked for his company down through the years. But perhaps the best appreciation of the life of Cornelius Harrington and his amazing qualities as a man is best left to one of his closest confidantes in his professional life – his former accountant Simon Smith who he has known since 1974. “The great thing about Con is his attention to detail, he has a fantastic memory, he never writes anything down. In the 40 odd years that I have known Con, he has never missed a meeting or ever been late for a meeting, and he remembers everything!” and he added: “Con is a shining example to others after leaving Cork in the 1950’s there was no chance of making a living there and that the story goes, by accident Con drove his grandfather’s tractor into a ditch, he was so scared of the repercussions that he just headed for the boat and over to London aged 16!” Simon concluded: “Con is one of the Stars of the Irish that came over in the 1950s, and in fact you could sense even in the 1970s that he was always going to succeed. Con’s nature is brevity, he can be a bit formidable, he hates publicity, he is very modest and humble, he is always prepared to listen and I felt lucky and privileged to have known him and above all to have had Con as my client.” Enjoy your well-earned Golden Jubilee this year Con because your legacy is destined to be a genuine inspiration for all young aspiring entrepreneurs.