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The Story

of

... so far

Celebrating The Centenary of the Founding of Nenagh Co-op Creamery and The Golden Jubilee of the Founding of Mid-West Co-op Creameries


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THE STORY

OF

... so far


THE STORY

OF

ARRABAWN CO-OP

Author Martin Ryan Editorial Committee Jerry Ryan Jimmy Murphy Eamon Butler

Š Copyright: Arrabawn Co-op Society Ltd. 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without any prior written permission of the Arrabawn Co-Op Published by: Arrabawn Co-op Society Ltd, Nenagh, Co Tipperary Design & Artwork: Rooney Media Graphics Cover Photo: George Sheils (seoirseosial) Printing: PB Print Solutions


Contents: THE STORY OF ARRABAWN CO-OP

CONTENTS CHAPTER 1

Tough Struggle To Own Land

11

CHAPTER 2

Arrival Of The Co-op Era

23

CHAPTER 3

Tyone Farmer’s Leadership Role

39

CHAPTER 4

Building A New Creamery

49

CHAPTER 5

The First Twenty Five Years

61

CHAPTER 6

Milk Price Became The Catalyst

77 76

CHAPTER 7

Challenges Of The Second Quarter

97

CHAPTER 8

Building Of A Dairy Hub

113

CHAPTER 9

Shannon Crossing Creates History

127

CHAPTER 10

NFA-ICMSA Become A Stronger Force

141

CHAPTER 11

A Period Of Further Growth

155

CHAPTER 12

More Challenges Emerge

171

CHAPTER 13

Services For Farmers

185

CHAPTER 14

Changes In Milk Flow

199

Continued overleaf

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 15

EEC’s New ‘White Gold’

207

CHAPTER 16

Profits Peak At €1M.

213

CHAPTER 17

The Men At The Helm

227

CHAPTER 18

The Branch Structure

233

CHAPTER 19

Early Western Co-Ops

301

CHAPTER 20

Farmers Reject DDCO

311

CHAPTER 21

Kilnaleck Comes West

323

CHAPTER 22

Kilconnell Central Opens

329

CHAPTER 23

Kilnaleck Link Broken

333

CHAPTER 24

Outsiders Eye West

345

CHAPTER 25

Service In The Chair

355

CHAPTER 26

The History Makers

369

CHAPTER 27

The Role of IAOS ICOS

385

Committee/Board Members 1913-2013 Arrabawn Committee Members 1913 - 2013

398

The Last Word

400

4


The Story of Arrabawn Co-op: CHAIRMAN’S INTRODUCTION

CHAIRMAN’S INTRODUCTION This year marks the centenary of the formation of Nenagh Co-Op and also is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the creameries in the Mid West. This book attempts to record the key steps in the growth of Nenagh Co-Op over this period, the people who played an important role and the way that Nenagh Co-op became part of Arrabawn Co-op.

This book is a record of facts that can be verified from records, it does not offer comment, obviously some readers will feel that some points have been missed but it is not possible to document every step of the societies growth over this period.

The Co-operative idea promoted by Horace Plunkett grew in rural Ireland and became the foundation of the Irish Dairy Industry. Nenagh Co-Op and all the associated other Co-ops who have come together over the years to form what is now Arrabawn grew from this principle. They have played a significant role in improving the return to farmers in the area and the betterment of the communities we live in. As we enter into our second century we go forward in a position of strength but also in the knowledge that like the first century there will be trials and tribulations ahead which when tackled together will be easier to overcome.

On behalf of Society I wish to thank Martin Ryan for his effort in compiling this book. He has put a significant effort into researching the archives and compiling the facts. I wish to thank those who have helped by supplying information or photographs and I hope you enjoy this book and find it informative.

Patrick Meskell Chairman

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6


The Story of Arrabawn Co-op: CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S MESSAGE

CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S MESSAGE It was my privilege to be the chief executive of Arrabawn co-operative when it celebrated its first century and embarked on its journey into the second.

From my own personal perspective it has being an honour to work with Arrabawn and in particular to interact daily with our members. The commitment and integrity of men who serve as officers on the board is unparelled in our society today. These people ensure that the co-operative operates to the highest ethical standards at all times and their qualities must remain central to our organisation.

The last 100 years has seen the amalgamation of many of the branch creameries in Tipperary, Clare, Offaly and Galway into Nenagh co-operative. A similar process evolved further up in counties Galway and Westmeath in the formation of the Midwest co-operative. The merger of these two co-operatives in 2001 formed Arrabawn. These changes reflected an ability by farmers to adjust and re-invent their organisations while staying fully in control of their own destinies. The co-operative continues to develop and grow while at all times striving to do a better job for its members by ensuring that all our operations are run to the best in class standards.

The same applies to our outer board members who also give of their own free time to ensure that their respective areas have a voice in the co-operative. An open and honest agenda where everyone is entitled to their point of view remains at the centre of the co-operative.

Today as we face another period of change with the long awaited removal of quotas in April 2015 we look forward to ensuring that our facilities can process up to 50% extra milk and today we are in the final stage of a major plant re-investment programme, to be completed by the end of 2014.

To all the people who have being involved in compiling this history I would like to offer my sincere thanks.

Conor Ryan Chief Executive 7


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TEAM LOYALTY Having developed from a small society originally, where a ‘family’ type relationship existed between the committee, management and staff, the foundation was laid for a continuation of the mutual relationship, between all involved which has served the society well over the decades.

The society is indebted to its staff for their loyalty and commitment to excellent standards over the decades and to the Board of the Society for its continued support. The achievements over the past 100 years would not have been possible without the co-operation and support of the Board in their approval, the management team to direct the operations and in a special way the loyalty and dedication of the workers who were never found wanting in adopting to change to meet the higher standards and diligently and consistently implementing them.

In the early days the work was all carried out manually. Milk was all delivered in cans which entailed double handling and a seven day operation for most of the year. The tonnage of butter produced had to be dug out of wooden churns with a timber spade until stainless steel and modernisation came in the mid 1900’s. It was laborious manual work.

The motto always was very positive thinking by everyone and excellent team work aimed at being the best possible. Without the combined goodwill and support of all, success would not have been possible.

From 1974, milk intake had changed to bulk tankers and modern on farm collections.

8


The Story of Arrabawn Co-op: LABOUR OF LOVE

LABOUR

OF

LOVE

Although I was initially reluctant to commit to the challenge, because of the enormity of the undertaking, side by side with my regular journalistic work, in hindsight, I feel it was a privilege to have been afforded the opportunity of researching the life and times of Nenagh Co-op from its humble origin a century ago.

of the farmers as the opportunity arose with the establishment of milk processing centres, mainly provided by the commercially run, privately owned creameries, which served the industry from around 1890. Impressively, it did not take long for a surge of enthusiasm to burst through among the farmers that they should control the dairy industry beyond their farmyard if they were to achieve the maximum return for their work in a stable and realistic milk price. The pace at which they grouped together, unifying their strengths, to form co-operative societies became palpable from the dust covered, fading files, which provided an invaluable insight into the way they approached, what must have been a daunting challenge of running business beyond the farm gate at that time.

Although the work was painstaking, and at times exhausting, tracing the roots which were planted in the early years of the twentieth century to establish a dairy processing sector to serve the development of dairy farming in the region and in the country as a whole, I feel that the work was personally a very rewarding exercise, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and from which I have learned a lot. In the course of the research, I got a deeper appreciation of the hardships endured by the ‘tenant’ farmers in the 1800’s and the struggle which the forefathers of the present generation of farmers endured to gain ownership of the land in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The torture of those years is clearly a reason for their deep affinity to land ownership which has been a feature of Irish farming life ever since.

They received tremendous support from the local clergy in all areas, many of whom became directly involved and played a pivotal role in encouraging the farmers to take up the challenge, and establish their own co-op creameries. It would be remiss not to acknowledge the service, the leadership, and valuable advice, which they received from the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS) in a hands-on manner to guide them every step of the way both in the forming of the co-ops, establishment of the creameries, and the running of the operations during the

The realisation that dairy farming offered a more stable source of income from the land, than the concentration on livestock and tillage enterprises, which was traditional in North Tipperary, became very evident in the mind 9


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following years. Without the valuable input from IAOS it is doubtful if the same measure of success could have been achieved.

insight for younger people and future generations into the way of life in the past. I ask for understanding for any omissions, oversights or errors. It is inevitable that there will be some. For that I say ‘mea culpa’. Arrabawn Board and Management have been very supportive in time and resources. Jerry Ryan, Secretary, deserves special mention for his personal commitment, while former Chief Executive, Jimmy Muphy’s input from his vast experience with the society was invaluable. Jimmy was able to verify the facts obtained from other sources and was a great assistance in researching minute books and proof reading transcripts of the text. It would have taken many more miles and several years to research every detail of the past century and produce the definitive history.

Of coarse the local farmers played the central role. Leaders with foresight emerged from communities in every parish. It would be hard to find a more inspiring example than that of Edward Michael Walsh, the Tyone farmer, who provided the leadership to establish the co-op creamery at Nenagh in 1913. Family history reveals that it cost him his farm which was sold to pay the personal indebtedness which was attributed to his devotion to getting the creamery going. His last year was spent earning a living as an employee in an ammunition factory in Liverpool, before his remains were returned and laid to rest in his native Nenagh, a young man in his fifties, who left an invaluable legacy to the farming families of North Tipperary and beyond.

The “Story of Arrabawn Co-Op ... so far” is intended to be just that; the interesting story of how the co-op came into being and over a period of 100 years grew to serve farmers from the borders of Limerick City to Co Roscommon, actively serving and supporting farmers spread across eight counties in three provinces. It also places on record the identity of many of the thousands of the people who influenced the developments over the decades.

The history, and the stories of the individual branch creameries, their origin, the people involved, and how they developed in their distinct ways, before becoming part of Arrabawn Co-op Society provides for very interesting reading. Great care has been taken in researching the information to ensure accuracy in so far as it was possible. Of course a lot of reliance had to be placed on the quality of the records available as all of those who were involved in the early years have passed to their Eternal reward.

My thanks to everyone who helped me in the work over the past two years. They are far too numerous to mention. All were very generous with their time and assistance which was very much appreciated.

I am indebted to many people for their assistance and hope that ‘The Story of Arrabawn Co-Op ... so far” will bring back memories to those involved over the years; recall to many the input of their predecessors; and provide an

I hope that you will enjoy reading “The Story of Arrabawn Co-Op .... so far” as much as I have enjoyed compiling it. Martin Ryan, Author. 10


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

CHAPTER 1

TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

11


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A rural farm cottage which was typical of the home for many tenant farmers.

12


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

BY 1908 ONLY 20% OF THE OCCUPIERS OWNED THE LAND

L

and use for agriculture in North Tipperary throughout the 1700’s comprised mainly of pasture farming. Some land was tilled for corn and potatoes, but the acreage was small.

the lowest classes. After 1805 a more pronounced factionalism took over. The official records on production from farming and agricultural exports for the period are scarce. Some statistics were compiled for exports for the years leading up to 1700. They show that in 1672, the leading export was rabbit skins. During the year 1,665,000 cwt of rabbit skins were exported. Lamb skin exports accounted for 1,435,000 cwt. In contrast beef exports amounted to 75,000 barrels, equivalent to 187,500 cwt. or roughly 14,000 finished cattle, and 134,000 barrels of butter was exported.

In 1770 it was recorded that for every fourteen acres of land under pasture in Co Tipperary there was only one acre tilled, although that represented a doubling of the acreage under the plough when compared to two decades earlier. North Tipperary in the early 18th century is described as an area of improving communications and commercial agriculture. There were numerous small estates. The financially precarious gentry included both large and small farm holders. The Cromwellian land changes in the 1650’s were the first time that the area had really come under English control. It was essentially pastoral and economically backward. New English settlers then set about clearing wood and bog.

In the early 1800’s sheep and cattle were the main farm enterprises on farms in Co Tipperary. Higher grain prices were encouraging some farmers to increase tillage during the early years of the nineteenth century. In 1870 only 3% of the farmers in the region were owners of the land. The majority of the farmers were known as ‘tenants at will’ which entitled them to pass on the lease to a family member. Most of the land was leased. The leases usually were for a period of up to 21 years.

Agrarian unrest first appeared around 1760, and essentially occupied the period until 1805 as a non political organisation responding to particular grievances by 13


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Many of the tenants were unable to meet the rents, which led to the tenants being ejected. By 1840 County Tipperary had the second highest number of ejections of families from farms in the country.

divisions among farmers themselves as they struggled to make a living. The result was that the larger farmers survived by converting to pasturage, and ejecting the existing tenants, forcing the small farmers with some money to emigrate, leaving the landless labourers without hope of employment. This inevitably led to the disturbances and rural outrages that typified North Tipperary in the 1840’s more than any other part of Ireland.

There were several incidences of bitter battles in North Tipperary arising from evictions. In July 1843 the home of Henry Deane O’Grady, four miles from Borrisoleigh was attacked and a house on the farm from which a family had been evicted was set on fire. In August 1844, there was a vicious attack on a bailiff at Carrigatoher by seven reapers who are reported to have struck him and cut him with their reaping hooks when he attempted to evict a local family.

The region was primarily rural. Only three towns had populations over 5000 in 1821 - Nenagh, Birr and Roscrea. Templemore had just under 3000, and six smaller towns had a population of around 1000 - Shinrone, Cloughjordan, Borrisokane, Newport, Killaloe, Borrisoleigh. Only eight more villages were noted in the census, with a population in the region of 200 each. In total only about 25% of the population in 1821 lived in a town/ village. These towns had virtually no manufacturing industry, and hence were solely service centres for the agricultural sector. The crisis in agriculture was severely felt in the towns.

Incidences such as these were common throughout the area as neighbours tried to prevent evictions and burnings of the houses from which families had been evicted were numerous and frequently ‘celebrated’ as victory against the evicting landlords.

The strong presence of Protestant families living in North Tipperary at the beginning of the 19th century was seriously eroded by emigration during the first half of the century. It is recorded that more than 800 Protestant families from the area emigrated to Canada during the period 1818-1860 with the largest outflow between 1830 and 1834, when the families left in very large numbers. By the mid 1800’s North Tipperary had lost to emigration up to 25% of the 1831 Protestant families.

Many of the minor gentry had been in debt even before the famine, and tried to reduce their poor law rates by evicting tenants and levelling the houses. In 1847 the eviction rate for Tipperary was the highest in Ireland - 7.9% of the population being evicted in that year alone. The net result of all the pressures, which the farmers were enduring, was growing 14


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

A typical Market Day scene in Pearse Street, Nenagh at the beginning of the 1900’s.

After the mid 1850’s emigration of the families from North Tipperary to Canada fell, and the direction changed to Australia and New Zealand.

Arra to the south-west, the chief location of which was the town of Newport. As a landlocked “peninsula” the barony of Ormond Lower was surrounded on three sides by counties Galway and Offaly. The territory was within the administration of North Tipperary County Council, with the county town of Nenagh located in the barony.

In most parishes the affect of the famine was to reduce population by about one third between 1841 and 1851 from deaths, emigration and movement to live in local towns, where the populations generally showed an increase. The endemic rural violence from the early 1840’s continued throughout the famine in the area. It was caused by the increase in evictions following the famine, a cause that had behind it the earlier unrest.

Situated as it was in the Great Plain of Lower Ormond, much of the land around Borrisokane was well suited to farm production through the centuries. As such, the area had a strong agricultural history which continues to this day.

Ormond Lower was one of the 14 baronies, traditional geographic boundaries, in County Tipperary between the baronies of Ormond Upper to the south-east, the chief centre of population of which was the village of Toomevara, and Owney and

During the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, Borrisokane was an important centre for wheat production. There was an active mill complex in the town, which was operational from 1810 until about 1940. 15


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The mill complex, built on the bank of the Ballyfinboy river, which was used to drive the mill, comprised of two four-storey blocks, with two mills, a kiln, a miller’s house, with the original mill having been built around 1810 and the second addition around 1840. They were used for grinding wheat, oats and barley for human and animal consumption. There seems to have been a brewery at this site also, due to a lane running alongside the now derelict

mill named ‘Brewers Lane’. This mill was demolished in April 2010, because it was claimed that the structure was no longer safe, an event which caused some local anger, at the disappearance of a historical landmark. There was a rapid growth in the population of the country, including North Tipperary during the decades from 1800. The records show that in 1800, some four and onehalf million people lived in Ireland. By the autumn of 1845, when the Great Famine struck Ireland, there were more than eight million of a population. This was the largest increase in the population of Ireland in its history, an increase estimated at 172%. By the time of the Famine Ireland’s population of poor was very high, and its population of landlords was very low, estimated to be around 5,000. The “white” potato, known today as the Irish potato, originated in the Andean Mountains. In 1532 the Spanish arrived in North Peru and it is speculated that they brought the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. By 1800, the potato had taken root and ninety per cent of the Irish population was dependent on the potato as their primary means of calorie intake and as an export. In September of 1845, a fungus called Phytophthora Infestans infected Ireland’s potato crops, devastating the potato population. About half the Irish potato crop failed in 1845. This event is what began The Great Famine in Ireland.

An editorial in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ on August 19,

Conservatively compiled statistics for 1844 show that the acreage under potatoes in

1846 summarised the effect of the failure of the potato crop on families in North Tipperary. 16


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

The annual harvest threshing in progress on a farm near Nenagh.

Co Tipperary was the second highest in the country at 155,392 acres (Statue), which was almost 8% of the total potato crop in the 32 counties and nearly 25% of the acreage growing potatoes in Munster that year. The crop experienced large scale failure in 1845. The failure of the 1845 crop had a serious affect on the supply of seed potatoes for the crop in 1846, resulting in a drop of up to 40% in the acreage sown. Average prior to 1845 crop yields of up to 6 tonnes/acre were also seriously depleted.

scattered to the winds. We speak now of our own district, those which appeared green to the eye on one day, and created a hope that they had escaped the withering blight changed their appearance on the next, and presented a different and cheerless aspect. They may be used for a short period longer but must finally become the food for Cattle, Pigs and Poultry”. A large proportion of the population died from disease or starvation, while a great number of the people fled the country, largely occurring in a five year period between 1846 to 1851. This event is well noted as one of the greatest catastrophes of the 19th century. Many Irish landlords sent badly needed grain to England for profit, instead of retaining it for the poorer classes (cottiers and labourers). Without crops or

An editorial in “The Guardian” of Wednesday August 19, 1846 stated “There is now no use in disguising the fact it is alas, too perceptible - the potato crop is gone, and all hopes of any produce remaining fit for consumption for human beings, are 17


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employment the tenants could no longer pay rent, so many lost the lands they may have rented while their landlords exported grain and cattle to offset their losses.

eviction from their tenant lands, was emigration. The Passenger Act of 1847 was passed and it granted each [eligible] emigrant 10 cubic feet and a supply of food and water on the emigrant ships. Realistically captains didn’t obey this act and many people starved or died of disease in cramped quarters aboard the emigrant ships. An estimated one and one-half million Irish emigrated from 1845 to 1851, upwards of 20-45% dying in the “coffin ships” on their journey or shortly after their arrival in their new home.

The concern was that the outcome would result in more evictions for unpaid rents. It was recorded that the bailiff serving notice of payment on a local family was told “We must keep the corn for our families, but we will give you the potatoes”. In 1847 cropping fell to little more than one-eighth of the 1844 acreage, due to the fact that there was little or no seed from the 1846 crop in the country. The 1847 crop was dependent on fresh seed imported from Scotland.

With the exception of County Cork, County Tipperary suffered the largest estimated loss of population in the country arising from the great Famine and emigration during the period 1841-1851 at 136,941, which represented 24% of the pre famine population of the county.

For many the only alternative to disease and starvation, and the only option to

A sheep sale being held at Pearse Street, Nenagh in 1903. 18


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

Population statistics for the period 18411851 show that urban areas fared better than the rural districts, but suffered heavy losses in population during the following decade to 1861. The population of Nenagh District Electoral Division increased from 11,866 in 1841 to 12,980 in 1851, and a decade Clogs were commonly worn in the 19th century. John J Lally was one of the men later had dropped to 8,115. The population in the Nenagh area who made the clogs at that time. He is seen here at work at Knocknacree Wood, Cloughjordan. of Borrisokane DED increased from 3,175 to 3,461 during the Famine decade. Thurles women in the country. Of the men, 20% experienced a slight increase before a 34% were farmers (290,000 occupying over 15 decline during the decade which followed. acres of land and 192,000 with holdings of 5-15 acres) while there were 1,467,689 In contrast rural areas all lost heavily in classified as labourers or herdsmen, the period 1841-1851. Burgess lost 52% representing 46% of the male population. of its population, Youghlarra dropped by 50%, Ballina declining by 45%, and Of the women the biggest groups were the Carrigatoher was down by 36%. In the 230,802 described as domestic servants Birdhill area the number of homes in the (24%) and spinners and weavers (15.6%). townland of Cragg dropped from 39 to 7 resulting in a drop of 80% in the number During the period 1851-1855 average crop of inhabitants. yields in Ireland were (per statue acre), Wheat 13.8 cwt, Oats 14.2 cwt, Barley There was a massive change in the 17.9 cwt, and Turnips 16.1 tons. structure of Irish agriculture during the Great Famine. The 1841 census showed The eviction of farmers continued that 45% of land holdings were less than through the 1880’s. At a session of the five acres. In 1851 this had increased three Nenagh Guardians in September 1885 the fold to 15 acres. clerk reported that “Notices of evictions” had been served on the Relieving Officer The 1851 population census recorded a by Robert Heard’s agent. The evictions total of 3,190,630 men and 3,361,755 were for non payment of rent against 19


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A steam engine used to drive a threshing mill on farms in North Tipperary during the early years of the 20th century.

the following, all in the Rearcross area of North Tipperary, who were described as all being farmers and most of them large farmers - Michael Nolan, part of the lands of Barnadomeeny, James Harrington, part of Foilduff, Michael Quigley (John), Barnadomeeny, Edward Nolan, Barnadomeeny, Robert Kennedy, Loughisle, John Quigley, Martin Murnane, Anne Meehan, John Ryan, Patrick Nolan, John Ryan, Nicholas Nolan, Ellen Ryan,Peggy Kirby, all of Barnadomeeny, John Murphy, John Donovan, Bridget Ryan, all of Tooreenbrien and Denis Ryan, Foilduff.

In September 1886 “The Freeman’s Journal” reported “Early yesterday morning a cavalcade of 18 cars left Thurles carrying police and bailiffs to carry out evictions. Their destination was a property situated in the Parish of Kilcommon-a wild mountainy district about 11 miles from here, and owned by Captain Armstrong. D.L.J.P., Mealiffe, Thurles, whose agent is Captain Saunders, Saunders Park, Charleville, County Cork, who, with his son was present to superintend the evictions. The police leaving Thurles were under the command of Mr Gamble, D.J., but their force was further augmented when they arrived at the scene of the operations by a very 20


Chapter 1: TOUGH STRUGGLE TO OWN LAND

large body under the command of Mr Moore, D.I., Newport, the joint forces being in charge of Colonel the Hon.S.F. Carew, R.M. Mr. Quinn, Clonmel represented the Sheriff.

willing masons and other artificers got to work and very speedily put the hut in a fair way towards completion. Michael Davitt and his family were one of the farming families dispossessed when they were evicted from their homestead in Co Mayo in 1850. On his return he convened a meeting in Castlebar in August 1879 at which a body called the National Land League of Mayo was formed by the farmer tenants of the area.

“It was no small surprise to the officers in charge when on arriving at their destination they found themselves confronted by more than one thousand persons headed by the Upperchurch Fife and Drum Band. The surprise was greater still to the parties representing the Landlord, who thought to sweep down on the people asleep and seize their cattle. This is what they would have desired, but for that object their movements were wrapped in mystery, but their intentions were frustrated. The people were on the qui vive, and had removed their cattle, etc., and as a result when the Captain and his Bailiffs came on the holdings of the persons “under sentence of death” not a four footed beast was to be found”.

Farmers frequently came to the assistance of each other in preventing an eviction being carried out, or assisting the evicted farmer and his family.

At the same time, Charles Stewart Parnell, who was a Member of Parliament for Co Meath, was the accepted leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons. He became interested in the developments in Co Mayo and Michael Davitt convinced him to join the land agitation which resulted by October 1879 that the Mayo Land League was absorbed into the National Land League with Charles Parnell as President and Michael Davitt, one of the “secretaries” and its acknowledged ‘father figure’. By the end of the year, branches were formed in several parishes throughout the country and there was a formidable organisation taking shape to plan what was to became known as the Land War.

One such instance is on record of having occurred near Thurles on November 4, 1887 when it is reported that more than 5,000 assembled to build a hut for William Cahill, an evicted tenant from the estate of the “Hon” Bowes Daly. Sufficient stones were brought to build half a dozen huts, and as much straw and timber as such a number would require. The utmost enthusiasm prevailed. A large number of

The first shots in the Land War were fired some years earlier in County Tipperary when an attempt was made to evict, Pat Dwyer from his home and farm at Ballycohey, outside Tipperary town. Supporters of the cause for fair treatment for tenants were lying in wait for the landlord, William Scully when he arrived to serve the eviction notice. William Scully was shot and seriously wounded, 21


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and the bailiff and constable who were accompanying him both died from gun shot wounds. The eviction was prevented and a local man bought out the entire townland from William Scully, to prevent further trouble.

was followed by the Ashbourne Act (1885), the Belfour Acts (1891 and 1896), and the Wyndham Act (1903). Ownership of the land was gradually transferring to the farmers. Whereas in 1870 only 3% of the farmers owned the land, by 1908 ownership had increased to 20% and the pace of change over was accelerating. The Birrell Act was introduced in 1909. By 1914 it was estimated that two-third of the farmers had become owners of the land and by 1920, 70% of the farmers were the land owners.

The prime objectives which became known as the 3 F’s were ‘Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale’. In an attempt to head off, the rising forces, Prime Minister Gladstone, adopted a policy of arrest and imprisonment of those involved in the uprising. Tipperary, Limerick and Cork were among the most active regions of the country for the National Land League. In 1881, Davitt, Parnell, and several others, who were identified as ‘leaders’ in the Land League movement were arrested and imprisoned at Kilmainham, Dublin. Those arrested and imprisoned included several people from the North Tipperary area. Among them are listed Thomas Finn, Nenagh, Michael Haugh, Merchant, Nenagh, John Houlihan, Roscrea, William Meelam, Nenagh, P. O’Brien, Merchant and Chairman of Town Commissioners, Nenagh, J. P. O’Reilly, Cloughjordan, J. P. O’Reilly, a US citizen and shopkeeper, Templederry, Michael Ryan, Nenagh, David W. Cahill, Merchant, Nenagh, and James Cahill, Draper, Nenagh.

The Land War was one of the most extraordinary revolutions in Irish social history. Within less than three decades the centuries old landlord ownership of Irish land had been transformed. The deep affinity of Irish farmers to ownership of land has often been questioned, as to its origin. The background to land ownership in Ireland provides a basis for a better understanding, as to why ownership of land is held so sacred among Irish farming families. The torture endured by the tenants farmers, the suffering for themselves and their families, the injustices inflicted by ruthless landlords in pursuant of high rents for the use of the land, as they endeavoured to etch out a meagre survival in providing food for their families, and the struggle to achieve security of tenure and ownership has left an indelible impression in the Irish gene which continues to live on.

Following their release from prison, Prime Minister Gladstone turned to a more conciliatory policy by introducing the first Land Bill in 1881, and conceding the 3F’s. The affect did little to ease the conflict. It

 22


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

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ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

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W. L. Stokes, Manager, CWS, Limerick which operated creameries in several areas of North Tipperary in late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 24


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

FARMERS BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A BETTER FUTURE AHEAD OF THEM

C

o-operation had existed among farmers in North Tipperary, as in most other regions of the country, for centuries. Traditionally it took the form of the ‘meithel’ on farms. Neighbouring farmers came together to carry out farm work, e.g. sowing, harvesting, etc., with the principle of many hands making lighter of the work, before mechanisation. In every parish there were farmers who possessed specialist skills at particular farm tasks and they provided the ‘leadership’ when neighbouring farmers came together to carry out a particular task on the farms in their neighbourhood, which had been a common practice in rural Ireland through the centuries. It was not until the 1840’s that formal co-operation in a business manner, as we know it to-day, commenced when twenty-eight weavers established a small retail shop. The Rochdale development set principles of operation for co-operatives, some of which formed the basis of the rules and procedures under which the co-operative movement continues to be guided to this day.

There were very few, if any, creameries operating commercially in Ireland before 1850. In areas where dairying was practiced, butter making was generally carried out on the individual farms. The butter was mostly sold locally, or purchased by butter agents for export, mostly to Britain.

One of the first of the Alfa Laval cream separators to be used in the local creameries. 25


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The breakthrough which was to revolutionise the industry by putting it on an economic scale came with the introduction of the first mechanical cream separator by the De-Laval company in Sweden in the 1870’s. The De-Laval centrifugal separator enabled the separation of cream from milk, to be carried out on a commercial scale. The separators were expensive to purchase and install and generally required the milk supply from 100-150 dairy farms to be operated economically.

Farmer interest in running their own creameries is believed to have first emerged in the early 1880’s. The first farmer’s creamery in the British Isles was established by a group of farmers in the East Limerick town of Hospital in 1884. They operated the creamery for a period under the name of the Munster Dairy Co. There is a commemorative plaque in the town identifying the location of the creamery which operated five years before the first farmer co-op creamery at Dromcollogher.

While it enabled the separation of larger volumes of milk, for economic reasons the process was more suitable to a central location than operation on individual farms, because of the capital investment involved, and the requirement for a large throughput to justify the initial cost. The solution was the advance to the establishment of central locations for the pooling of milk from several farms, a development which brought into existence the first of the creameries.

It is believed that the first commercially operated creamery was established at Hospital, Co Limerick in the early 1880’s and was privately owned. The location of this creamery is identified with a commemorative plaque in the town.

A plaque in the town of Hospital, Co Limerick marks the site of the first farmer’s creamery in the country, operated by the Munster Dairy Co. 26


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

At a meeting of Nenagh Young Men’s Christian Association in February 1886, a guest speaker, Rev Canon Beggot gave a short presentation on the manufacture of butter and the importance of establishing creameries in Ireland.

However, the regular income for several months each year from the milk cheque offered an incentive for farm families towards dairying to improve their income, which was welcomed. This could be achieved in two ways. It could come from keeping more cows or getting a better price for their milk. Many were leaning towards a combination of the two. Therefore there was increasing interest from farmers to own and run the creameries, in the belief that ownership and control would return a higher milk price. But, in general, they lacked the organisational ability for either the establishment or running of the operations.

During the late 1880’s and into the 1890’s, proprietary creameries, usually owned by local merchants, and operated as commercial businesses, sprung up around the country, extending from a core in the Munster dairyland. In some areas they were known as butter manufacturing factories. They did provide a valuable service to farmers interested in dairy farming and created a climate for more farmers to become involved in dairy farming, and to increase the size of their herds, by providing a market for milk, without the necessity to make butter on the farm to get an income from dairying. However, they were not long in operation before dissatisfaction was being expressed by the farmer suppliers of milk that the proprietary creameries were being operated more for profit for the owners than the benefit of the farmers supplying the milk. Although this may not have been taken into consideration by the farmers when they welcomed the arrival of these proprietary creameries, it was inevitable, because they were being provided and owned by business people, as business ventures, who sought a return on their investment. There was growing concern among the farmers that too much of the ‘cream’ of their labour was being taken in profits by the commercial companies running these creameries.

The first farmer co-op creamery was established at Dromcollogher, Co Limerick in 1889, but not without vital assistance from a commercial interest in the county, to provide the expertise to get the creamery up and running. Although the founder of the co-operative movement, Sir Horace Plunkett and his administrative assistant, R. A. Anderson, the son of a North Cork farmer, are reported to have addressed scores of meetings during the 1880’s encouraging dairy farmers to take control of their own business by establishing creameries for the processing of their milk supply, their efforts had met with little success. The farmers were reluctant to become involved in the business of dairy processing for which they had no expertise. Sir Horace Plunkett was born at Sherborne House, Gloucestershire in 1854, the son of the wealthy land owner, Lord Dunsany, of Dunsany Castle, Dunshaughlin, 27


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County Meath. Educated at Eton and University College, Oxford he spent 10 years in Wyoming as a cattle rancher for health reasons. Returning to Ireland in 1888, he became an ardent exponent of farming co-operatives. His work was highly important in the face of the serious agrarian problems of Ireland. He founded the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society in 1894 and as a member of Parliament (1892-1900) drafted legislation for Irish agricultural needs. From 1900 to 1907 he was vice president of the new Department of Agriculture for Ireland, effectively filling the role equivalent to Minister for Agriculture.

His ambition to organise farmers to combine their strength in a co-op business venture for their own benefit proved to be a difficult challenge. Sir Horace Plunkett was not a good speaker, and while his intentions for the betterment of Irish farmers by encouraging their involvement in developing a co-operative structure were very well intentioned, he experienced difficulty in getting his message through to the farmers. While Sir Horace Plunkett and R. A. Anderson continued to spread the message of co-operative spirit, with all of its potential benefits to the farmers, there was an obvious lack of the expertise necessary to establish a creamery and run it successfully, blending the required commercialism for viability with the co-op ethos of “all for one and one for all�. While much of the co-op principle had a lot of appeal for farmers, there was an obvious consciousness among the farmers of their weakness in the organisational and administrative fields to take on a business venture outside of their own farms.

When he returned to Ireland his intentions were to establish co-operative banks, co-op stores, and co-op creameries. None of his early initiatives were long lasting. Reputed to have been the first man in Ireland to drive a car, it is claimed that he was a ferocious driver, and travelled the length and breath of the country at high speeds, attending meetings of local farmers where he preached the gospel of co-operation. In the Munster area he is reported to have placed a lot of concentration on trying to bring the farmers together to establish their own co-op creameries.

Founder of the Co-op Movement, Sir Horace Plunkett. 28

Irish agriculture was in a depressed state economically. The Great Famine of 1846 had seriously depleted the rural population. Many


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

rural areas lost between 30% and 50% of the pre-famine population over the period 1841-1861 from a combination of death and emigration of survivors mostly to Canada, Australia and New Zealand during and in the years which followed the Great Famine. The affect of the famine on rural Ireland was still vivid in the minds of the farm families who had survived and who were still struggling to etch out a survival.

organisation which was established in Britain some decades earlier was to provide the key formula, and the administrative expertise, to which Irish farmers would cling to, to make the first co-operative creamery in the country a reality. The Co-operative Wholesale Society, which had been established in Manchester in 1864 with the objective of providing a service in the wholesale of co-op produce, opened their first branch in Ireland at Tipperary in 1866. Further branches were opened at Kilmallock, Co Limerick in 1868 and Limerick City in 1869. The CWS was involved in the purchase of Irish butter for export to the British market.

The Munster region had the second highest decline in population between 1841 and 1851 at 22.5% and the largest decline of any province in the country in the decade 1851-1861 at a further 18.5%. County Tipperary was very severely affected. In the decade pre to post the Great Famine, the county population declined by an estimated 136,941, the second highest in the country, from a combination of deaths and emigration. Some areas in the county lost up to 80% of the pre-famine inhabitants within the decade. The decline in population continued to the end of the century.

Although relations between CWS and the Irish co-op creameries became strained to the point of conflict and strong opposition at a later stage, when some farmers felt that the role of the CWS was more orientated towards commercialism and the consumer, rather than any co-op ethos, the society did provide very valuable assistance to the Irish co-op movement during the early years following the establishment of their Irish depots.

Very few farmers were owners of their holdings. The land was rented from a local landlord and the farmers were under constant strain to meet the rent. Many were evicted for non payment. Building a creamery required capital of ÂŁ400 - ÂŁ500 and the banks required the farmers involved in the co-ops to personally warranty the loan facilities, by providing the security of their farms if they were the owners of the land. After a reported forty meetings of farmers, not a single creamery had been established. Ironically, it turned out that a commercial

R A Anderson, Secretary, ICOS, who assisted farmers in the region to found their own co-ops. 29


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One of the early churns used in local creameries for the making of butter.

W. L. Stokes, was senior representative of the CWS Depot at Limerick. He played the key role in establishing the dairy co-op at Dromcollogher in 1889, working with some local dairy farmers to whom he provided crucial assistance,which complimented valuable advice and guidance from the Co-operative Union which had been founded in 1869. While the farmers had been instilled with the spirit of self help through the co-operative principle by Sir Horace Plunkett and R. A. Anderson, there was an awareness among the farmers of their lack of either the organisational or administrative skills necessary to get a creamery started or to run the operation. The lifeline in both these critical sectors was provided by W. L. Stokes without whose involvement, it is believed, that the creamery at Dromcollogher, which was the first Co-op creamery establshed in the

country, was unlikely to have got off the ground in 1889. Although the creamery at Dromcollogher experienced difficulties caused by poor management within two years, the “constitution” on which it was founded, which had been provided by the Co-operative Union became a “model” on which future dairy creameries were to be based. Sir Horace Plunkett, and R. A. Andersen continued with their mission to spread the gospel of co-operation to the farmers, despite some inevitable disappointment of not having had the lead role in the creamery at Dromcollogher. The development of the farmer run creamery, at Dromcollogher, close to the 30


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

Limerick-Cork county boundary, was a significant milestone for the co-operative movement. The example by farmers at Dromcollogher gave an impetus to more farmers to become involved in building and running their own creameries. Across the fertile plains of North Munster the benefits of a regular monthly income from dairy farming for 7-9 months of the year had developed appeal among the farmers supplying the proprietary creameries which were on the increase. Owning and running their own co-op creameries would further benefit them.

By 1892, there were two commercial creameries operating in the Newport area as well as one at Birdhill, a creamery under construction at Cranna, and further private creameries to follow at Killoscully and Ballinahinch. One of the landlords in the town and a local merchant operated the creameries at Newport, while the creameries at Ballinahinch and Killoscully were both established by the C.W.S. under W. L. Stokes. In 1891, the Maypole Dairy Company, a British based organisation, decided to build a number of “butter factories” in Ireland investing £18,000 in building eight such factories at locations mostly in Co Limerick, including Cappamore, Templebreden (Pallasgreen), Effin and Knocklong. Their entry to the Irish dairy scene had limited affect and was seriously reduced within a few years.

In 1891, when the Dromcollogher Co-op was experiencing difficulties, Sir Horace Plunkett and R. A. Anderson made their first breakthrough when they established their first Co-op creamery at Ballyhahill, near Foynes, aided and abetted by Lord Monteagle, an enlightened landlord in the area. The breakthrough for Plunkett and Anderson was followed with a further fifteen Co-op creameries up and running by the end of the year.

In 1892 the “factory” at Cappamore was taken over by the local farmers. The following year the company lost a court action at Limerick Azzises Court brought by a cattle dealer who pursued a claim for £1,500 damages in respect of the loss of cattle which he alleged had been poisoned by drinking from a water course which he claimed had been polluted by effluent from the company’s creamery at Knocklong. Despite a very strong defence of the action, during which they stressed that the water course was three-quarters of a mile from the factory, and they challenged veterinary evidence, an award of £550 was made against the company. In the aftermath of the action the company announced that they were ceasing operation at six of the creameries.

During the years following there was growth in both the farmer co-operatives and proprietary creameries. Within a very short time the co-ops and private creameries were operating in competition with each other in many parts of the region, which led to open conflict.

The development of the creameries spread across the Limerick-Tipperary border in North Tipperary very quickly. 31


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At the same time the co-operative movement was also gaining ground in North Tipperary. At the end of 1893 there were 30 farmer co-op creameries operating in Co Tipperary. These creameries, including their six branches had 1,509 shareholders with paid up capital of £13,845. They processed 7,575,036 gallons of milk in 1893, with butter sales in excess of 1,273 tons.

O’Halloran, P.P. was appointed to chair the meeting. R. A. Anderson, who was an assistant to Sir Horace Plunkett, addressed the meeting outlining to the farmers that he had not come to make rich promises or hold out golden prospects for the future, but to give them plain, simple advice and to put plain facts before them for their consideration and to ask them that if they found anything good in what he had to say, to put it into practice.

By 1894 it was reported that creameries were springing up all over the county. A meeting of farmers was held at Portroe in June 1894 for the purpose of getting the farmers in the area to join with the neighbouring parish of Youghlarra in establishing a co-operative creamery.

It was his belief, founded on fact, that they would never regret giving practical effect to his suggestions for in doing so they would be making their homes happier, their individual circumstances better, and they would be contributing to the industrial improvement and advancement of the country.

On the proposition of J. Nealon, seconded by Michael Seymour, Rev Fr. J.

He told them that they were surrounded by combinations of butter merchants, cattle dealers, banks, shipping and railway companies and every trade he had dealings with combined and associated for its mutual protection, while the farmer stood alone by himself and either refused or neglected to adopt the great system of self help, which other bodies had adopted. The farmer’s creamery at Youghalarra opened in June 1894. On Sunday January 26, 1895, a meeting of farmers in the Silvermines area was presided over by Very Rev. Fr J. McMahon, P.P. who told them “of the necessity of the co-operative system amongst them for the future welfare of the farming industry, especially its butter trade, their only staple article which 32


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

was left almost unnoticed in the markets by our English neighbours, all because the Irish farmers are not energetic enough to compete with foreigners who are outrivaling us in meeting the taste of the English consumer”. The meeting was also addressed by R. P. Gill, C.E., Nenagh, who was glad to see such interest among the farmers in the co-operative spirit is reported to have been surrounded by the farmers, as he explained the principles of the co-operative movement, and the benefits for “the collection of new laid eggs, the buying of seeds and manures, and of their farm implements” for some hours “until the lateness of the evening compelled him to bring his lecture to a close”. So impressed and enthusiastic were the farmers that the following Sunday they met again and decided to proceed with the erection of a creamery. They elected Denis Leamy, Erinagh as President and Jeremiah Ryan, Silvermines as Secretary of a temporary committee who were instructed to arrange for the selection of a site for the creamery, with unanimous agreement that the most convenient place would be Cooleen Bridge, provided that the local landlord, Lord Dunalley and R. P. Gill, C.E., agreed to it.

The ‘Nenagh Guardian’ of February 9, 1895 reported on a meeting for a proposed creamery at Silvermines.

creameries grew at a faster rate than the size of the national dairy herd to provide milk supply for them. There was pressure to pay a good price for milk to retain supply, and encourage more farmers to supply the co-ops.

In the neighbouring parish of Ballywilliam a farmers co-op creamery was opened in the Autumn of 1895.

The CWS, which had been a support to the farmers in establishing co-ops, had indicated at a co-op conference in Lincoln in 1891 of their intention to become directly involved in dairy farming and milk processing in Ireland, when they disclosed a plan to purchase land, establish their own dairy herds and their own creameries in direct competition to the farmers.

In January 1896, a committee of Toomevara farmers, through their secretary, James O’Meara advertised for a contractor to build a creamery. Competition between the processors for milk intensified as the overall number of 33


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While the Irish protested, relations between Irish farmers and the CWS deteriorated, but they proceeded to purchase Castlemahon Creamery, in West Limerick for £850, which it is reported was just about enough to pay the debt which the creamery had incurred at the time. Although they had establish a number of creameries around the south during the later decade of the 1800’s and the early years after the turn of the century, farmer dissatisfaction against the private creameries, in favour of taking control of their own co-ops was increasing.

Meetings advertised in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ for Toomevara and Newtown (Portroe) as farmers planned to form their own co-ops.

During the later years of the 1890’s, I.A.O.S. Regional Organiser, Charlie C. Riddall was very active in North Tipperary where he became a regular figure at the farmer meetings on the planning, building and running of the creameries, the establishment of which was continuing to gain pace.

At the end of 1890, Messrs Thomas Boland & Sons, Barrack Street, Nenagh advertised that having made arrangements with a local creamery they were open for the purchase of butter for which they had obtained an agency to market. Sir Horace Plunkett who was returned as Unionist MP for Dublin in 1892, continued his endeavours to bring farmers together to build and run their own creameries. On April 18, 1894, he brought together 250 people in Dublin leading to the found the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (I.A.O.S.) to act as an agency for the furtherance of the co-operative movement throughout the country,interacting as an educational umbrella movement to provide guidance for farmers establishing their own co-op creameries. He became the first president of the I.A.O.S. and during the following years I.A.O.S. advisors became very actively involved with farmers at local level, attending meetings and guiding them in the establishment of creameries in all areas of the country.

Several farm families were separating milk on the farms and making “farm butter”, selling surplus to home needs at local markets or house to house. The markets were usually attended by agents for export markets and were availed of by existing creameries, as a means of selling their butter. While the Cork Butter Market was the largest and best known, during the second half of the 1800’s butter markets in the mid west region were held regularly at Limerick, Tipperary Town and Kilcommon. These markets were used by creameries and home butter makers in the Nenagh area for the sale of butter. By the end of the century the market at Tipperary town was the second largest in the country. 34


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

Following the advertising of the intention to hold a butter market at Nenagh, the inaugural butter market at Nenagh was held on Wednesday May 27, 1903. There was more than 35 firkins of farm butter, a few boxes of creamery butter, a quantity of salted and fresh lump butter offered at the market which was a great success, with all except a few firkins “for which 50/- was refused” quickly sold. Firkins sold for 48/to 49/-, and creamery boxes at 85/- to 87/-.

other as much as with the farmer co-ops. With the farmers increasingly anxious to get control, approaches by farmers for the purchase of the proprietary creamery in some areas, did not meet with favour. The Catholic clergy were actively involved in providing leadership for farmers. Several priests from the county were members of the North Tipperary Technical Committee, a sub committee of the County Committee of agriculture which provided instruction and farm courses for the betterment of farming families.

The visiting buyer was Mr O’Shea, Tipperary, and the organisers, anticipating a larger market for the following week, expressed that “surely Nenagh offers greater facilities for local buttermakers than Kilcommon or Limerick and prices are apparently as good”.

At home in their parishes many of them, as already indicted, were actively involved in encouraging farmers to join in the co-operative drive to build their own creameries in opposition to the proprietary creameries operating.

The rapid growth in farmer owned creameries in County Limerick continued through the first decade of the new millennium. In 1907, a substantial Kilmallock farmer advertised in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ for a “Good strong farm servant to milk 10 cows and do general farm work. Wages £15 per year”.

The C.W.S. operated creameries at Hollyford, Killoscully and Ballinahinch. The CWS creameries were being challenged by the farmers. In 1903, farmers in North Tipperary commenced a reversal of the spread of the C.W.S. operations when they bought back the creamery at Hollyford. The same year, farmers in Newport opened their own creamery in a town where two private creameries had been operating for more than a decade. The farmers of neighbouring Ballinahinch met on February 28, 1907 to discuss the feasibility of establishing their own creamery.

At the same time the conflict between the proprietary creameries and the farmer Co-ops had reached open antagonism. In some parts of North Tipperary they operated almost side by side. It was not unusual for three or four creameries, a combination of private creameries and farmer co-op creameries to operate in the same parish with minimal distance between them, and competing with each other for milk supply. The neighbouring private or proprietary creameries were often owned by different companies competing with each

It is recorded that “The success of the meeting was entirely due to the exertion of the very reverend and energetic curate of the parish, Fr Murphy, who since he came 35


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to the place two years ago, has taken an active part in every movement having for its objective the amelioration of the people of the parish”.

the outlay, they give the remainder to you” he told them. “As Mr Stokes refuses to sell the creamery to you, you can pursue three courses, the first is to cart your milk to Newport Co-operative Creamery; the second is to start a co-operative creamery of your own; and the third is to stop as you are and grumble away”, he added.

It was felt that a very deep debt of gratitude was due to Fr Murphy which the people of the parish “will never be able to repay”. On the motion of M. Bourke, J.P., seconded by P. Ryan, D.C. Fr. E. Murphy was elected to chair the meeting, which was also attended by C. C. Riddall, Assistant Secretary, I.A.O.S.

The C.W.S. refused to sell the creamery at Ballinahinch to the local farmers who proceeded to build their own a few yards away from the private creamery.

Addressing the farmers, Fr Murphy said that during the innumerable complaints that his people were making and especially those living within the immediate vicinity of the local creamery as to how they were being treated, he had brought down Charles C. Riddall to assist them in starting a creamery of their own. Fr Murphy advised the farmers that as the locality was purely a milk raising one it behoved them to be alive to their own interests and it was out of what they got for their milk that they had to pay their rent, their servants’ wages, the upkeep of their houses and their innumerable other expenses incidental to farming and therefore it was only natural that they should try and get the best price for their milk.

On June 20, 1908 it was reported “Not for a long time past was such interest aroused in Ballinahinch as that which marked the opening day of our new Co-Operative Creamery. The farmers of the district have now erected a creamery of their own, within forty yards of the C.W.S. Creamery, one of the strongest societies in England. For the past week conjectures were rife as to whether the farmers would be true to their own society or not. The test came on Monday last, when the new creamery was opened”.

“The private creamery manager may be a decent man, but when they get a creamery they are bound to make it a paying concern - that is when the big staff working in it and some of those gentlemen are drawing fat salaries - are paid, together with the other incidental expenses, and a big dividend on

The account continued “In the early morning crowds of people could be seen wending their way to the scene. For some time nothing could be seen but the heavy smoke puffing from the funnels of both creameries. After a while milk carts heavily loaded began to arrive, and as the drivers drove down the road leading to 36


Chapter 2: ARRIVAL OF THE CO-OP ERA

the creamery they were lustily cheered by the on lookers. Car after car now followed each other in quick succession and at 10 o’clock, 64 cars had passed down to the new creamery where all was bustle and animation. Willing hands had the milk quickly flowing through the separators and in less than two hours, 1,200 gallons was taken in. Only fifteen suppliers, I believe, visited the rival creamery and next morning eight more joined the ranks of the farmers. At the time of writing the farmers creamery has 76 suppliers” Less than two years later the farmers of the Killoscully area were determined to inflict the same fate on their local C.W.S. creamery. Fr E. Murphy C.C. was to the fore again to encourage the farmers of Killoscully to start a creamery. H. Phillips proposed and R. Draper seconded that Fr Murphy should chair the meeting held in the village on January 10, 1910 for the purpose of discussing the establishment of a farmers creamery.

A report in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ on January 15, 1910 of a meeting held at Killoscully by farmers to

He told them that from his experience in Ballinahinch, he could say a great deal to encourage them. “They had started in Ballinahinch eighteen months ago and after allowing for depreciation of plant and everything else had made a profit of £468”.

form their own co-op.

meeting the farmers decided to build their own. In less than a quarter of a century from 1885 there was a proliferation of creameries in North Tipperary. Proprietary creameries and farmer co-ops competed for milk supplies. There were several creameries in some parishes. The pattern of spread appeared to come from Limerick towards North Tipperary with the strongest impact in parishes close to the Limerick county boundary initially and extending towards Nenagh.

“They in Killoscully if they decided to purchase the creamery had nothing to be afraid of; on the contrary they had everything to encourage them” suggesting that they should initially consider purchasing the local creamery from Mr Stokes. The approach for the purchase of the creamery was rejected. At a subsequent 37


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There were five creameries operating in the parish of Newport which joins the Limerick County boundary, three private creameries and two co-ops. At the same time four creameries, two private and two co-ops, operated in the neighbouring parish of Ballinahinch-Killoscully.

which had become insolvent. They had a licence from the Government, under the 1924 Dairy Produce Act to transfer creameries to existing co-ops, or close them down. The following year, in 1928, controls on establishment of new creameries was introduced with a new obligatory licensing system for creameries, under the 1928 Creameries Act.

By 1920 the number of co-op creameries had increased to 336. As farmers took more control of the industry establishing their own creameries the scene became tougher for the proprietary creameries to match the prices being paid by the co-ops while at the same time realising a worthwhile profit margin. The proprietories were being squeezed into loss making which they were not willing to tolerate for very long.

Within three years, the DDC had acquired 170 of the private proprietary creameries, which represented more than three quarters of all operating proprietary creameries in the country. Nearly half of them were closed down. A further quarter were transferred to co-operative ownership. The DDC continued to directly operate the remainder. They DDC also purchased the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, based at Limerick, which operated up to 100 creameries in the Munster area and added further value to the milk price for suppliers to many of the co-ops in Munster by providing a market for the separated milk, which previously did not have a value and was generally used for feeding to calves.

By 1920 the number of proprietary creameries in the country had dropped to 180, compared to 537 at their peak, a decade and a half earlier.

The Condensed Milk Company was more commonly known as Cleeves Factory” having been engaged in the manufacture of “Cleeves Toffee’s” for many years. The company engaged in the manufacture of a range of dairy products. The purchase of the private creameries by the DDC continued. By the end of the 1940’s all private creameries had ceased to exist. The last of the DDC assets were taken into co-operative ownership in 1974.

As the proliferation of creameries continued through the 1920’s, the pressure continued to mount on both the co-operatives and proprietary creameries. In 1927 the newly formed Irish Government established the Dairy Disposal Company. The state directive to the DDC, a semi state body, was to take over both the private proprietary creameries, and some of the co-operatives

 38


Chapter 3: TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

CHAPTER 3

TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

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Edward Michael Walsh, Tyone founder and first secretary of Nenagh Co-op Society. 40


Chapter 3: TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

AS FARMERS UNITE THE URBAN FAMILIES GET ASSURANCES

A

lmost quarter of a century had passed since the first of the creameries were opened in the region without a mention of Nenagh as a possible location.

old mother, Margaret and his 72 year old aunt, Margaret Walsh with two farm servants on the farm, Patrick Mack and William Ryan when he was elected to the full time position as Secretary of the County Committee for Agriculture and Technical Instruction at a meeting of the committee on Monday December 27, 1901. He had been a member of the committee for some time and judging by the support when he agreed to allow his name to go forward for the position, for which there were a large number of applications from near and far, he was very well regarded by his colleagues.

Creameries, both private and co-operatives, were up and running for several years at Toomevara, Youghalarra, Cranna, Silvermines, Birdhill, Newport, Killoscully, Ballinahinch, and Killeen. Many of the farmers in areas close to Nenagh who had adopted to dairying were suppliers to these processing centres. Charlie Riddall, I.A.O.S. organiser was in regular attendance at meetings of the farmer co-op societies. As farmer interest in their creameries continued to spread both farmers and Mr Riddall began to question why the spread of the co-op creamery movement had excluded Nenagh.

He immediately became directly involved in the organising of agricultural classes for farmers at Nenagh, Templemore and Borrisokane; the provision of courses in domestic economy for wives of farmers; the awarding of scholarships for boys to approved second level schools and organising markets for farm produce within the county, including egg distribution stations at Nenagh and Thurles.

Edward Michael Walsh, who was generally known in the community as E. M. Walsh was a substantial farmer living at The Cottage, Tyone on the edge of the town.

Farmers in the Nenagh area, aware of the development of creameries in the surrounding parishes were now also

The 37 year old was living with his 24 year old wife, Annie Mary, his 75 year 41


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The Town Hall, Nenagh (1889) where farmers held the first public meeting on the formation of a farmers co-op.

questioning the lack of any moves to build a creamery at Nenagh.

that organised farmers running their own creamery would demand a higher price for milk, and the cost of milk and butter for urban families, many of them living on very low incomes, would be increased.

E. M. Walsh, who was working very closely with the most progressive farmers in North Tipperary in his role as the chief agricultural officer in North Tipperary, was approached as to why there was no creamery in Nenagh.

A meeting of interested farmers was held at the Town Hall, Nenagh on January 9, 1913 to assess the level of support for the building of a creamery in the town. While the response from most of the farmers in the area, and a majority of the town people attending was positive and encouraging, there were also reservations and concerns expressed. The meeting afforded an opportunity to asses the scale of farmer interest in establishing a creamery and also the extent, and content, of concerns which had been expressed among the families of the town as to the possible affect which the development could have for them.

He is reported to have replied “I’ll put a creamery in Nenagh for you�. When he tried to develop the idea within the community, his intentions were met with mixed reaction. Nenagh was more urban than any of the locations in the county where creameries had been established. With a higher percentage of poor families, concerns were immediately evident that any development should not affect poor families. There was a view among some town people 42


Chapter 3: TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

It was decided to advertise a further public meeting at the same venue for the following week and encourage broader interest from within the broad community, incorporating farmers, business people and towns people.

Fr Gunning was a member of the Technical Instruction Committee, a sub committee of the North Tipperary Committee for Agriculture and Technical Instruction. He was obviously good friends with E. M. Walsh for whom he had proposed an increase in annual salary at a meeting of the Technical Instruction Committee a few years after his election to the position.

Parish clergy were actively involved in the running of several of the farmer creameries which were operating in North Tipperary. Several of them were also members of a sub committee of the County Committee of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.

When E. M. Walsh asked Fr Gunning to preside at the public meeting it would have been very difficult for him to refuse.

When E. M. Walsh tried to solicit the support of local Nenagh priest, Rev Fr. P. Gunning, C.C., to provide leadership in developing interest in the project, the clergyman’s respect for Mr Walsh and anything he wanted to promote for the benefit of the community was very evident and without question, but Fr Gunning expressed reservations which he had on the broader affect of any such development for the broader community of which he was pastor.

He agreed to do so, but not without expressing that he had considerable reservations about becoming involved. The attendance at the public meeting included Messrs. T. J. O’Meara, C.E., Nenagh; T. O’Brien, D.C., Faunlough; P. O’Brien, Curraheen; P. Duggan, Bawn; Con Hogan, Grange; M. Gleeson, Grange; W. Gleeson, Smithfield; James Nolan, D.C., Cunnahurt; P. Kennedy, Killyloughnane; M. Gleeson, Knockalton; F. R. Moloney, Kilcoleman; Henry Ryan, Ballygraigue; Pat Naughton, Faunlough; P. Cleary, Lisatunny; J. Flaherty, Rathnaleen; P. Clerihan, Rathnaleen; P. Crowley, Ballygraigue; Rody Spain, Lisgarode; John Boland, Coolagh; M. Kelly, U.C., Barrack Street; M. Gleeson, Barrack Street; R. Chadwick, Rathnaleen; J. Dooley, U.C., Dublin Road; M. Corbett, D.C., Newtown; John O’Brien, Newtown; M. Whealey, Rathnaleen; Martin Ryan, D.C., Tyone; James O’Hara, Commonage; and

Proposed creamery for Nenagh reported in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ on January 18, 1913. 43


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Chapter 3: TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

The 1911 Census Form completed by Edward Michael Walsh, Tyone for the family. 45


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E. M. Walsh, Tyone. The ‘Nenagh Guardian’ of January 18, 1913 reported Fr Gunning’s opening statement to the meeting at which he presided. “The Chairman said that first of all he should return his sincere thanks to the gentlemen interested in the project for asking him to preside at their meeting that day. When E. M. Walsh approached him first on the matter and told him that there was a large number of farmers in Nenagh and the surrounding districts interested in the matter and would like to have him preside, he could not possibly take it on himself to refuse.

An advertisement convening the first meeting on the formation of a co-op at Nenagh.

awkward position because he would not be supporting anything that would be the means of raising the price of milk, food, or anything else on the poor people.

“The first thing he had to do that day was to listen to suggestions regarding the best possible way of working a creamery in the town, and also to hear proposals and see how far the project suggested was practical. Since the last meeting he had been informed that the creamery may be harmful is one way. He did not know whether at the opening of the meeting that would be an opportune time for him to relate what had been said, but he supposed that it was all the same.

“He thought that it was only right for him to make that statement at the opening of the meeting, because he was identified with the project. He did not make the statement for the purpose of interfering with the project, but if the establishment of a creamery would result in the price of milk and butter being increased he would be long sorry to identify himself with the project. “At the same time, having made that statement, he was willing to preside at the meeting and hear more about the matter and see how far the project is practical.”

“Since he had been speaking to Mr Walsh he had conversations with some people of the town; in fact people who had some knowledge of the working of creameries, and they seemed to think that as far as the town was concerned a creamery would do more harm than good. They seemed to think that the fact of a creamery being established would make the price of milk much dearer. Whether that was a fact or not he did not know, but if it was the case they could quite understand that if that was true it would place him in a very

Acting Secretary, E. M. Walsh said “We held a meeting here on the 9th inst for the purpose of taking into consideration the advisability of establishing a creamery for the district of Nenagh and it was decided to advertise the matter and hold a public meeting to-day, which I am glad to say has been well attended by the farmers of the surrounding districts. 46


Chapter 3: TYONE FARMER’S LEADERSHIP ROLE

“ I think we will have no difficulty in getting this creamery established, and in doing so it will not raise the price of milk or butter, but on the other hand it will be the means of reducing the price. The movement for which we hold this meeting to-day, will do the people of Nenagh no injury. If we are not going to benefit them we surely will do them no harm. It is a meeting of the farmers in the rural and urban districts of Nenagh, called together for a certain purpose, which will be a benefit to themselves, the poor, and the townspeople”.

they could employ more labour and have men constantly working all the year round.

He added “It cannot be shown that in other towns and districts where creameries were established that they have been a failure; on the contrary they have been a success everywhere and a great benefit to the people that have started them and a benefit to everybody.

“For some time past, we, in Newtown, have been trying to establish a creamery, but we could not do so because we could not get a guarantee for the supply of sufficient milk, but if the people of Nenagh take up the matter we are prepared to assist them. If a creamery was established in Nenagh, it might be possible after some time to establish an auxiliary creamery at Newtown. If the townspeople oppose the project, I don’t see why the farmers should do so. I think they should work the matter up in their own interests and have the creamery established”.

“If the farmers do not look after their own interests nobody else will do it for them, and it is now about time that they did look after their own interests.”

“Before creameries were established in North Tipperary farmers wives were obliged to go around from house to house to try and dispose of their butter and sell it at less than its value, and if they did not accept the price offered for it they could keep it.

F. R. Moloney said “I am a townsman and I am here to support the creamery movement, not alone in shares, but in every way I possibly can”.

“Father Gunning, on making inquiries, found that some one objected to the establishment of a creamery in Nenagh, because it might militate or upset them in some small way. I would not mind an objection like that, because there was never a movement yet but you will find someone to object or oppose it”.

“Nenagh is purely an agricultural district, and the traders and farmers are dependent on one another, and under the circumstances, I don’t think it is for the farmers to oppose the shopkeepers, or the shopkeepers to oppose the farmers” he said.

M. Corbett, D.C., Newtown said that if the creamery resulted in an increase in the price of milk, what was good for farmers would also be good for the shopkeepers. “If the farmers got a high price for the milk,

When the secretary, E. M. Walsh took a list from those attending the meeting of 47


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the probable number that would send milk to the creamery, the milk of 199 cows was committed, but James Nolan pointed out that there were a great number of farmers who could not attend the meeting on that day, but would send milk to the creamery, and a further list was compiled with the milk from 335 cows being guaranteed.

rules a farmer must only supply milk to a creamery governed by your society. He is not supposed to support a rival creamery. The rules reserve to your society the right of its members. Cows kept in or grazed in the registered area of your society does not prevent a member from supplying milk to its customers, or supplying it to institutions, such as hospitals or any other institution. It only prevents them from supplying milk to any other creamery. They must give the milk to their own creamery”.

J. Dillon said “If the thing was got in working order, I’m sure we will have the milk of 800 cows”. A further meeting the following week was attended by C. C. Riddall, IAOS Organiser at which he suggested that the milk of 700 cows would provide 2,000 gallons/day for the new society, sufficient to make the creamery viable.

There was a determination shown by the farmers to go forward, and it appeared that from this meeting many of the fears of those with reservations about the possible affect of the venture on their lives had, at least, been eased to a point of diluting any likely opposition.

E.M. Walsh asked “With regard to the rules governing this or any other society is it open to the shareholder to supply milk to whoever he likes, or is there a rule binding shareholders to send milk to the creamery?”.

Five weeks later, on February 24, 1913, the farmers met for the first formal meeting of Nenagh Co-op to elect a committee and commence arrangements for membership, the raising of share capital, and discussing the acquiring of a site for the creamery.

Charles Riddall explained “In answer to that I have to state, that, according to the

 48


Chapter 4: BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

CHAPTER 4

BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

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Thomas O’Brien, the founding chairman of Nenagh Creamery and his wife, Margaret. 50


Chapter 4: BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

REPLACING ‘PRIVATELY’ OWNED CREAMERIES WAS A PRIME OBJECTIVE

T

he majority of the creameries established in North Tipperary during the later years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the new millennium, were commercially run ‘proprietary’ creameries. Some were established by butter merchants, but they were mostly operated by the Limerick based CWS, which was expanding their involvement in creameries across Munster. They were often referred to by the farmers as Stokes’s creameries, relating them to W. L.Stokes, who was Manager of the CWS at Limerick, a British owned firm which had direct involvement in several of them. The CWS had extended into Ireland with a lot of experience in the dairy industry in the U.K. and had the backing of expertise and finance, both of which were severely lacking among those who aspired to establish and operate creameries in Ireland.

and the profits used to support the milk price. Some approaches by farmers to purchase these creameries were not well received. In one area of North Tipperary, involving two such creameries, when a meeting of farmers was told that “Stokes is not prepared to sell” one of the farmers is reported to have said “let him keep them, we’ll build our own”. Before the end of the first decade in the new millennium, farmer co-op creameries were operating at Silvermines, Ballywilliam, Toomevara, Newport, and Killoscully , Noteably the expansion was predominantly in more livestock intensive parishes of the region, and close to the County Limerick dairyland. By 1913 some of these farmer owned creameries in North Tipprary had been operating successfully for more than a decade and several of the farmers in the outer Nenagh areas were supplying milk to co-op creameries in their neighbouring parishes.

Local farmers believed that the primary objective of these ‘proprietary’ creameries was profitmaking for their commercially driven owners, which is understandable, because they were business developments. Farmers felt that they could secure a better price for their milk if the creameries were owned and operated as farmer co-operatives

The I.A.O.S. had been directly involved in the establishment of most of the farmer co-op creameries. Their organisers for 51


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Tipperary, Charlie C. Riddall regularly attended the co-op meetings in North Tipperary. Speaking at one such meeting he is reported to have said “I have travelled to a lot of places in Tipperary, and with creameries in Toomevara, Ballywilliam and other places, I am surprised that the farmers of Nenagh, who have ample scope to do so, have not taken up the establishment of a creamery long ago”. Up to that all of the creameries were located in rural parishes and villages. Perhaps there were more complexities involved in uniting rural and urban interests for the establishment of a creamery at Nenagh. Such became clearer, when a public meeting to discuss a farmer co-op creamery at Nenagh was held at the Town Hall, Nenagh on January 9, 1913.

A report on the second meeting to form a co-op published on February 1, 1913.

group of well established progressive farmers of like minds, prepared to drive the project, with a belief in the co-op spirit for their own betterment and that of their families and the local community. These farmers were very positively pro the establishment of a creamery at Nenagh and would become the ‘leaders’ within the community to gain the broader confidence that the project was for the betterment of all.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together farmers and town people, and in particular to asses the scale of farmer interest in the establishment of a creamery in Nenagh and measure the concerns, which were being voiced among the town community, on the disadvantages, or otherwise of the establishment of a creamery in the town. The meeting also served as an opportunity to identify and co-ordinate a nucleus of “similar interest” farmers in establishing a co-op, who would provide the leadership necessary for the project to progress.

Even before a meeting of the pro active farmers for the project, on February 24, 1913 to formalise the structure, a possible site had been discussed informally and two local banks had been contacted on the provision of banking facilities. It had become obvious that there was no turning back.

Two further public meetings, convened before the end of January 1913, identified a 52


Chapter 4: BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

It is probable that the meeting was held at the Town Hall, Nenagh although records do not clearly specify. Thomas O’Brien, was the agreed chairman for the meeting which was attended by C.C. Riddall, Regional Organiser for the IAOS who provided guidance for the farmers on the procedures to be followed.

Instruction and had played a key role in setting the ground work for the project. He had acted as secretary for the public meetings in January. P. O’Brien immediately resigned his seat on the committee in favour of the election of E. M. Walsh, whose election then received unanimous support. John O’Reilly, with offices at Westmoreland Street, Dublin was appointed Auditor to the new society.

The meeting was very business-like and the approach positive. On the proposal of James Nolan, and seconded by T. J. O’Meara it was unanimously agreed to elect, by secret ballot, a committee of not more than twelve members to form the society to be known as Nenagh Co-operative Creamery Ltd.

The interest from farmers and business people in the town and surrounding areas in the establishment of a creamery at Nenagh was readily apparent with 61 applications for shares in the Society considered and approved at a Meeting of Members held later on the same day with their admission as members conditional on the payment of the first instalment of the share price.

The election resulted in the election as Committee Members of Thomas O’Brien, T. J. O’Meara, C.E., James Nolan, Rody Spain, E. Bourke, P. Kennedy, William Gleeson, Martin Gleeson, John Spain, James Kennedy, P. O’Brien and Martin Ryan by unanimous decision without the necessity for a ballot.

The norm was that farmers would purchase shares equal to the size of their dairy herd at £1 per share of which 25d. would be paid down.

There appeared to be some surprise among the farmers that E. M. Walsh, was not among the chosen committee of twelve when the result of the ballot was declared.

Seventy-five farmers invested a total of £350 in share capital to fund the forming of the co-op and the building of a creamery at Nenagh. The following applicants were admitted to membership of the Society with immediate effect to become the first shareholders of the new Society.

A farmer from Tyone, he held a pivotal position within farming in North Tipperary as the executive secretary of the County Committee of Agriculture and Technical

John Flaherty, Rathnaleen, Nenagh, R. Chadwick, Rathnaleen, Nenagh P. Clerihan, Rathnaleen, Nenagh M. Kelly, Nenagh 53


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James O’Hara, Nenagh M. Whealey, Rathnaleen, Nenagh R. Spain, Lisgarode, Nenagh M. Gleeson, Lisboney, Nenagh M. Gleeson, Bawn, Nenagh William Gleeson, Smithfield, Nenagh P. Kennedy, Killyloughnane, Nenagh E. M. Walsh, Tyone, Nenagh Thomas O’Brien, Bawn, Nenagh T. J. O’Meara, Nenagh John Boland, Coolagh, Nenagh William Walsh, Nenagh P. O’Brien, Curraheen, Nenagh William Gleeson, Rathfadda, Nenagh Dan Nevin, Ballintotty, Nenagh M. A. O’Brien, Pat Flannery, Sheanne, Nenagh R. P. Gill, Fatheen, Nenagh John Tobin, Bawn, Nenagh James Minogue, Moanfin, Nenagh S. Minogue, Moanfin, Nenagh Dan O’Meara, Kilruane, Nenagh Peter King, Killowney, Nenagh John Spain, Rapla, Nenagh John Spain, Lisgarode, Nenagh Edward Ryan, Nenagh D. P. Boland, Nenagh T. P. Kennedy, Nenagh Mary Nolan, Knockalton, Nenagh M. Kennedy, Knockalton, Nenagh James O’Meara, Moanfin, Nenagh John Kennedy, Rapla, Nenagh J. O’Brien, Bawn, Nenagh Thomas O’Brien, Ballinaclough, Rody Nolan, Beechwood, Nenagh M. Gleeson, Ballygraigue, Nenagh Joe Dillon, Nenagh P. Callaghan, Belleen, Nenagh Edward Burke, Ballinaclough R. Coghlan, Rathnaleen, Nenagh James Kennedy, Bawn, Nenagh Edward Dillon, Tyone, Nenagh

James Flannery, Ballintotty, Nenagh James Cleary, Bawn, Nenagh William Ryan, Benedine, Nenagh Thomas Gleeson, Rathnaleen, Nenagh Pat Cleary, Lisatunney, Nenagh Martin Walsh, Tyone, Nenagh Michael Fogarty, Nenagh John McCormack, Nenagh John Cooney, Ballyphilip, Nenagh Hanna Cantwell, Rathnaleen, Nenagh M. Gleeson, Grange, Nenagh Martin Ryan, Tyone James Nolan, Cunnahurt Tim Gleeon, Ballintoher P. J. Power, Nenagh The first formal meeting of the Committee was held later on the same day - the third meeting on February 24, 1913 - at which Thomas O’Brien was the unanimous choice for Chairman and E. M. Walsh was requested to continue to act as Secretary to the Society pro tem.

Letters from the Provincial Bank Ltd and Munster and Leinster Bank Ltd willing to provide overdraft facilities of up to £2,000 were considered. All English and Scottish cheques would be free of commission. The committee felt that further finance should be sought and both banks should were invited to set out terms for an overdraft of £2,500 to the Society. At the same time arrangements for the construction of a building for the a creamery 54


Chapter 4: BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

Bill Fitzpatrick and his son, Michael, breaking stones to be used for making roads in the area.

were being discussed and the owner of a local site which had been identified as a suitable location was approached.

Formalities to regularise and register the new Society moved at a pace with George Corbett appointed solicitor to the Society and the Acting Secretary, E. M. Walsh was instructed to obtain a company seal and the books for company record keeping.

John Cleary agreed to offer the society a lease of 999 years on the site which was under consideration by the committee at the cost of £60 an Irish acre, free of rent, an offer which was considered satisfactory.

Support for the initiative continued to spread and a week later the committee met at the Town Hall, Nenagh, and approved further applications for shares, admitting Richard Carey, Michael O’Brien, James O’Meara, Edmond Minogue and Ms Bridget O’Brien.

Engineer and committee member T. J. O’Meara, C.E. suggested that less than an Irish acre would be required and he was appointed to supervise the building of the creamery. 55


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Hogan’s Forge, McDonagh Street, Nenagh where farmers brought their horses for shoeing.

When the society was registered in March 1913, there were 98 ordinary shareholders with 638 shares allocated and 540 farmers having indicated an interest in supplying their milk to the creamery.

security of the members at an interest rate of 4% and to accept English and Scottish cheques free of commission. It was decided to accept the offer from Munster and Leinster Bank Ltd.

Both the Munster and Leinster Bank Ltd and the Provincial Bank Ltd offered to provide overdraft facilities of ÂŁ2,500 on the

As arrangements for the construction of the building continued to be a priority, members were asked to volunteer to 56


Chapter 4: BUILDING A NEW CREAMERY

provide sand and gravel on the site which could save the society up to £100.

Four tenders were received. Prices tendered for the construction of the creamery ranged from £1,035. 0s.0d to £1,215. 9s 3d. They were submitted by John Kinny & Sons, Limerick, P. Sheridan, Newbridge, E. R. Warren, Cloughjordan and G. Patterson, Cloughjordan. They were asked to revise their tenders with the committee agreeing to place the materials on the site.

Advertisements were placed in the Freeman’s Journal and newspapers circulating in counties Tipperary and Limerick for contractors for the building of the creamery. Charlie Riddall (IAOS) gave an outline of the costs incurred building creameries in the region. The creamery building at Toomevara cost £450 with a considerable amount of work being done by the local farmers. This building was not planned by IAOS and there were reservations as to the design and quality of the building.

After further consideration the tender of Messrs John Kinny & Sons, Limerick to construct the creamery for £1,035 Sterling was approved by the committee. A legal bill from the solicitor for £7. 2s.6d. led to the appointment of a deputation to meet with the solicitor to seek a reduction in the fee. The advertisement for tenders in the Freeman’s Journal cost 18/-.

A new creamery at Annacotty had been built at a cost of £650. Creameries at Bruree and Drombanna each cost £700 to build, with all materials being supplied by the contractors. The contract for the creamery at Annacotty included the construction of a brick chimney at a cost of £50. Generally brick chimneys cost £70 extra, but were considered more economical in the long run, compared to steel chimneys at a cost of £35, which were believed to be more susceptible to corrosion and perceived to have a short life.

By May 1913, three months after the setting up of the Co-op considerable progress had been made. The site for the creamery had been finalised, and the contractor was moving in to construct the building. Decision on the purchase of machinery to equip the creamery was deferred, because it would not be required for the current season.

The creamery for Nenagh was designed and the plans prepared by T. J. O’Meara, C.E.

Further members had been admitted to the society. Interest among both farmers in the area and business people in the town, in the new development was continuing to spread. With the contractor moving on to the site, committee activity took a short break for

None of the first batch of tenders received for the building were considered acceptable. The contract was re-advertised within the region and in the Irish Independent and Irish Times. 57


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the Summer and they did not meet again until August when the main business on the agenda was approving a payment of £500 to the contractor.

There was a lot of interest from insurance companies for the insurance cover of the creamery. As Christmas approached the contractor was asked to extend his insurance cover on the building for a month, while tenders from insurance companies were considered.

Work on the building appeared to be continuing at a satisfactory pace. At the beginning of October the contractor sought a further payment of £400. The committee agreed to issue a cheque for £300, retaining a balance of £235 on the contract. They approved a tender from the Creamery Supply Company to supply and install the machinery in the building at a cost of £1,875. The target was to have the machinery ready for operation by March 1, 1914.

Volunteers were sought to draw gravel for the creamery yard, providing their own horses and carts. Those doing the work were to receive their lunch to comprise of two drinks, bread and butter. The work of the volunteer farmers would effect a good saving in expenditure to complete the grounds.

The advertisement for a manager for Nenagh Creamery published on January 24, 1914. 58


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There was constant attention by the committee to maintaining tight control on all expenditure and minimising outlay. Several of the bills received were being questioned and delegations from the committee frequently appointed to seek reductions in the amounts being sought for services and supplies.

available to the smaller creameries for butter making was limited as was the scope to pursue their own marketing. Centralised churning and marketing of butter had a lot to offer the smaller creameries. The position of Manager for the society was forefront at a meeting of the committee on January 26 when applications for the position were considered. It was decided to appoint J. P. Deasy at £160.00 per annum. When the committee recalled a second applicant for the position, M. Cass, Manager, Toomevara Creamery he agreed to accept the position at £150.00 per annum and his appointment was approved. Five days later he had resigned from the position and a meeting on January 31 appointed P. Coleman, Athlacca Creamery (former Manager at Templederry Creamery) at a salary of £120 per annum. If he failed to accept the position it was to be offered to Mr De Lacey.

A week prior to Christmas the society took on its first employee, with the appointment of Hugh Hogan, Islandbawn as Engine Driver by 5 votes to 4 votes in favour of Joe O’Meara. His wages were fixed at 15/per week with no increase for three years. The quotation of £3. 10s. 0d. from a local agent for a London insurance company for cover on the boiler, building, stock and plant was approved. A contract for the supply of machinery oil was agreed with Messrs Booth Bros., Dublin. Even at this early stage of the Nenagh development, it could be seen that the foundation for the central role which the new society would grow into serving the dairy industry in the region decades later was, perhaps as yet unconsciously, beginning to take shape. Although with the benefit of some years of experience in the running of a co-op creamery, the farmers and co-op members in neighbouring parishes, observing the facilities being developed at Nenagh identified some of the broader benefits which the new development could bring to the area. An early approach was made to the Nenagh Committee by a delegation from Duharra Co-op seeking an arrangement to churn and dispose of their cream. The facilities

Around the same time, Kate O’Meara was chosen from five applications for the position of buttermaker. She would be paid £1. 2s. 6d. per week. A wagon of coal was ordered from Heitons at £1. 4s. 9d. per ton, or 18/- with the creamery paying the carriage. Arrangements for the opening of the creamery were rapidly taking shape, but there was concern at the progress on completion of the building. It was March 7 and the creamery was due to commence operations, but there was still outstanding work for completion of the building. With the contract date for completion running out the society 59


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solicitor was instructed to write to the contractor, John Kinny warning him that the society intended to hold him responsible for any loss or damage caused to the society by his neglect to complete the contract on time.

the employment of the creamery for six months. His wages were fixed at 10/per week. Furniture for the office was purchased and the telephone company was contacted to provide a phone line to the office. There was also agreement to pay 10/compensation to John Dillon for damage alleged to have been caused during the sinking of sewerage facilities.

Meantime it was decided that the society should hold a dance to coincide with the opening and a special committee comprising of T. J. O’Meara, William Gleeson, R. Spain, James Kennedy, Martin Ryan, John Spain, John Cooney and Pat Kennedy were appointed to make the arrangements and they were instructed that the local press should also be notified of the opening ceremony.

On April 10, 1914 the creamery opened its doors for the first time and the first milk price to be paid by the society was agreed at a meeting of the committee on May 14. Milk supplied was to be paid for on a butterfat basis. An opening price of one shilling and a half penny per lb of butterfat was set. This was equivalent to about 4d. per gallon, depending on the butterfat level of the milk.

Prior to the opening of the creamery there were five applications for a position as general operative. Joseph Duffy was selected on condition that he remained in



60


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

CHAPTER 5

THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

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A steam train on its way from Birdhill to Nenagh with cream for churning from Birdhill Co-op. 62


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

A CHALLENGING TIME FOR THE NEW CO-OPS SETTING ROOTS ess than six weeks after the opening of Nenagh Creamery, the town hosted a major national conference on the co-operative movement when an IAOS Conference was held at the Courthouse in the town.

L

The Manager, P. Coleman was instructed to write to those who had signed for shares for which they had not paid the first instalment and also to provide details for the next meeting of those who had not signed the Bond for the Bank overdraft.

Founder of the Irish Co-op movement, Sir Horace Plunkett was one of the principal speakers at the conference on May 27, 1914. In his address to the conference he is reported to have stated that he had been told that the establishment of a creamery at Nenagh would be to the disadvantage of those who wished to produce milk, but exactly the opposite had happened.

In July the committee considered an application from Mr Bernal for whole milk. After a short discussion it was unanimously agreed not to sell whole milk to anybody. For August it was decided to charge suppliers 2d per gallon for any additional separated milk purchased over their entitlement of 80% of intake. Non milk suppliers purchasing separated milk would be charged an extra half penny per gallon. Butter milk could be purchased by suppliers at 1d. per gallon and non suppliers at one and a half pence per gallon. The price of butter sold to suppliers of milk was fixed at 1/0d per lb. It was agreed that the Manager, P. Coleman would receive two lbs of butter per week and half a gallon of new milk per day for which he expressed his thanks. The society donated a 56lb box of butter to the War Office in aid of wounded soldiers in hospitals as World War I had commenced.

By June 1914, there was general satisfaction on how the early months of operation had gone. Progress was good. It was agreed that excellent work had been done by the Committee in getting the creamery up and running and that there should be no change to the committee until a year’s trading was completed. 63


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A deputation comprising of William Hogan, Spout Road, M. Geaney, Barrack Street, and Jim Nolan, Silver Street, representing the people of the town, who purchased whole milk from the creamery, met the committee to discuss the winter price to be charged for the milk. Having considered the affect that an increase in the price of Winter milk was likely to have on the poorer families in the town when work and money was scarce, it was agreed that the situation was deserving of the support of the creamery not to inflict further hardship on the families. Proposed by E. M. Walsh and seconded by Thomas O’Brien.

At the review of the first year of operation at the first AGM held on March 11, 1915, which was chaired by James Nolan, a very satisfactory financial outcome for the year was reported in the accounts for 1914.

The milk supply for the nine months of operation was 159,543 gallons for which the creamery paid an average of 4.56d per gallon. The 67,190 lbs of butter manufactured was sold at an average of 12.61d/lb. Profit for the year after depreciation was ÂŁ100. 1s. 1d. This was regarded as very satisfactory in a start up situation.

In January 1915, Mr Gleeson, Hon. Sec., Belgian Relief Fund asked for a supply of butter for refugees - gratis. All of the members present, except E. M. Walsh were in favour of not supplying the butter.

The Manager, P. Coleman was complimented on the strength of the balance sheet. Special tribute was paid to the contribution of E. M. Walsh, Secretary, without whose energetic input, the members felt that the creamery would not have become a reality.

In response to a request from Birdhill Co-op Creamery for the manufacture and sale of butter from cream supplied by the co-op, the society tendered 5/- and 5/6d per cwt respectively including the cost of carting the cream from the railway station and delivery of the butter to the station, with Birdhill Co-op to be responsible for their portion of any bad debts. The cream would be sent in cans on the train from Birdhill to Nenagh with the cream cans returned on the 12.15 p.m train to Birdhill.

The minutes of the meeting recorded that Mr Nolan spoke highly of the satisfactory progress since its inception and in his opinion a good start was very important to its future success. He is reported as having stated that they were all thankful to the Manager, P. Coleman for the good balance sheet he had put before them, but were it not for the energy of E. M. Walsh there would never be a creamery in Nenagh. He could not praise Mr Walsh enough for what he had done for the members

The price to be paid to farmers for milk supplied continued to be decided monthly, varying during the first year between slightly under 1/- per lb butterfat to 1/1d per lb. 64


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

William Walsh, Tyone (top) former chairman, Nenagh Co-op and Joe Dillon, Tyone on their way to the town.

of Nenagh Creamery and the farmers of the area.

to any increase in salary for the manager, tabled a motion for the next meeting that the provision of free milk and butter for the manager be rescinded. He withdrew the motion at the next meeting.

Although very satisfied with his contribution to the success of the creamery, a proposal to increase the salary of the Manager, P. Coleman to £150.00 per annum failed to get majority support of the committee, some of whom opposed any increase. A counter proposal that the salary be increased to £140.00 per annum, was carried. William Gleeson who was opposed

The society considered a request from Michael Geaney, Barrack Street, for the use of an plot of 75ft x 60ft on the creamery premises for use as a saw mill and agreed to lease a plot 75ft x 30ft at an annual rent of £2. 0s. 0d. 65


THE STORY

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Milk being delivered to Nenagh Creamery by Denis Delahunty.

As the second production season got under way agreement was reached to churn cream and make butter for Killeen Co-op Creamery at 5/- per cwt of butter with Killeen Co-op to cart the cream to Nenagh and to supply a cream vat. The society had also employed Denis McGrath, a carter from Duharra to cart cream arriving from Birdhill Creamery, from the station at 8d per day.

request to Birdhill Co-op for a similar increase met with some resistance. An offer of 3d cwt increase was rejected. It was pointed out that Duharra Co-op had agreed to the higher payment. In June a proposal by John Spain supported by Martin Gleeson that the creamery should start selling seeds and manures was deferred to a special meeting, while John Cooney suggested that the committee support the starting of a Farmer’s Association. The interest expressed at the subsequent special meeting held later in the year did not inspire confidence to further the proposal.

As 1915 progressed, the wages for buttermaker, Miss O’Meara were increased by 3/6d per week to £1. 6s.0d per week. Duharra Co-op agreed to increase the payment for churning by 6d per cwt. A 66


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

At the beginning of 1916, another successful year was recorded. The milk supply had increased by 38% to 220,484 gallons. Average milk price for the year was up 22% to 5.57d/gallon and profit after depreciation increased by 162% to £262. 0s. 7d.

Total sales of dairy produce amounted to £28,117. 5s. 10d. and £28. 13s. 6d. was received for milk cans sold. Hire charges for a potato digger amounted to £8. 14s. 0d. and £775. 1s. 3d. was paid by the auxiliary creameries for the manufacture of butter. Profits for the year, after depreciation, increased to £479. 0s. 10d. The improved trading enabled the society to reduce the bank overdraft by over £900.

The Manager was complimented and it was agreed that his salary be increased to £200 per annum. His request for appointment of a female assistant was rejected. Wage increases of 4/- per week were agreed for Hugh Hogan and John Moloney which brought their wages to 18/- and 22/- per week respectively.

In June 1917 a tender from the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society to supply and install a 660 gallon Westfalia Separator for £110 cash was accepted. Around the same time Dairymaid, Miss O’Meara tendered her resignation, which was accepted with disappointment by the committee who expressed their sincere appreciation for the service which she had given and sympathy to her on the recent death of her sister.

The annual fee being paid to Messrs John O’Reilly & Co for the annual audit of the accounts was £7. 7s. 0d. A few months later the issue of providing an assistant to the Manager came up again. The committee approved an increase of £40/annum in the salary of the manager to £240 per annum, with free milk and butter. The salary increase was made conditional on the Manager providing and paying his own office assistant. This arrangement remained in place until early 1918, when it was agreed that he receive 5/- per week to support the payment of the office assistant.

It was decided to give two apprentices, May Mackey and Josie Costello a months trial at pay of 15/- per week. The Manager was instructed to write to the Urban Council promising their support in providing milk for the poor of the town during the winter months. Early in 1919, Patrick Ayres was appointed assistant to the Manager at a salary of 12/6d per week. Within four months a round of wage increases were agreed for staff. Hugh Hogan’s wages were increased from 30/- to 40/- per week; John Moloney from 27/6d to 40/- per week; Miss Costello 22/6 to 30/- per week; Miss Minogue 15/- to 22/6 per week, and P Ayres 12/6 to 20/- per week. The creamery carter Denis McGrath received an increase of 6d

The growth in the society continued in 1916. Milk intake increased to 256,949 gallons and the average milk price paid to farmers increased to 7.04d/gallon. 67


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The original creamery at Nenagh before the building was destroyed by fire in 1920.

The first creamery attacked was at Rearcross, Co Tipperary on April 9 with considerable damage caused. The following day three neighbouring creameries at Reiska, Kilcommon and Knockfune were attacked.

per load of milk delivered. P Coleman, Manager was given a bonus of £100. The purchase of shares in the Dressed Meat Factory, Waterford was discussed in 1920 when it was decided to invite farmers to become shareholders. At the same time the committee were discussing a proposition to have shareholders of the society invest money in the co-op at a fixed rate of interest so that the creamery could be financed by the members funds instead of the bank overdraft.

The burnings continuing through the Summer months. Nenagh Creamery Committee at a meeting on September 11 discussed taking out an insurance policy to cover the consequences of a possible attack. An insurance policy for £3,500 at a cost of £105 for six months was considered

The War of Independence was intensifying in 1920, with the biggest threat from undisciplined British troops (auxiliaries and the notoriously feared Black and Tans) who commenced a systematic burning of creameries in the Munster area, as reprisal. 68


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

appropriate, but, as burnings continued around the country, the following month the insurance cover was revised to £5,500 to cover the averaging clause in the event of a claim.

also learning of pressure on the milk price, which was set for a sharp decline after markets for butter weakened. It was decided to reduce the charge to the auxiliary creameries for the manufacturing of butter from 12/- per cwt to 9/4d per cwt.

Less than two months later, Nenagh Creamery was attacked on November 4, 1920.

At the Annual General Meeting on June 10, 1922 it was reported that the society was in a sound financial position and for the first time the payment of a dividend of 5% on nominal shares was approved. It was decided to increase the size of the committee from 12 members to 15 members. William Gleeson, Joe Gleeson and John Kennedy were elected to the new positions on the committee. The Manager, was congratulated on his providential escape from death in a railway accident.

The committee met five days later, on November 9, at the home of Joe Cullen to get a detailed account of the damage that had been caused to the creamery. It was decided to immediately commence the reconstruction of the creamery, once the examination by the insurance assessor was completed, with the target to have the creamery re-opened by April 1921, in time for the beginning of the next milk season. Work on the rebuilding of the creamery premises continued. A claim against the insurance cover was processed and before the end of 1921, settlement of the claim had been reached with the insurers and receipt of £5,273 was acknowledged by the committee. Staff received £41.14s 6d in compensation for their property lost in the fire.

Difficulties being experienced with the water supply were frequently discussed through the early months of 1922 and in the Autumn it was decided that the society should sink a well to provide their own requirements.

Having bored to 260 feet, a Some of the staff who were not paid supply of 550 gallons/hour during the period of closure of the was considered inadequate and creamery following the fire, were the contractor was requested given bonus payments of £10 each. to extend the bore by a further 40 feet. Further boring was While the committee subsequently abandoned and were under pressure to the available supply was get the creamery rebuilt harnessed for use by the before production creamery. Payment of James Fant. IAOS Chief Engineer, who designed on the dairy farms £250 was approved for many of the local creameries in North Tipperary resumed, the milk the Artesian Well Co. during the first half of the 20th century. suppliers were for the work carried out. 69


THE STORY

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ARRABAWN CO-OP

J. J. Ryan. the second manager of Nenagh Creamery on his way to work.

At the 1922 AGM it was agreed that all milk suppliers should be encouraged to purchase shares in the co-op and shareholders who were not supplying milk were to be given the option of selling their shares through the creamery.

In the Spring of 1923 the committee discussed the payment of Income Tax, National Health and Unemployment on behalf of the workers and the Manager was instructed to get more details. Later in the year a payment of £14. 18s. 0d was made for National Health Insurance.

At the AGM in 1923, the auditor, John O’Reilly reported to the committee that the total sales for the previous year amounted to £39,584. 15s. 10d. and there was a Net Profit of £110. 1s. 9d. earned. He said that the milk supply had greatly improved during 1922. The average milk price paid for the year was 7.83d/gallon. Produce sold realised 20.06d/lb. The ratio of 2.36 gallons per lb/butterfat was very satisfactory. He told the committee that the society had accumulated a balance being carried forward of £2,945. 11s.0d.

Later that year cream from Silvermines Co-op was accepted for churning and marketing of butter at a charge of 9/4d per cwt of butter. Holidays for the workers came into existence for the first time in 1924, when it was agreed that the Manager, P. Coleman should get one week’s holidays per year. The Manager continued to receive annual holidays thereafter, with annual leave increasing to 7-10 days per annum within a few years. 70


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

The price of butter rolls to suppliers was fixed at 1d more than the wholesale price for butter.

appointed to complete the audit for 1924. At the AGM Messrs O. B. Hesham were appointed auditors following a vote.

In 1925 it was agreed to churn the cream and market butter for Ballycarron Creamery. The cost of the service for all creameries was reduced to 8/6d per cwt of butter.

The satisfactory financial trading position which the creamery had experienced for more than a decade was showing signs of change by the end of 1925. The market for butter was experiencing difficulties and the price had dropped.

Dissatisfaction with the water supply was discussed again in 1924, following which it was agreed to request the Artesian Well Co to re-commence boring to get a satisfactory supply at an agreed cost of 34/- per ft.

In December 1925, the manager advised that the creamery was facing a big loss on the years trading following the fall in the price of butter which had become more acute over the previous month.

With the bore extended to 450 feet, the inadequacy of the supply continued to be of concern to the committee. The contractor was instructed to bore further but not to exceed an additional 25 feet. However the bore was further extended to 500 feet which delivered a disappointing result at an average of 450 gallons per hour over a two day test. Around the same time there was an expression of interest from Silvermines Creamery in the sale of their creamery to Nenagh Co-op, but it was decided not to enter into negotiations on the purchase. The committee were constantly vigilant on cost control. In particular the higher professional fees were subjected to regular close scrutiny. In March 1925 the position of creamery auditor was put out to tender. Three tenders considered ranged £14. 14s. 0d. to £25. 0s. 0d. the latter from the current auditor, Messrs J. R. Reynolds who was offered the position at £14. 0d 0d. Messrs Donald O’Connor, Dublin was

The intake point for milk at the local creameries with the weighing scales used. 71


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ARRABAWN CO-OP

Some of the original staff staff employed at the creamery includes Kate O’Meara (lady back row), Patrick Coleman, manager (man in white coat), Johanna Minogue, who later became Johanna Kennedy (lady front left), May Mackey, who later became Mary Cash (lady front right).

It was decided to hold the butter in cold storage until February in the hope of a recovery in demand and better prices.

Export agents and buyers attended the market to purchase butter for export to Britain mainly. Prices fluctuated, mainly influenced by supply and demand.

The Manager, P. Coleman, had earned the respect and admiration of his board for his ability to manage the creamery. In particular he was regarded as very astute in the marketing of the butter, which was crucial to the success of the creamery.

There had been widespread proliferation in the establishment of local creameries. The ‘local’ creamery was seen by dairy farmers as an important development in their area. Many such creameries were built, more at the demand of the local farmers and for their convenience, than in consideration of the impact which the creamery would have on similar operations in neighbouring

Apart from any small quantities of butter sold locally or directly, the Cork Butter Market was pivotal for the sale of butter. 72


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

areas, the supply of milk available for the new plant, or any economic assessment to justify the building of another creamery. There were several creameries, both private and co-op, operating in individual parishes, often in close proximity to each other and in competition for the local milk supply.

annual accounts and AGM be brought forward for future years. At a special meeting there was a long discussion on the possibility of reducing the staff, further reductions in wages, and readjustment of the summer milk price to cushion possible losses on butter sales during the winter months.

All of the creameries established operated independently of each other in general, except, as in the case of a number of the North Tipperary dairy co-ops who contracted with Nenagh for the churning of their cream and marketing of butter, but otherwise remained as separate entitles within the industry.

A deduction was made from payment due to Killeen Co-op to represent their share of the losses which had been incurred. An offer from Killeen Co-op to pay ÂŁ250 was considered at a Special General Meeting, which rejected the offer and the assistance of the IAOS was called on to arrange a joint meeting of Killeen, Silvermines, Duharra and Ballycarron Co-ops to deal with the issue of payment of their shares in the losses suffered for 1925.

There was conflict regularly between the societies for milk supply and in many areas, competition on the sale of butter. The poor trading conditions for butter continued into 1926. The price being paid to suppliers was a shade more than one-third of the previous peak, and the creameries for which they were churning and marketing butter were being asked to carry their share of the losses. Staff wages were reduced by 20%. The losses for 1925 were a cause of considerable concern and discussion at the AGM which was held in November 1926. It was decided to call a special general meeting to discuss the financial situation; that in future the manager would bring to the immediate attention of the committee any difficulties in butter sales and that the finalising of the

At a further special meeting of the committee they were advised that an amicable settlement on their share of the losses had been agreed with Silvermines

A typical farm scene of saving the hay during the middle years of the 20th century. 73


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ARRABAWN CO-OP

Co-op, and an offer from Killeen to make payment over a number of years was still open.

attendance comprised of John Cooney (in the chair), John Tobin, Rody Spain, and John McKenna, a final decision was again deferred to a larger meeting of the committee. At the AGM held in October it was decided by a vote to join the new scheme, but the Manager, P. Coleman pointed out that it was not on the agenda and therefore the decision was not in order. It was further discussed in February 1928 and adjourned. At the March meeting it was agreed that the matter be included on the agenda for the next AGM. Following a full discussion at the AGM it was decided not to proceed further with membership.

The matter subsequently went to arbitration which favoured Killeen and after considering taking the case the legal route, it was decided to accept the arbitration award of £416.13s.6d in favour of Killeen, less the bad debts. Early in 1927, the benefit of joining a proposed Central Marketing Scheme was gaining momentum. William Gleeson, Smithfield, Nenagh was appointed to represent Nenagh on a provisional committee. The IAOS was very much in favour of the scheme and actively promoted it among the creameries. It was agreed in principle by the committee in March 1927 to join the scheme, but the signing of any agreement was to be deferred pending further consideration of the details at a further meeting. It was further discussed at the July meeting, but, as the

300,000

In July 1931 there was unanimous agreement to join the scheme. Following further considerable delay before the Scheme came into effect, the society expressed their dissatisfaction with the delay in payment arrangements for the Butter Bounty under the scheme, indicating that they did not consider that the Scheme would benefit the co-op, and in 1935 recorded that their participation in the Scheme was under protest.

Milk Intake 1914 - 1916 257,000

250,000 220,000 200,000

199,000

150,000

The committee met a deputation from Killoscully Creamery in August 1930, comprising of Messrs. James O’Meara, Denis O’Meara and William Bourke and following a long discussion it was agreed to churn cream and market butter for the co-op at 8/6d per cwt.

100,000

0

1914

1915

1916

74

The poor market for butter continued through the later 1920’s with a disastrous fall in the export price for butter. The


Chapter 5: THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS

decline continued into the 1930’s with the average export price for Irish butter falling from 164/9d cwt to 95/4d cwt over a three year period. The seasonality of milk supply was also an issue affecting the manufacture of butter during the off season months of winter, during which butter supplies for the country were imported from Britain to supply the market.

The typical hand churn for home buttermaking which was used on the larger farms in the area before the creameries opened.

As the imports reached 30,000 cwt annually, and the Irish dairy industry went further into recession, the Irish Government responded by imposing a levy of 4d/lb on imported butter in 1931. A field adjoining the creamery was purchased from Mrs Cleary for £100.

taking everything into account. Profitable trading continued through 1934 with the bank overdraft almost cleared by the end of the year, and as profit continued the bank indebtedness was fully cleared in 1936. There was some disappointment that the intake of milk was not showing a larger increase which would benefit the society with the greater spread of overheads.

Financial pressure on the society continued with a decision in 1931 that shareholders sign personal guarantees with the bank for an increase in the overdraft facilities to £5,000, but this was later reduced to £3,500 for which 65 shareholders signed the personal guarantee with the Munster and Leinster Bank Ltd. The signatures were witnessed by P.Coleman, Manager and P. J. Ayres, Assistant Manager. It was proposed that suppliers who had not signed the bank guarantee should be paid 1d. less per lb of butterfat.

The milk price remained depressed, with poor prices being paid to producers for milk, no more than a fraction of previous levels. The society was adapting to the more difficult times, having reduced running costs, and continued their efforts to support the milk price with income from other activities, limited as they were to agricultural trading mainly.

A more successful trading year was reported for 1932 with higher milk intake and an improved profit as part of overall progress for the year. Progress continued into 1933 which was regarded as overall very good 75


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In November 1936 it was decided to build a new store. The contract was given to Michael Droney at £150.

first twenty-four years of operation, the Auditor, WIlliam C. Kenny reported to the committee that sales for the year amounted to £24,682. 16s. 8d. and purchases came to £23,363. 1s. 5d. After charges for salaries, wages, and production expenses and taking into account manufacturing charges received from the auxiliaries there was a gross profit of £545. 9s.8d. After allowing for general expenses and depreciation the Net Profit for the year was £110. 19. 0d. An average price of 5.32d/gallon was paid for milk compared to 4.60d/gallon for the previous year. The average price received for butter was 14.81d/lb compared to 13.03d/ lb for 1937. The balance being carried forward was £2,204. 0s. 7d. Plant and machinery was valued at £2,289. 13s. 3d. and buildings at £2,772. 7s. 6d. The cash in bank was £402. 2s.1d.

After twenty-one years buttermaker, May Mackey retired in 1937 and received a bonus of £10 from the co-op in appreciation of the service she had given. Katie Finneran, Ballygar, Co Galway was appointed buttermaker at a salary of £1.10s.0d per week. In 1938 it was decided to purchase a carrier bicycle for delivering butter to the shopkeepers in the town. At the 1939 AGM, which marked the completion of twenty-five years from the founding of the society and the

The application by Annie Walsh for the transfer of the shares which her husband, E M Walsh, founder of Nenagh Creamery held in the society.

 76

The three outgoing members of the committee were re-elected and Paddy Cooney, Ballyphilip was elected to fill the vacancy created by the death during the previous year of John Cooney, Ballyphillip one of the founding committee members of the creamery.


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

CHAPTER 6

MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

77


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The scales used for weighing the 56lb boxes of butter at the creameries. 78


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

SUCCESS WAS MEASURED BY BENEFITS RETURNED TO FARMERS

T

he catalyst which inspired farmer involvement in the development and operation of co-operative creameries has changed very little over the last one hundred years. Farmers usually rated the success or otherwise of a creamery by the price which was paid for milk and in particular by comparing the milk price they received to that paid by other creameries in the locality or in the region.

spread overhead costs and thereby increase profits. On other occasions the farmers challenged the efficiency of the processing and administration and the requirement to reduce operational costs. Both have, in the past, and to this day, directly influenced the price paid to farmers for milk supplied. It was the motivation which initially drove the desire by farmers to become directly involved in the business of dairying beyond the farm gate over a century ago. The objective which was set out to farmers by

The founding ‘fathers’ of the co-op creameries were driven by the belief that collectively pooling their resources would deliver a higher return for the produce from their farms, and consequently provide a better living for themselves and their families, which would have a spin off benefit to the entire community from the increase in spending power of the farmers. The most common cause of difference and battle between co-operative creameries, through the decades of the past one hundred and twenty years since the first co-op creamery was established, has been in pursuant of a higher milk price. In some instances the up-front issue was the securing of additional milk supply to

An advertisement placed by farmers in the Irish Independent on January 28, 1953 as they prepared for a milk strike over the low price being paid. 79


THE STORY

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Sir Horace Plunkett in the founding of the Co-operative movement, was the benefits that would result to the farmers from controlling their own business.

their milk. Inducements to switch were frequently offered to farmers supplying neighbouring creameries. The antagonism between the proprietary creameries and farmers over the price paid for milk was openly manifest at a meeting of farmers arranging to open a co-operative creamery at Ballinahinch in 1907, which was being built within a few yards of the existing proprietary creamery.

The rapid growth in co-operative creameries, was not matched by a similar scaling up in milk production. Competition for milk supply between the co-ops and the proprietary creameries intensified. There were bitter battles between competing creameries in local areas. These were often decided by milk price, with farmers switching supplies to get the higher returns.

Chairman of the local farmers committee, Rev Fr. E. Murphy, C.C., encouraged the farmers to organise in opposition to the proprietary creamery which he believed would bring “untold blessings and prosperity on the shareholders� in controlling their own creamery.

Farmers living close to the proprietary creamery were often paid a lower milk price on the assumption that they had less opportunity to switch supply, while those on the outer edges of the creamery area were given an incentive to supply

He told them “The Manager goes to a big man living on the border line of his district

A typical morning scene as farmers delivered milk to the creamery. 80


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

The ‘Irish Indepedent’ report on June 14, 1962 that the Government was to increase the price of cigarettes by 1d per packet to pay for an increase in the price of milk to farmers.

and agrees to pay him a half-penny and, perhaps, one-penny more for his milk than he gives to suppliers living near his creamery. Although their milk is as good or perhaps better, he takes the money out of their pockets and gives it to the men living on the border line and just as convenient to other creameries. Now that is a bad system and it is in your hands to change it”.

doing so would be most detrimental to the best interests of this society. (2) That we warn all members of this society not to countenance in any way, the meeting which is to be held to-morrow. Any member, who by his presence, or otherwise supports the said meeting, shall, according to Rule 18, be guilty of conduct detrimental to this society and shall incur expulsion.

Local farmers Peter Ryan, and M. Bourke endorsed everything that Fr Murphy had said as regards the financial gains to be made by leaving the local creameries.

At a subsequent meeting of the farmers, Fr Murphy is reported to have stated “I understand that a large number of shareholders and cow-owners have left a neighbouring creamery, and I am pleased to know that by doing so they had gained financially. I always held, and hold still, that co-operation is the salvation of any country. Look at the farmers’ dairy in Newport. Was it not the means of saving the farmers of the surrounding districts from ruin. See the prices they are paying there. People are not so very foolish as to imagine that those English Companies came into this country as

The following resolutions were unanimously passed - (1) That we highly appreciate the manly spirit shown by several members of this society in leaving the local creamery, which action goes to show that the said creameries are not wanted in the locality, and that we further ask those true co-operators not to again return, no matter what inducements are thrown out, as by 81


THE STORY

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philanthropists; they came and invested their money to make more�.

minimum necessary for maintenance and further development of the society. The ‘setting’ of the milk price was one of the principal items of business on the agenda for the monthly meeting of the farmer board of the co-op.

While the pressure on co-ops to pay higher prices often became a delicate balance between maintaining a viable operation and going into debt, it was more difficult for the proprietary creameries, whose owners were very reluctant to allow profit margins to be eroded by conceding to pay higher milk prices.

Milk intake at Nenagh Creamery commenced in April 1914 and the first milk price to be paid by the society was agreed at a meeting of the committee on May 14. Milk supplied was to be paid for on a butterfat basis. An opening price of one shilling and a half penny per lb of butterfat was set. This was equivalent to about 4d. per gallon, depending on the butterfat level of the milk.

As the co-ops, controlled by farmers, were urged by their colleagues to pay more for milk, the number of proprietary creameries went into decline. Some ceased to operate, because of losses. Others were taken over by the farmers to be run as co-ops. By 1920 the number of proprietary creameries in the country had dropped to 180, compared to 537 which were operating successfully at their peak, a decade and a half earlier.

In August it was decided to charge suppliers 2d per gallon for any additional separated milk purchased over their entitlement of 80% of intake.

The principle of the co-operative creamery was that ownership and control by farmers would return the highest price to farmers for milk, with retained profits kept to a

The Shorthorn cow was the dominant dairy breed on farms in the region during the first half of the 20th century. 82

Non milk suppliers purchasing separated milk would be charged an extra half penny per gallon. Butter milk could be purchased by suppliers at 1d. Per gallon and non suppliers at one and a half pence per gallon. The price of butter sold to suppliers of milk was fixed at 1/0d per lb. It was agreed that the Manager, P. Coleman would receive two lbs of butter per week and half a gallon of new milk per day for which he


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

50

49

Milk Price 1914 - 1951 Pence per gallon (ÂŁ1=240d)

40

39

36 33 30

30

21 20

17 14

12d 10

0

1914 1918 1919 1920 1923 1932 1944 1947 1951

expressed his thanks. The society donated a 56lb box of butter to the War Office in aid of wounded soldiers in hospitals.

at 4.56d/gallon, increased to 5.57d/gallon in 1915 and 7.04d/gallon in 1916. The milk intake for 1914 was 159,543 gallons. The supply increased to 220, 484 gallons in 1915, with a further increase to 256,949 gallons on 1916.

The price to be paid to farmers for milk supplied continued to be decided monthly, varying during the first year between slightly under 1/- per lb butterfat to 1/1d per lb. As 1915 progressed, the milk price was increased by 2d per lb butterfat for June, and a further 2d lb butterfat was paid for September. At the beginning of 1916, the price paid to farmers for milk continued to increase. By the end of 1916, they were being paid 1/11d per lb butterfat.

Early in 1918 the price to be paid for butterfat was increased to 2/6d per lb. Later in the year the price of skim milk was increased to 6d gallon with butter milk to cost 3d gallon, before being reduced to 4d and 2d gallon respectively the following year. Through 1919 the milk price continued to increase reaching 3/- lb butterfat by November. The upward pattern was maintained into 1920, peaking at 3/3d lb butterfat in March, before easing back

During the first three years, there was a steady annual increase in the average milk price paid to farmers. The average for 1914 83


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Front Sarah Canty, Mick Kennedy, George Watkins, Martin Curtis. Back - Tommy Kevin, Michael Boland, and Timmy Collins at Nenagh Creamery.

slightly during mid Summer, ahead of a strong Autumn recovery when the September supply was paid for at 3/6d lb butterfat.

leading to a substantial carry over of butter stock in cold storage into 1926 in the hope of a recovery in demand the price, as the co-op recorded a considerable financial loss for 1925 and the support of the shareholders was required to guarantee overdraft facilities of ÂŁ3,500 provided by the Munster and Leinster Bank Ltd. Sixtytwo suppliers signed personal guarantees on the overdraft with the bank. The milk price paid to suppliers who had not supported the overdraft was reduced by 1d. per lb of butterfat.

Production at the creamery was disrupted during the later months of 1920, after the burning of the plant. When processing resumed in early Summer 1921 the milk price had fallen sharply. The committee fixed the price of May 1920 intake at 1/9d lb butterfat. There was greater volatility for the remainder of the year. The price varied between 1/9d lb butterfat and 2/5d lb butterfat, before falling back to 1/8d lb butterfat in 1922 and in 1923 the suppliers were paid 1/5d lb butterfat.

There had been a rapid expansion in the number of farmer owned creameries established throughout the south of the country. Production was mainly geared towards the Summer months. Butter was the main product and the seasonality of

Towards the end of 1925 there was a serious decline in the market for butter, 84


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

milk supply created major difficulty for the creameries to supply butter during the winter months.

co-op creameries were going deeper into debt, and many were finding it impossible to get credit from the banks, the downturn at Nenagh appeared to have been partly stabilised, although the farmers were receiving lower milk prices.

As milk price came under pressure, the expansion in production on farms eased to around 5% per annum from 1920, when total production of the co-ops was 100 million gallons. The rapid expansion in the number of creameries put further pressure on the individual societies at a time of too many creameries for too little milk to ensure processing costs were economic.

The decision of the Irish Government to set up the semi-state, Dairy Disposal Company (DDC) in 1927 was taken to avert what appeared to be an imminent collapse of sectors of the processing industry.

By 1926, there were 400 co-operatively run creameries, and as further 180 proprietary creameries, 140 of which were owned by the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, which had its headquarters based at Limerick. Many of the Condensed Milk Company creameries were in the Clare, Limerick, North Cork region. They had a major advantage over the farmer owned co-ops with valuable retail outlets in Britain for a range of their products. These creameries also benefited from the economies of scale and central marketing which enabled them to pay a better price for milk.

The DDC had a brief to rescue the ailing creameries, by taking control of their operations. Within the first three years after being established, the DDC had taken over 170 of the private proprietary creameries, which represented more than three quarter of all the operating proprietary creameries in the country. They closed down almost half of them and half of the remaining creameries were transferred to co-operative ownership. The DDC continued to directly operate the balance. The DDC also purchased the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, which operated up to 100 creameries in the Munster area.

Apart from the limited Irish market, the main outlet was the UK export market. Butter was traded by the co-ops through the Cork Butter Market where export agents attended. Nenagh’s Manager, P. Coleman was regarded as very astute at marketing and this was a valuable advantage to the farmers supplying the co-op and the neighbouring creameries for which they had contracted to churn cream and market butter. While

In a further effort to stabilise the overall situation, the Creamery Act 1928, introduced a procedure of licensing for creameries and granted powers to the 85


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Minister for Agriculture to control the establishment of further new creameries. While there was some dissatisfaction from farmers when the Minister for Agriculture refused to allow creameries to be established in areas, where it was felt that the existing facilities were adequate. The control exercised by the Government is believed to have had a major influence on preventing further collapse in the industry.

An extract from his address was published by the IAOS in a promotional leaflet to give encouragement to dairy farmers to boost production. “I myself have only four cows. They are not specifically selected. They came on to me haphazardly from neighbouring farmers around Ennis. Now one of these cows . . . milked in 45 weeks last year over 1,200 gallons. How many cows in Clare bring in £45 a year? or rather how many cows could we not have in Clare yielding that return if we only got into the business with a full heart? My second cow gave 1,198 gallons, and the other two, which were heifers of their first calf, very nearly 1,000 gallons each, with proportional butterfat values. There is no four leaf shamock about the Bishop’s house. There is no earthly reason why the ordinary farmer’s herd, be it big or little, would not reach the same level, instead of crawling on the 400 gallon line. Therefore I say there is money running idle on the land”.

The establishment of the Agricultural Credit Corporation proved a life line for some of the societies. They provided credit facilities for creameries trying to establish in some areas of the country. The co-op’s believed that an increase in the average yield of dairy cows to increase throughput at the plants would be of considerable added benefit to reducing running costs which remained a problem. Herd averages of 400-600 gallons per cow were common. With a short production season peaking during the Summer months, and with the pressure on milk price, farmers felt there was little incentive to cover the cost of increased production. Farmers believed that the milk price did not justify the additional cost of production over an extended season and milk would be uneconomic during the Winter months.

The milk price at Nenagh Creamery continued under pressure over the following years during which suppliers were paid between 1/4d lb butterfat and 1/9d lb butterfat through to 1930, when it was further reduced to 1/- lb butterfat towards the end of the year. In the years leading up to 1931, the Dairy Disposal Company purchased 170 of the independently run proprietary creameries. They closed 79 of them. Of the remainder they retained forty-seven and transferred forty-four to co-operative ownership.

Speaking at the official opening of a new creamery at Scariff in 1927, the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Michael Fogarty told the gathering that he had four cows, two of which were producing an average of nearly 1,200 gallons per annum.

Except for a short period during Spring 1932, when up to 1/6d lb butterfat was 86


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

At the opening of Borrisokane Creamery in 1959. William Gleeson, Dick Tobin, Michael Spain, Michael Delaney, Tom Ryan, Patrick McLoughlin, Pierce Grace, Jerry Moloney, Phil Kennedy, Back row - Michael Walsh, Jack Dagg, Matt Malone, Jer Boland, John Kennedy, Dick Boland, J. A. O’Brien and William O’Brien.

paid, the milk price continued under pressure through most of the thirties during which the suppliers were paid between 11d lb butterfat and 1/2d lb butterfat, which averaged around 4d per gallon, compared to the 14d per gallon equivalent at which the milk price had peaked in 1919.

annual production per cow, which remained low in many herds. This was a cause of concern for the society, affecting the financial outcome of a co-op under pressure to improve profits, when higher overheads had to be carried by throughput lacking previous growth.

While growth in milk production appeared to have moved ahead steadily during the years following the formation of the co-op, encouraged by the milk price and the benefit of the regular monthly income for farmers for up to ten months of the year, the growth stalled after the milk price went into decline. There was less incentive for dairy farmers to increase the size of their herds, or to improve

Through the 1930’s milk price paid to suppliers changed very little with the decade ending at an average of 1/6d lb/ butterfat. There was some improvement in the returns to producers from the early 1940’s. Early in 1944 the price peaked at 2/9d lb/butterfat and continued close to that level until reaching the benchmark of 3/3d lb/bf in July 1947. 87


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At the AGM in 1946, W. Walsh, Chairman reporting another satisfactory year said that milk intake had increased by 13% and the average price paid was 11.27d/gallon, before going on to congratulate the Minister for Agriculture “on his five year plan to encourage dairying although the price paid is in my opinion a bit low - it has at least given us a guaranteed price and the hope that butter rationing may be removed altogether”.

have been paid to farmers for milk during the year. Taking into account the turnover of £116,000 he did not think so. In May 1951, the committee were informed that two suppliers to Killeen Creamery had tendered milk supplies to Nenagh Creamery. J. Gleeson, Manager, Killeen Creamery had called to T. Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Creamery and informed him that if Nenagh Creamery accepted those suppliers, he would get the cream from Killeen sent to another creamery to be manufactured into butter. After a lengthy discussion it was decided to acquaint the Dairy Inspector of the Department of Agriculture to decide whether they should accept or refuse the suppliers. Pending a reply from the Inspector, Nenagh Creamery continued to accept the milk supply.

Mr Delaney, Toomevara said that the Toomevara suppliers were very well pleased with the milk price they were receiving and they were also glad to be amalgamated with Nenagh Creamery. The levy on Toomevara milk suppliers came up for discussion during the year and it was agreed that Toomevara milk suppliers would be paid the same as Nenagh suppliers from the beginning of 1947.

During Autumn 1951 supply was reported to be back by 10,000 gallons/day.

A peak price of 4/1d lb/bf was paid in 1951. The average milk price for the year was estimated at the equivalent of 1/2d/ gallon to producers. There was a sharp drop in production in the 1951-52 period.

Later in the year an opportunity offered for suppliers to improve their returns when Nenagh Creamery was contacted in relation to supplying 6,000 gallons per day to a proposed Chocolate Factory for Limerick. The return to the creamery would be 1/8d per gallon with a further 1d/gallon if the milk was delivered. Discussing the request the committee felt that it would be worth 3d-4d per gallon increase to suppliers, but were under the impression that it may not be feasible as suppliers would not get back the separated milk. It was decided to put the proposition to the suppliers.

The improvement in milk price during the late 1940’s led to a large increase in production. Milk intake was increasing by up to 50% per annum. In the period 19481950 the supply of milk doubled before a sharp drop in 1951. When the audited accounts for 1950 were presented to the AGM on January 22, 1951, M Walsh, Chairman said that some farmers may think that the profit for the year, amounting to £1,119. 12s. 0d. was very large and that a higher price should

The improvement in milk price during the early and mid 1940’s, which encouraged the increase in production, 88


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

resulted in substantial capital investment being made by farmers in infrastructure. Figures compiled from returns from the farmer co-ops showed that loan facilities to suppliers which stood at £573,836 in 1948 had almost doubled to £915,032 by 1951. Farmers were under pressure and milk cheques were shrinking as co-op were forced to withhold some of the returns on milk supplies to reduce the indebtedness of individual farmers, a practice normally applied during the peak months of supply.

possible manner. The meeting was chaired by W. Gleeson, Chairman and a resolution of condemnation proposed by Michael Walsh and Seconded by R. Boland was passed unanimously. The resolution read “We the members of Nenagh Co-operative Creamery Ltd., view with alarm the recent statement of the Minister for Agriculture in the Dail of a fixed price of 1/- per gallon of milk. The dairy industry is only getting on its feet after the War Years and any lowering of the price now would be completely detrimental to the industry. We are of the opinion that the dairy industry should not be subsidised, but the unfortunate facts remain that until production per cow is sufficiently increased (by the new Milk Testing Scheme and possibly Artificial Insemination) that the industry cannot possibly stand on its own feet unless a higher price for butter is allowed. Production costs are still increasing and the new Social Security Plan will place further strain on it”.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) was founded in 1950 as the representative organisation for dairy farmers.

The price paid to farmers was largely under the control of the Department of Agriculture through the subsidy which was paid to creameries.

The committee directed that the resolution be sent to the Minister for Agriculture and to each T.D. representing North Tipperary. It was also agreed that members of the committee should get in touch with the County Committee of Agriculture to express their concern.

Dairy farmers anxiously awaited the budget announcements in March each year of the milk price for the year forward. The decision of the then Minister for Agriculture, James Dillon TD to reduce the price of milk by 2/d/gallon in the 1950 Budget led to outrage among farmers.

Farmer anger at the Government decision to reduce the price of milk was widespread. Dairy farmers felt that they were being victimised by the Government. They were working a seven day, 70 hour week to produce milk for which they were being paid less than 2d per pint. Progress in dairy expansion stagnated.

A Special Meeting of the Committee of Nenagh Creamery was held on March 16, 1950 to condemn the action of the Minister for Agriculture in the strongest 89


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The revolt against James Dillon, TD Minister for Agriculture in the coalition Government was palpable with the farmers claiming that his “cheap food policy” was a replica of the UK Government policy and was not matched by control on the cost of farm inputs.

The formation of a branch structure made rapid progress and there was a developing united voice by farmers for a better deal. In September 1950, the Nenagh committee became aware that Cloncannon Creamery was closing down. T. Ryan, Manager, visited the creamery to asses the milk supply. He advised the committee against taking over same owing to the small quantity of milk they received and no prospects of any increase. After discussion it was decided to take no action in relation to the creamery. The farm drive for expansion in milk production had been badly damaged by the affect of the “poor” milk price.

There was an uprising by farmers for an united challenge to the Minister’s policy. But they lacked organisational structure. Farmers from many parts of the country met at the Town Hall, Nenagh on May 24, 1950 at which it was unanimously decided that a national farmers organisation to challenge the Government should be formed. The meeting had a letter of support from John Lee, Federated Creameries Association.

Although there was a change in the Minister for Agriculture in 1951, after the outgoing Government lost office and a Kilkenny man, Thomas Walsh, TD became the Minister for Agriculture in the new Government, the farmer campaign on milk price continued, and was gaining strength outside of the Munster base.

Arising from this meeting came the formation of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association at a meeting at Cruises Hotel, Limerick on July 8, 1950.

Although there was some response to the growing anger of farmers with an increase of 2d/gallon in the milk price in 1951, the organised “farmer power” was increasing in determination to pursue their main objective of an economic milk price.

The Irish Independent report on January 23, 1953 that rationing is hitting the cities as farmers withhold milk supplies. 90

In August 1952 following the lifting of rationing it was decided that a lower milk price should be


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

paid during the Summer months so as to accumulate funds to pay a higher price during the winter months.

should be called to “give their decision if a strike should take place”. W. O’Brien proposed and E. Clerihan seconded that the creamery should close, but following further discussion it was agreed to allow a representative of the ICMSA to outline its views at the shareholders meeting before taking a decision

The milk price drop which was the catalyst that had inspired the formation of the ICMSA remained central as the new movement of farmers became very vocal in securing a better deal. The ICMSA set a demand that Irish farmers be paid at least 2/- gallon. Farmers in Northern Ireland and the UK were receiving 2/8d/gallon.

R. Spain informed the committee that he had received instructions from his solicitor that the creamery could not close unless with the approval of the shareholders. It was decided to hold a special meeting on January 22 at 7.30 pm to make a decision.

The early message from the ICMSA was “The producers of essential foods are not prospering but are being sunk in debt and fleeing the land. Abolish the Department. Let the farmer run his own business”.

The meeting was attended by more than fifty shareholders. It was proposed by Thomas Power and seconded by J. Moloney that in the event of a strike the creamery remain open to accept milk.

Support for the ICMSA continued to spread. The organisation would be financed by a contribution of £1 per cow per annum from each farmer collected through the creamery with the authority of the individual farmer.

There was a counter proposal by R. Kennedy, seconded by R. Spain that the creamery accept no milk in a national strike situation. On a show of hands the anger of the farmers at the milk price and support for the action being taken by the ICMSA from the shareholders present overwhelmingly supported the closing of the creamery with only two votes in favour of the creamery remaining open to accept milk.

In January 1953 the committee discussed a letter from the ICMSA which outlined plans by the association for a national milk strike in their efforts to secure an increase in the price of milk for producers. Following a lengthy discussion it was decided on the proposition of Mr Boland, seconded by Mr Cooney that a special meeting of the shareholders

Following the decision, T. Ryan, Manager, outlined to the shareholders that owing to the creamery being licensed by the Department of Agriculture if any farmer tendered his milk at the creamery platform it would have to be accepted. Otherwise the creamery may lose the licence. It was agreed that if any supplier tendered milk it would be accepted. 91


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R. Spain instructed “that every milk supplier to Nenagh and Toomevara creameries be notified that the strike was on”. There was further discussion on the closure of the creamery at a meeting of the committee the following week. R. Spain strongly advocated that the creamery close.

Sectional interests were divided on support for the farmers proposed action. A Dublin Branch of Clann na Poblachta sent a telegram to the Minister for Agriculture asking him to take immediate action to protect the people of the cities from “the criminal threat to their health and lives”. The Cork Branch of the Irish housewives Association sent telegrams to the Minster protesting against any increase in the milk price.

The minutes of the meeting reads “The committee went into the matter very fully and they decided to close the creamery so as to enable them to get the repairs carried out as laid down by the Inspector in Nenagh and Toomevara Creameries”.

L. de Courcy, Chairman, Limerick and Clare Milk Producers, who supplied 60 per cent of the milk to Limerick City said that their members would continue to supply retailers of milk in the city. However within a few days Frank Hayes, Secretary, Limerick and Clare Milk Producers Association was reported as stating that “all members of the Association endorse the view that the present price of creamery milk is entirely inadequate”.

It was decided that most of the repair work could be carried out by the staff. It was also decided that the committee would not be represented at a meeting arranged by ICMSA for Mallow on their plans for the strike. On January 20, 1953, Liam Barry, Kilmallock, secretary of the Federated Milk Producers Association travelled to Dublin to meet the Government and inform them that milk producers all over Munster had made arrangements for an immediate stoppage of milk supplies, unless they conceded the demanded increase in the milk price.

The first phase of the threatened milk strike took place on January 21 when farmers supplying milk to the Dairy Disposal Board Creameries in Clare, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork and Kerry withheld supplies.

He said “If the producers were asked to wait until May for any increases to become effective it would be unacceptable to the federation. Last year the Government promised a review of prices up to the end of April, and then at the end of April they decided to give no increase whatsoever. Because of that the Government had reduced milk production in the creamery areas to the extent that they had to spend money on butter imported from New Zealand”.

On January 27 uniformed gardai were called to patrol the Department of Agriculture farm at Dunsany, Co Meath following an incident in which a number of churns were overturned and the milk spilled. It was reported that ten men were involved in the incident. The farm usually supplied about 26 gallons of milk per day to Dublin City. Milk producers inserted a large advertisement in the Irish Independent 92


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

Farmers protest at Limerick over the price being paid for milk.

on January 28, 1953 to point out to the consumers that in 1948 farmers were paid 3d per gallon for milk. The price in 1953 was no more than a half penny per gallon more. They were asking that the price be increased to four and a half pennies per gallon. “Are we unreasonable?�, they asked.

down until a satisfactory price for milk was achieved was passed by representatives of 105 creameries at the meeting. Nenagh Creamery was not represented by decision of the committee. The outcome of the Mallow meeting was discussed at a committee meeting on February 7 at which a request from ICMSA for payment of members subscriptions to be association to establish a fighting fund. On the proposition of R. Boland, seconded by E. Clerihan it

Having failed to make progress with the Government through peaceful negotiations the ICMSA held a meeting at Mallow on January 31, 1953 to decide on an all out strike. A resolution that all creameries close 93


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During the winter months of 1961-62, Nenagh supplied whole milk to Thurles Creamery and Newtownsandes Creamery, on the Limerick-Kerry border. Milk suppliers were paid 1d/gallon extra to compensate for receiving half the normal return of separated milk. At the Annual General Meeting 1962 there was overall satisfaction at the progress being made. Average milk price for the previous year was three-quarters penny more than the average for dairy creameries. The creamery recorded another successful year. The formation of a new dairy produce marketing board, An Bord Bainne was discussed by the committee at a meeting on January 1, 1961. It was outlined to the meeting that any group of six creameries could nominate a member for election to the new board. Each creamery would be entitled to vote for two of the nominees.

Teresa Canty, Katheen Droney and Alice Ryan, members of the staff at Nenagh Creamery.

They were advised that “the new board would have a lot of authority and could fix levies etc on milk and considerable thought should be given to the selection of the most suitable candidates”.

was agreed that a cheque for £100 be forwarded to the ICMSA. Farmers withheld milk supplies for 16 days forcing the restoration of the milk price cut and an increase which gave suppliers 5d/ gallon more than the condemned Minister James Dillon plan.

Three months later it became clearer that the structure of the new board was set to divide along farming organisational lines. Separate deputations from ICMSA and NFA attended the April 1961 meeting, seeking the voting support of the creamery for their respective candidates.

This was the first time that milk suppliers had combined their strength nationally in a price demand.

The ICMSA deputation consisted of Messrs R. Ryan, Cashel, T. Ryan, Birdhill, P. Tims, Thurles and Ralph Ryan, Borrisoleigh. The meeting was addressed by 94


Chapter 6: MILK PRICE BECAME THE CATALYST

R. Ryan, Cashel on the importance of the new board and asked for support for John Feely, Fedamore, Co Limerick.

amounted to £1,434. 11s. 8d. It was decided that the creamery would make the payment to An Bord Bainne from profits and that no deduction would be made from milk suppliers.

The NFA deputation comprised of Messrs P. Kennedy, Killyloughnane, P. Duggan, Nenagh, P. J. Hogan and F. Darcy. P. Kennedy and P. Duggan addressed the meeting seeking support for the election of P. I. Meagher, Cahir, Co Tipperary.

In June 1963, the committee decided not to pay an increase of .375d per gallon levy to An Bord Bainne pending further information. There was growing conflict between the creameries and the new An Bord Bainne. In August the creameries were notified by the Department of Agriculture that from September 1, 1963 it would become a condition of the payment to creameries of the Government subsidy of 2d/gallon that they had met their full obligations to An Bord Bainne. A meeting of the Dairy Industry Committee was convened for Limerick on August 24 to consider the matter. Nenagh Creamery was invited to send two delegates to the meeting.

Following a discussion on An Bord Bainne, J. Dagg proposed that the committee support the election of John Feely. J. Gleeson proposed and R. Tobin seconded the committee vote for P. I. Meagher. A show of hands resulted P. I. Meagher 11 votes, John Feely, 8 votes. While the formation of An Bord Bainne was regarded as positive, the decision in 1962 to impose a levy of 1d per gallon on milk supply to fund the new organisation did meet with some disapproval. The Dairy Industry Committee convened a meeting at Limerick on May 19, 1962 at which it was decided that creameries would withhold payment of the levy until a deputation was received by An Taniste and Minister for Agriculture.

T. Ryan, Manager informed the committee that An Bord Bainne had ceased to pay for the butter supplied. They were now owed over £63,000. A. O’Brien and T. Ryan, Manager were appointed to attend the meeting at Limerick with instructions that if the dispute was not resolved that Nenagh Creamery would have to settle with An Bord Bainne or they would have to borrow money to replace the money owed by An Bord Bainne and they would also lose the subsidy of 2d/gallon.

The Nenagh Committee considered the decision of the Dairy Industry Committee and on the proposal of M. Walsh, seconded by M. Spain it was decided that the payment of the levy be withheld temporarily and they support the decision of the Dairy Industry Committee.

The financial pressure on Nenagh creamery was eased when An Bord Bainne paid the outstanding account. The Dairy Industry Committee at the Limerick meeting

In June the committee were informed that the levy for the period May 14-31 95


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adopted a resolution that the levy to An Bord Bainne be withheld and on the proposal of A. O’Brien, seconded by R. Tobin, the Nenagh Committee agreed to support the Dairy Industry Committee.

the ICMSA in demand for a milk price increase from the Government, threatening the action would be supported by 100,000 dairy farmers. In June, the Minister for Finance, Dr Ryan announced to the Dail that an increase of 1d was being placed on a packet of 20 cigarettes with effect from midnight to finance an increase of 1d per gallon on the milk price to the farmers effective on milk supplied after June 1. The cost to the Government of the milk price increase was estimated at £1,300,000 in a full year.

The dispute with An Bord Bainne continued. In October, John Feely, Secretary, Dairy Industry Committee informed the committee of Nenagh Creamery that a meeting had been held with the Minister for Agriculture, and the 2d/gallon subsidy was now going to be withheld from creameries unless the levy to An Bord Bainne was paid, but the Dairy Industry Committee requested that the levy be withheld until the matter was clarified.

The following day, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith TD told the Dail that there was no rowing back on the imposition of the Dairy Board levy. He said that the Department had a statutory function “to strike a levy that would bring in the equivalent of one third of the expected losses on the sale of dairy produce on the export market”

Simultaneously with the clash over the Dairy Board levy there was a repeat of the strike action on milk supplies which had occurred in March 1953. The significant difference was that the National Farmers Association which had been formed in 1955 was adding their strength to that of



96


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

CHAPTER 7

CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

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The Friesian breed introduced on dairy farms in the 1950’s and 1960’s were to dominate as the future breed for milk production. 98


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

WORLD WAR II BRINGS RATIONING, MILK SHORTAGES, AND MANAGEMENT CHANGES

T

he war clouds were beginning to gather over Europe as the society commenced the second quarter of a century of operation in 1939. Dairy farming had become well established in the region, concentrated mainly east and south of the town of Nenagh. Most of the farmers had acquired ownership of their farms and the bulk of the milk produced was being processed by farmer controlled co-operative creameries. There had been a proliferation in the establishment of co-op run creameries. Centres remained under pressure to secure enough throughput for viability. The increase in milk production on the farms had not matched the expansion of the dairy processing sector.

too, were becoming more organised and assertive and apart from the setting of the milk price each month, demands for wage increases became a regular item on the agenda for the monthly meetings, many of the demands being made by groups of the workers. Although Ireland remained a neutral country from direct involvement, the affect of World War II was felt in the country during the early 1940’s, a period widely referred to as the ‘emergency’. Farmers had to comply with compulsory tillage with a defined percentage of their arable land required to be put under the plough as a safeguard to maintaining food supplies. Rationing of food supplies was introduced by the Government and was strictly enforced.

The early 1940’s was a relatively quiet period within Nenagh Co-op. The Department of Agriculture was exercising more control over the running of creameries, with the introduction of more regulations and legislation for the dairy industry. The approval of the Department of Agriculture was required for most of the major investments by creameries in structure or equipment and for senior staff appointments. The Irish Creamery Managers Association had also become a stronger controlling influence. Employees

In February 1943 a shortage of butter in Nenagh forced the co-op to apply to the Department of Agriculture for a ‘couple of hundred boxes’ to relieve the situation. 99


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In the Autumn of 1945 Nenagh Urban Council requested and received the approval of the committee for the supply of five gallons of new milk per day from November 12 for school meals.

to get under rationing. Nationally, butter supplies remained tight during the winter of 1951. Nenagh Creamery supplied butter to Dublin and Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim to relieve the shortage. There was an easing of the situation in 1952. Milk production nationally had continued to increase. Butter was the principal product being manufactured from milk. The buttermaker, or dairymaid as they were commonly referred to, was a key position within creameries. By wage standards at the time it was a well paid job. A majority of buttermakers employed by local creameries were women.

The supply of new milk for human consumption came under pressure at various periods and especially during the peak winter months. The situation became particularly acute during the winter of 1946, when the manager, P. Coleman reported to the committee that “the milk situation here in Nenagh is getting very serious as regards shortage of milk for the people of the town” and he was instructed to consult with Thurles Creamery to ascertain if additional supplies could be sourced. A year later, in January 1948, the committee received a request from the Department of Agriculture to send any surplus new milk to Dublin for which they would be paid the premium price of 3/4 (three quarters) d/gallon. Initially it was decided not to send any owing to the shortage which was also being experienced in Nenagh, but the decision was later reviewed and it was agreed to send 40 gallons per week to relieve the shortage in Dublin.

There were thirteen applications for a position as dairymaid, to replace Johanna Minogue. Brigid Lenihan was appointed at a wage of 45/- per week. By the end of 1952, Nenagh as well as other centres had surplus supplies on hand for which they did not have a ready market. It was decided that all surplus butter should be sold to the Butter Marketing Committee. At the same time the purchase of a pasteurisation plant, for the sale of new milk, was under discussion with approval of the committee for the expenditure of up to £240 on the purchase of a used plant to enable new milk to be sold in the town. As the equipment on offer was no longer available or considered unsuitable progress on pasteurisation was put into abeyance.

The rationing of butter continued for some years following the end of World War II in 1945. In March 1951 the committee decided that all “un-rationed” butter produced should be kept for milk suppliers to the creamery. In May 1951 communication was received from the Department sanctioning that each milk supplier could receive an extra quarter pound of butter, in addition to the half pound per week, which they were entitled

The stable growth of the creamery over the first three decades of operation had established a sound financial position. In 1951 it was decided that committee members should be reimbursed for out of 100


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

pocket expenses for attending meetings. Recompense was fixed at 10/- per meeting. In 1957 it was increased to £1. 0s. 0d. per meeting.

A Special Meeting of the Committee was called for Tuesday January 2, 1945 to consider the actions necessary. The meeting was chaired by William Walsh, with an almost full attendance of Committee Members, John Spain, William Gleeson, R. Chadwick, M. Starr, D. Darcy, J. Dillon, G. Boland, K. Boland, D. Cleary, J. Kennedy, and J. Cooney being present. There was a sense of shock and sadness at the unexpected sudden loss of their esteemed first manager.

Nenagh Co-op had benefited from three decades of progress under the management of P. Coleman, since the founding of the co-op in 1914 and his appointment as the first manager. There had been steady growth in milk intake, development of the society, and annual profit. Committee meetings during 1945 were brief, many comprising of no more than one item on the agenda, the fixing of the price of milk. All that was about to change as Christmas 1945 approached and the committee dispersed to celebrate the festive season, with the exchange of seasonal good wishes, to conclude their December meeting a few days before the yuletide.

Having expressed sympathy to Mrs Coleman and her family on their great loss, a loss which was also being shared by the society which he had loyally served, it was decided to request that a Novena of Masses be offered for the repose of his soul, and they proceeded to make interim management changes a priority. Patrick J. Ayres, was unanimously appointed Secretary to the co-op and it was decided to advertise nationally for a new manager.

The unexpected death during Christmas 1945 of the manager, P. Coleman came as a great shock. His passing marked a milestone, having served 31 years as manager.

Thirty-three applications were received and after an elimination process, John J. Ryan was appointed by 8 votes to 3 for J. McKenna at a committee meeting on February 16, 1945. His appointment was initially for a two year period at a salary of £200 p.a.

He left behind him a well established and successful co-op, in a strong position both structurally and financially as a monument to his prudent management.

The new manager settled in well. At the AGM in 1946, John J. Ryan was complimented by the committee on the continued progress of the society.

What the committee could not have anticipated was the extent of change which they were about to experience.

Addressing the meeting the chairman, W. Walsh said “It is with great pleasure 101


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£1,100 £1,000 £900 £800

£1,120

£1,700

1950

1953

Profit at Nenagh Co-op 1914-1953 £700

£700 £600

£546

£500 £400 £300 £200

£262 £110

£100

£100 0

1914

1915

1923

1939

that I present the report on our activities for the past year - 1945. Our turnover has increased by £20,000 and after paying an average price of 11.27d/gallon for milk, our net profit is almost £700. We extended our sphere of activities during the year by amalgamating with Toomevara and although this did not take place until July 1 you will be glad to learn that the shareholders in that district are very pleased with the price returned to them and we hope to get an increased supply there during the coming season. Due to the favourable weather supplies in Nenagh increased by 13%. The Minister for Agriculture is to be congratulated on his five year plan to encourage dairying although the price paid is, in my opinion, a bit low he has at least given a guarantee”.

1945

had intensified. He had been informed that another creamery was offering ‘cut price’ butter to the shops in Nenagh to secure an increase in their sales of butter. He had visited this unnamed creamery and indicated that Nenagh Creamery would reduce the charge to auxiliaries for churning butter and undermine their milk supply if the supply of ‘cut price’ butter continued. He advised the committee that agreement was reached for the creamery to cease the practice of undermining the butter price. However, more change was on the way.

This was to be the last time for John J. Ryan to present an Annual Report to the committee, before he passed to his Eternal Reward.

In March 1946, J. J. Ryan, Manager advised the committee that competition to secure retail outlets for butter sales 102


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

Unforeseeably, his term as manager was destined to be extremely short - the shortest in the history of the co-op. It would also be the last time for the Chairman, W. Walsh to preside at an agm before he resigned from the position.

following a process of elimination of the lowest candidates there was a head to head between A. McCarthy and T. Ryan. The ballot resulted in a tie at 7 votes each. Thomas Ryan was selected on the casting vote of the chairman, W. Walsh. His appointment was then proposed by W. Gleeson, seconded by J. Kennedy. The position would carry a salary of £300 per annum, with a requirement to provide a Fidelity Bond of £1,000, which could be reduced after a year.

On Friday, January 10, 1947, almost two years after his appointment, the committee made the position of John J. Ryan as manager of the society permanent. They were extremely pleased with his performance as manager and were very complimentary to him for his role in the continued progress of the creamery. Six weeks later they were mourning his unexpected passing. When the committee met on Monday February 24, 1947, the Chairman, . W. Walsh leading a vote of condolence to the wife and family of John J. Ryan said “We the Committee of Management of Nenagh Co-op Creamery Ltd have learned with profound regret of the death of our manager, John J. Ryan and mourn the loss of a loyal and devoted official, whose ability, training and fidelity is proved in the continued success and expansion of the creamery since his appointment. To all of us he was a kind and sincere friend”.

Ironically this was to be the last meeting over which William Walsh would preside as chairman of the co-op. When the committee met on March 18, 1947 they had before them a letter of resignation from William Walsh who outlined his wish to vacate the chairmanship in favour of “a younger member” after serving in the position for 26 years. He was succeeded by William Gleeson, Smithfield who became the third chairman of the co-op.

A special meeting of the committee was convened on March 6, 1947 to appoint a successor from a short list of eight from the 32 applications received. Voting was by secret ballot. On the third ballot,

Dick Tobin, Tom Ryan, John O’Brien and J Hanly. Bernie Tobin, Peg Ryan, Anne O’Brien, Bridget Hanly. 103


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The popular ‘Fergie 20’ tractor which brough mechanisation to farms in the late 1940’s, as the first tractor to replace the horse on the farms.

Patrick J. Ayres served as secretary of the co-op for the following 11 years until his death was mourned in February 1956. He had completed 38 years employment with the creamery.

issued by the Department of Agriculture in September. Earlier in the year, Killeen Creamery had applied to have cream churned and the butter sold by Nenagh. A contract at 17/cwt of butter was agreed.

The success of Nenagh Co-Op was being closely observed by farmers in the wider North Tipperary region from the early 1940’s.

By the Autumn butter stocks had increased considerably. The August meeting was asked to approve an overdraft from the bank because of the stocks of unsold butter being stored by the co-op. R. Boland proposed and R. Chadwick seconded that the stocks of butter be handed over to the bank in lieu of security if the creamery required an overdraft.

An approach from Toomevara Creamery in March 1945 to discuss amalgamation with Nenagh, led to approval at the special shareholder meetings in April and May, and the licence for the amalgamation was

The quality of the butter being produced received recognition in the Autumn when first and sixth places were awarded following 104


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

a Department of Agriculture Butter Inspection. Two months later, following a further inspection, 600 boxes of butter were selected for export to the Continent, the first direct export of Nenagh butter.

of box wood had gone very high. They were told that other creameries had increased their charges to meet the extra costs. G. Boland proposed and R. Boland seconded that the charge to auxiliaries should be increased by 3/- per cwt to £1 per cwt.

There was some concern that as the stock of butter increased a shortage of butter boxes could result. To avoid a shortage, Nenagh Creamery purchased 2,000 butter boxes at 3/- each in February 1946.

Mr Power, Manager, Toomevara Creamery informed the committee that he was taking up another position in Limerick on October 1, 1946. It was decided that Paddy Ayres would take his place at Toomevara and if further assistance was required, Martin Minihan, be appointed.

As a cost saving measure, a proposal by W. Gleeson that the printing of the annual balance sheet be discontinued in favour of displaying copies at Nenagh and Toomevara Creameries was approved by a majority of 9 votes for to 2 against. The saving to the creamery was £8 - £10 per year.

As the labour force employed by the creamery increased, the individual demands for wage increases were being replaced by a more collective approach by the staff during the mid 1940’s. Before the end of the decade the Labour Court had communicated with the co-op for the first time to instruct on wage increases and the introduction of compulsory annual leave and days off.

M. Walsh, Chairman, told the AGM in January 1951 that he had been informed by T. Ryan, Manager that stocks of all kinds were very scarce and in view of the troubled situation of the world he had ordered supplies of butter boxes and parchment to meet expected requirements for about three years. “The coal situation is very critical. Supplies for about a year have been ordered and promised. This should keep us going until turf is plentiful”, he told the meeting.

The court directed that workers were entitled to 12 days off with pay per annum in addition to 7 days annual leave.

An increase in the annual dividend of 5% or the issue of bonus shares to those with fully paid up shares was raised and it was suggested that amending the rules changes should be considered if necessary to effect change.

The committee decided that in addition to Bank Holidays and Church Holy Days off, the additional days could be accommodated by allowing four days per annum during the slack months of the year. For the future, wages increases in general would be determined by collective applications from the general work force,

In April 1951, the committee were advised of the requirement to increase charges for buttermaking to auxiliaries because the cost 105


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individual applications from skilled and management employees and resulting from decisions of the Labour Court.

recognition of the amount of travelling which the job then required.

A new car was purchased for £300 and the conditions were that a detailed account of the expenses for running the car be presented to the committee each year. The cost of running the car for the first year amounted to £139. 2s.0d.

In April 1961 measures were considered by the committee to reduce ‘suffering’ to suppliers in the event of a national strike which was threatened by assistant managers and branch managers in lieu of a pay increase which was being pursued on their behalf by the Irish Creamery Managers Association. The IAOS represented the co-ops. Disruption to the operations was averted when the committee accepted a recommendation from the Labour Court that Assistant Managers received an increase of 44%-47% bringing their weekly pay to £13-£17 per week, and branch managers to receive an increase of 31%-35% giving them a weekly income of £11-£12 per week.

The following year the cost increased to £167.16s.4d. As the management role within the creamery expanded with the branch structure, in 1962 the Irish Creamery Managers Association requested that the salaries and terms which applies within the Dairy Disposal Company creameries should be applied to their members employed by the co-op creameries. The Nenagh committee conceded to the request which determined pay rates in relation to the turnover and milk intake.

With the exception of this round of larger than normal increases, the wage increases for staff were decided by a combination of Labour Court general increases for specific categories of workers and individual awards by the committee. Over the decades the amount of increase granted changed from 2/6d per week to £1 per week. The committee rarely refused an application for an increase, but regularly reduced the amount sought by up to 50%. They were generally very supportive of a loyal and dedicated staff, which had but few exceptions to that principle.

Central Creameries with turnover of £300,000 - £500,000 would pay a salary sale of £672 per annum with eleven annual increments of £38 to First Assistant category managers and £634 with eleven annual increments of £38 to Second Assistant Managers.

Increases for management were up to £100 per annum. T. Ryan , Manager, who was appointed in 1947 at a salary of £300 per annum increased to £1,700 per annum by 1963. In 1959 the committee agreed to provide a ‘free’ car to the Manager in

Branch managers would be paid by ratio to the peak daily intake of milk ranging 106


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

At the retirement of milk collection driver, T Heenan were (Front) M Mulcahy, T Heenan, Ml Hogan, J Gibson, S Gibson (Back) S O’Donoghue, C Grace, O McCarthy, TP Sullivan, P Collins, P Fahy, N Armitage, and J Hogan.

from an annual salary of £524 at intake of 600-2,400 gallons to £604 for intake of over 4,200 gallons. Annual increments were fixed at £20 per annum.

addition to the usual ration of a half pound. By September the decline in milk intake had doubled to 10,000 gallons per month. However the decline proved to be temporary and in June 1952 a recovery of 10,000 gallons per month was reported.

Milk intake doubled between 1948 and 1950. Both herd size and production were increasing. More farmers were converting to dairying. Turnover for 1950 for the combined Nenagh and Toomevara Creameries showed an increase of 50% and a net profit of £1,119. 12s. 0d.

Butter scarcity and rationing had led to many families using margarine as a replacement.

The following year proved a difficult one for milk production and the general economy. Butter supplies were scarce and rationing continued. Butter wrapping was also experiencing short supply. Wood prices for butter boxes rocketed and stockpiling was taking place to avoid a shortage at the creamery. By April intake had dropped 5,000 gallons per month. In May the Department of Agriculture gave approval for each milk supplier to received a quarter pound of butter, in

In 1954, as butter became more freely available with increased production there was concern from the Irish Creamery Managers Association who sought support for an increase in advertising for butter to counteract the replacement of butter with margarine. The milk intake was further boosted with Duharra Co-op shareholders voting for amalgamation with Nenagh in December 107


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1953. By the end of 1953 the annual intake of milk had reached 1.5 million gallons and annual profits had topped £1,700. The shareholders of Killeen Co-op voted for amalgamation in April 1954. A branch at Borrisokane was opened in September 1959 with 256 suppliers and daily intake of 1,500 gallons.

was approved in August. By the end of 1955 arrangements were being made for the official opening of the pasteurising plant. An invitation to perform the official opening was issued to the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister was unavailable and it was decided on the proposition of M. Delaney, seconded by G. Boland not to have an official ceremony “owing to the cost” involved.

The committee was divided on furthering plans for a liquid milk plant for Nenagh Creamery when the proposition came before them in November 1953. T. Ryan, Manager outlined that the purchase of a second hand plant and the erection of a new building would cost in the region of £6,000. Mr O’Brien proposed and Mr Dillon seconded that they proceed as outlined. This was opposed by W. Gleeson and W. Walsh. They were appealed to, to “fall into line” with the other members and left the meting for a brief discussion. When they returned they regretted that they could not support the plans outlined, but wished the project every success. On a vote there was ten in favour and two against going ahead with the liquid milk plant. The following month it was decided to defer immediate plans for the plant “until such time as an E.C. grant was available”.

Interest in the sales of pasteurised milk in the Nenagh area was considerable. The committee refused a request from three local outlets, for a monopoly on sales and decided that pasteurised milk should be available to all outlets selling Nenagh Creamery butter. Demand for pasteurised milk exceeded expectations. Such were the level of sales in Borrisokane and Birr areas that the purchase of an additional truck had to be considered and the manager informed the committee that he had an inquiry from Tullamore for the supply of 100 gallons per day. Further development of the latter established that the provision by Nenagh of storage facilities was required by the outlet in Tullamore at a cost of £500, because Dublin Dairies, who were also interested in the market were willing to provide such. The Nenagh committee declined. Dublin did not supply the market. Later Nenagh milk was supplied to another outlet in Tullamore as being “more reliable”.

The installing of a pasteurising plant for new milk being sold was back on the agenda again early in 1954 with the cost estimated at £8,000. Approval was refused by the Department of Agriculture unless a second platform for the separate intake of the milk was provided. Revised plans had to be agreed with the Department of Agriculture inspectorate. The tender of Messrs Spain and Dwan, Builders, of £3,495 for the erection of the building

As milk supplied to the bottling plant was required to have a minimum of 3% butterfat and as only the morning’s milk was used for bottling it was essential in the Springtime to add cream to the milk. 108


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

plant. By January 1958 only three or four of the 50 suppliers to the plant had registered and a meeting of the suppliers was called to explain the seriousness of the pending situation for both the creamery and the farmers, if milk supplies had to be rejected on April 1. With some leniency from the Department of Agriculture and extra effort by the farmers a majority of the suppliers met the required standards.

There was a severe drought throughout the summer of 1959. Milk intake at the creamery dropped from 2,800 gallons/day to 1,800 gallons/day.

The auditors report for 1938 which was published in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ on May 6, 1939.

The bottling plant came under severe pressure with milk intake dropping to 400 gallons per day.

“The farmers are wronging themselves” the committee highlighted and in March 1956 it was decided that 1d/gallon more should be paid for milk supplied to the bottling plant, introducing a premium price for milk being supplied for the liquid market for the first time.

Thereafter the milk supply continued to increase over the next decade. So did the interest from traditional sheep, tillage and dry stock farmers in switching to milk production. The expansion by Nenagh Creamery up to the mid 1950’s was through amalgamations. Nenagh Creamery had become well established among dairy farmers - and those interested in changing to dairying - over the wider area of North Tipperary and beyond as the way forward for milk processing.

The following year, suppliers to the liquid market faced another challenge when it was decided by the Department of Agriculture that all farmers supplying milk to the liquid trade would have to be registered. Farm standards to qualify for registration were set and a deadline of March 31, 1958 for completion of registration.

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Nenagh Committee received requests and met deputations from several farmer groups and locations asking for

The cost of meeting the standards was a challenge not anticipated by the majority of the farmers supplying milk to the bottling 109


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creameries to be built in their areas. These included Borrisokane, Cloughjordan, Eglish, Roscrea, Banagher, Killimor, Birr, Shinrone, and Rath. An old disused creamery was purchased at Borrisokane, renovated and opened in September 1959 with 256 suppliers delivering 1,500 gallons per day and increasing rapidly to a daily intake of 4,500 gallons from 450 suppliers in the area. The purchase of a green field site at Killimor, Co Galway in 1963, marked a further beginning for Nenagh Creamery as they laid plans for the building of a branch creamery for the first time in almost half a century since the central at Nenagh was built. The pressure from farmers in the other areas was consistent and continuously under review at the monthly meetings of the committee.

The auditors report for 1939 published on April 13, 1940 in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’.

By the Golden Jubilee in 1963 the intake had quadrupled to 6 million gallons per annum with turnover reaching £5,000,000. Milk price paid to producers had increased from 4.56d/gallon in 1914, to 20.26d/ gallon half a century later.

While the earlier efforts at centralised marketing had made a contribution in their time, and the individual creameries were constantly endeavouring to establish new market outlets, particularly on the export side, there was an overall consciousness for a more coherent structure for the future.

Butter remained the sole product being produced by the creameries. The milk price was totally dependent on the return from the market for butter. As production increased nationally the demand for a co-ordinated market became more apparent as did the necessity to develop more and improved export markets for butter.

The formation of the semi-state An Bord Bainne in 1962, which replaced the Butter Marketing Committee (BMC), was a welcome development. The organisation would have direct representation from the industry, and farm organisations. It was envisaged that “the new board would have a lot of authority and could fix levies etc on milk 110


Chapter 7: CHALLENGES OF THE SECOND QUARTER

and considerable thought should be given to the selection of the most suitable candidates�.

the borrowing of money to pay the farmers for milk, or withdrawing their support for the withholding of the levy.

Consequently the election of representatives from both the industry and farmer sides was both keenly contested and at times divisive.

The conflict with the Government worsened when the Minister for Agriculture decided that unless the ban on payment of the levy was lifted, the Department of Agriculture would not pay the 2d. gallon subsidy which the creameries were receiving.

The two main farming organisations, NFA and ICMSA, each campaigned vigorously for the election of their own representatives on to the board. The Nenagh committee divided 11 votes to 8 in favour of P. I. Meagher, the nominee of the NFA, to receive the vote of the society in the election. The election of the industry representatives from around the country followed a similar pattern, with the result being largely influenced by the strength of each organisation on the creamery board.

Securing an adequate supply of good quality water at each of the creameries was an ongoing challenge. A new well at Toomevara in 1960 was drilled to 105 feet and on an eight hour test provided 1,532 gallons per hour. Later in the year a new well was drilled to supply Duharra Creamery and at a depth of 113 feet provided 600 gallons per hour without the level of water dropping.

Within a year, farmers were in conflict with the operation of the new An Bord Bainne, when the Government decided that a substantial portion of the funding for the board would have to come from milk producers and a levy of 1d. per gallon was introduced and shortly after increased to 1.375d. per gallon.

In Autumn 1961, the water supply of 700 gallons per hour from the well at Borrisokane was not adequate to meet the needs of the creamery. Well diviner, James Armshaw, Rearcross was called on to source an additional supply. He outlined that an output of 1,000 gallons per hour was available at 150 feet. It was decided to drill the well. The new well which had been drilled at Nenagh Creamery was delivering 1,500 gallons per hour.

The farmers disapproved of the imposition of the levy on their income and in 1962, led by the Dairy Industry Committee, the payment of the levy was withheld. In turn An Bord Bainne refused to make payments due to the creameries for butter purchased and marketed. There was ÂŁ63,000 withheld from Nenagh Creamery, which created a serious cash flow situation for the creamery if the payment was not forthcoming. The committee faced a decision of supporting

Long before the creamery celebrated its Golden Jubilee the ways other than milk processing in which it could benefit local communities and the broader North Tipperary region were being recognised by local groups. Securing ESB power and public water supplies for local communities were some of the ways in which the creamery had a significant role. 111


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In 1951, Rev Canon O’Rahilly, P.P., Toomevara wrote to the committee asking if they would install electricity at Toomevara Creamery pointing out that “the people of Toomevara are anxious to get light from the ESB, but the ESB will not supply power to the area unless the creamery is linked up”. The committee were unanimous in supporting the request. In 1955, a similar request from Rev Fr. Kennedy on behalf of the people of Killeen was supported by the committee. In 1956, J. B. O’Driscoll, Managing Director, Tubex Ltd at Portroe asked for the support of the creamery for the extension of the public water supply to Ballycarrido Bridge. If Duharra creamery was linked to the supply it would strengthen the case for the

extension of the supply to benefit families on the route. Over the period the committee received several requests for farmers loans for amounts of £20-£40 “to buy a cow”. Such requests were usually declined by the committee. In the early 1950’s two milk suppliers applied to the newly formed Agricultural Credit Corporation (ACC) for loans of £100 each to purchase milking machines. The ACC refused to accept the creamery as security. One of the unusual requests received was for the creamery to commercially support the development of a “hay cocking machine” which had been invented by a farmer in the Ballinaclough area.



112


Chapter 8: BUILDING OF A DAIRY HUB

CHAPTER 8

BUILDING OF A DAIRY HUB

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Michael Ryan, Manager, AIB, Nenagh and Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-op. 114


Chapter 8: BUILDING OF A DAIRY HUB

FROM THE BEGINNING THE FOUNDERS HAD A VISION OF A BIGGER COMPLEX

I

n the early 1900’s the co-operative dairy industry had been up and running for almost a decade and a half, with almost 300 co-operative creameries operating, many of them in North Tipperary, without facilities for the processing of a gallon of milk in the town of Nenagh.

and decades ahead. It appeared, perhaps as yet unconsciously, that they were intent on laying the foundation for a creamery that would serve the farmers of the region in the future, rather than confine its operations to benefiting the local community of farmers. The first advertisements which appeared in the national press in 1913 for a manager for the creamery, which was to commence operations the following year, described it as a “Central Creamery” at Nenagh. While the existing co-op creameries in the surrounding parishes were mainly equipped for the intake

Dairy farmers in the Nenagh area supplied milk to creameries in the neighbouring parishes of Youghalarra, Toomevara, Silvermines and Ballywilliam. As the process of establishing a farmers co-op creamery at Nenagh got under way mid way in the second decade of the twentieth century, those behind the venture appeared to have had the foresight to believe that there was a bigger future ahead for Nenagh than for any of these locations, although they were each already well established within their own communities. From the earliest stages of the Nenagh development, there appeared to have been a vision among the founders that the proposed creamery would fill a central role in the dairy industry in the area in the years

When Nenagh Creamery advertised for their first manager in 1914, the advertisement shows their future thinking of Nenagh as a ‘Central Creamery’ 115


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The cream to be sent in cans on the train from Birdhill to Nenagh with the cream cans returned on the 12.15 p.m train to Birdhill.

of milk and separation of cream, from the beginning Nenagh planned to have installed modern equipment for the manufacture of butter - a churn - a facility which placed them in an advantageous position to provide a valuable service to the neighbouring creameries for the manufacture of butter, which was the sole production of the creameries at the time.

In May, as the second production season got under way agreement was reached to churn cream and make butter for Killeen Co-op Creamery at 5/- per cwt of butter with Killeen Co-op to cart the cream to Nenagh and to supply a cream vat. The society had also employed Denis McGrath, a carter from Duharra to cart cream from the station at 8d per day.

As the word spread of the plans for Nenagh Creamery, there was general interest from the some of the existing creameries. Three months before the operations commenced Messrs M. Corbett and Jerry McDonnell, Duharra Creamery signed an agreement on January 31, 1914 for Nenagh Creamery to churn and dispose of their cream.

The arrangement appeared to run smoothly with the exception of a complaint when a deputation of J. Gleeson, manager and Mr Coffey from Birdhill Creamery expressed dissatisfaction to the committee that milk cans were not being returned regularly on the 12.15 p.m. train from Nenagh and there was not an invoice being sent with each parcel of butter rolls. Clarifications provided by P. Coleman, manager were accepted as satisfactory.

A request from Birdhill Co-op Creamery for the manufacture and sale of butter from cream supplied by the co-op was considered in January 1915. The society tendered 5/and 5/6d per cwt respectively including the cost of carting the cream from the railway station and delivery of the butter to the station with Birdhill Co-op to be responsible for their portion of any bad debts.

Nenagh continued to provide the agreed service to Duharra, Birdhill and Killeen Co-ops over the coming years, without further expansion until 1923 when cream from Silvermines Co-op was accepted for churning and marketing of butter at a charge of 9/4d per cwt of butter.

Birdhill Creamery was one of the first societies to supply cream to Nenagh for churning. The cream was sent by train each day. 116


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In May 1924 there was an expression of interest from Silvermines Creamery in the sale of their creamery to Nenagh Co-op, but the Nenagh Committee decided not to enter into negotiations on the purchase. In June 1925, IAOS representative, Mr Conway advised the committee in favour of purchasing Silvermines Creamery. The matter was discussed and adjourned without decision. The following meeting the committee received a deputation from Silvermines to discuss a proposal from Mr Conway, IAOS for a better working relationship between the two societies. No decision was taken. The subject was on the agenda again for the committee meeting in March 1926. Following a long discussion the committee decided not to hold any meeting with Silvermines Creamery Committee in connection with the feasibility of amalgamation.

He gave an outline of the financial situation of the creamery and the prospects which provided material for a long discussion at the conclusion of which it was decided to invite a delegation from Toomevara Creamery to a special committee meeting the following month. The Special Meeting was held on March 8 1945 to receive a deputation from Toomevara Co-op following an expression of interest by the society to amalgamate with Nenagh. The members of the deputation were - Messrs. Delaney, Downes, O’Meara, and Boland. They were accompanied by Mr Power, Manager, Toomevara Co-op and N. O’Brien, I.A.O.S. who acted as co-ordinator. Following a long discussion it was proposed by John Spain and seconded by R. Boland that Nenagh Co-op should amalgamate with Toomevara Co-op provided the terms were suitable. It was agreed between the deputation and the Nenagh Co-op Committee that they give 1.5 Nenagh Co-op shares for every three Toomevara shares held and that Toomevara creamery should provide a carter to delivery the cream to Nenagh, the wages to be fixed and paid for by Nenagh Co-op.

In 1925 it was agreed to churn the cream and market butter for Ballycarron Creamery. The cost of the service for all creameries was reduced to 8/6d per cwt of butter. The committee met a deputation from Killoscully Creamery in August 1930, comprising of Messrs. James O’Meara, Denis O’Meara and William Bourke and following a long discussion it was agreed to churn cream and market butter for the co-op at 8/6d per cwt.

Toomevara had debts of £1,976 against which they showed stocks to the value of £1,379 and ownership of a house which was valued at £600, if sold.

In March 1945, N. O’Brien, IAOS representative reported to the committee that he had attended a meeting of Toomevara Creamery where interest in amalgamating with Nenagh was expressed by the members. 117


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It was agreed that Toomevara would have two seats on the committee.

Creamery and suggested that if the creamery wanted to join with Nenagh that the milk suppliers should be asked to increase their shareholding and also to accept 1d/lb butterfat less than Nenagh suppliers.

A special meeting was held on April 18, 1945 for shareholders to consider the merger. Nenagh co-op proposed that any balance owing by Toomevara on merger be paid for by a levy of not more than a quarter of a penny per gallon on milk supplied to Toomevara Creamery until the debt was cleared.

The June Committee meeting was informed by N. O’Brien. IAOS, that Killeen Creamery was interested in a meeting to discuss joining up with Nenagh. It was agreed that a special There was unanimous meeting with representatives Tom Ryan who was appointed approval for the merger and from both creameries be held Manager in 1947. similar approved was given at a on June 17, 1948. After a confirmatory meeting on May full discussion the committee 9. A further milestone with the first merger agreed that the milk price offered to for Nenagh Creamery was completed Killeen suppliers should be 1d/lb butterfat when the Department of Agriculture less than the Nenagh milk price as the extra approval for the amalgamation was 1d/lb butterfat paid to Nenagh suppliers received in September. William Shanahan was coming from profits on separated milk. was appointed to cart the cream from Toomevara to Nenagh at 10/- per day. Nenagh Co-Op was represented at the Special Meeting by W. Walsh, Chairman Meantime a request from Killeen Creamery who presided, accompanied by Messrs for a meeting with the Nenagh Committee W. O’Brien, J,. Starr, James Kennedy, had led to an agreement that Nenagh J. Cooney, G. Boland, J. Delaney, T. would churn the cream for Killeen. The Ryan, Manager and P. Ayres, Secretary. terms agreed were 17/- per cwt of butter The Killeen representatives were Messrs produced. It was agreed that the contract M. Ryan, P. Ryan, M. Delaney, and J. would commence on April 1, 1945. Gleeson, Manager. The meeting was also attended by W. O’Brien, IAOS Organiser. In April 1948 T. Ryan, Manager advised the committee that Killeen Creamery may Following a lengthy discussion, Nenagh be calling on Nenagh Creamery to discuss Co-Op Committee agreed to take over amalgamation in the near future. The Killeen provided that the Killeen milk matter was fully discussed. It was outlined suppliers were willing to accept a milk that there was only £21 in shares in Killeen price paid at 1d/lb butterfat less than 118


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the Nenagh price. The Killeen delegates indicated that the proposed terms would not be acceptable to their suppliers.

The narrow margin of defeat for the vote in favour of the amalgamation was not well received within the Duharra area. The low turnout of shareholders for the vote may have contributed to the defeat. IAOS organiser, N O’Brien continued to urge shareholders to favour the merger. In November he informed the Nenagh Committee that Duharra Creamery were interested in furthering amalgamation on condition that they were given four seats on the Nenagh Committee.

In December, T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that members of the ‘Farmers Club’ had informed him that Cloughjordan farmers were anxious to have an auxiliary or a ‘travelling creamery’ in Cloughjordan. He had advised them that it would be better if they hired a private lorry and sent the milk to Toomevara at first, so that they could see how much milk would be available in the area.

The Nenagh Committee agreed to the request. A Special meeting of Nenagh Co-Op shareholders was held on December 9, 1953 for the purpose of considering a resolution for amalgamation of Duharra and Nenagh Creameries.

A deputation of Messrs Matt Malone, Chairman, R. Kennedy and J. O’Sullivan from Dunharra Creamery met the Nenagh Committee on June 6, 1953 to discuss a take over by Nenagh Creamery of the creamery at Duharra. The meeting was also attended by N O’Brien, IAOS representative.

N O’Brien, ICOS, informed the meeting Duharra Shareholders had attended a meeting of Duharra Creamery at 3 p.m that evening. Thirty shareholders attended. Twenty-nine had voted for amalgamation.

After a lengthy discussion it was agreed that the take over terms agreed should be put to the shareholders of both creameries on July 1, 1953, the meeting of Duharra suppliers to be held at 8 p.m. and Nenagh shareholders to meet at 9 p.m Twenty-three shareholders attended the Duharra Creamery meeting. They voted fourteen in favour and nine against amalgamation of the two creameries. As the vote in favour failed to reach the required twothird majority the amalgamation was deferred indefinitely.

Bagging operations being caried out at the creamery. 119


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Nenagh shareholders gave unanimous approval for amalgamation proposals with Duharra shareholders to receive Nenagh shares equal to their shareholding in Duharra Creamery and suppliers to be paid the same as Nenagh suppliers for milk supplied.

committee that he had visited Borrisokane with the Chairman, G. Boland. They met with Canon Cahill and inspected the building where the creamery was in the town. They were of the impression that it would cost £2,000 - £2,500 to purchase and remodel the building and “after a lengthy discussion it was decided to leave the matter for further developments”.

At the Special General Meeting of Nenagh Shareholders on December 30, the amalgamation motion was confirmed and G. Boland, Chairman expressed the thanks of the society to Mr O’Brien for the work he had done to bring about the amalgamation.

There were five applications for the position of Manager at Duharra Creamery after the committee were informed that the Manager, Mr Phelan was too old to continue in the position. J. Mackey was appointed in March 1954.

Three members of Killeen Creamery, Messrs P. Boland, P. Grace and P. Kennedy accompanied by their manager, J. Gleeson attended a meeting of Nenagh Creamery on February 11, 1954 to discuss amalgamation with Nenagh. After a lengthy discussion it was agreed to accept Killeen Creamery on the proposition of Mr O’Brien, seconded by W. Gleeson. it was unanimously agreed. The same day the Manager, T. Ryan, informed the committee that he had received a letter from Rev Canon Cahill, P.P., Borrisokane anxious for Nenagh Creamery to open a creamery at Borrisokane. After some discussion it was agreed that the Manager and chairman discuss the matter further with Rev Canon Cahill.

Special General Meetings of Shareholders of Duharra and Nenagh Creameries on March 23, 1954 approved the amalgamation with the confirmatory meetings on April 8, 1954. N. O’Brien, IAOS informed the Nenagh Committee that the well supplying water to Duharra Creamery was not the property of the creamery. The well was rented from Mrs Ryan at £5 per year. He advised the outright purchase of the well suggesting that twenty years rental be offered to Mrs Ryan. The offer was accepted.

Jimmy Murphy who became an Assistant Manager at Nenagh Creamery when he was appointed in 1958. He was

The following month, T. Ryan, Manager informed the

appointed Chief Executive in 1985. 120

The amalgamation of Killeen Creamery was approved with two seats on the committee for the shareholders. Messrs P. Grace and P. Kennedy were appointed to the


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committee. Nenagh Creamery paid an outstanding debt of £260 to the bank on behalf of Killeen Creamery. By the mid 1950’s, Nenagh Co-Op had expanded considerably through amalgamations. The society was seen by dairy farmers over the wider area of North Tipperary and beyond as the way forward for milk processing. Several approaches were made around that time for Nenagh Creamery to become established in further locations within the region.

A delegation from Mexico with Jimmy Maher, at the Liquid Milk Plant.

A Special Meeting of the committee was held on July 24, 1958 for the purpose of considering a site for a new creamery. There was a lengthy discussion on the various places which had been visited over the previous couple of years, in response to local requests. Free sites had been offered by local farmer groups in Eglish, Borrisokane and Cloughjordan to encourage the selection process in favour of each particular area. The society were offered the option of buying an old creamery at Borrisokane for £1,000.

be the site and that 30 or 40 shareholders be accepted from there, with a minimum of 25 shares each fully paid up and that the area be represented by two seats on the Nenagh Committee. It was also agreed at the meeting that milk suppliers to Borrisokane be paid 1d/lb butterfat less for milk supplied until such time as the cost of establishing the creamery was cleared. It was also agreed that a further review of the request for a creamery in Cloughjordan be carried out in two or three years.

The view of the meeting was that “having studied all of the pros and cons it was unanimously agreed that the old building in Borrisokane offered the best possibilities from the point of view of taking the lorries from Nenagh, the number of suppliers who were living around Borrisokane, and who would therefore prefer Borrisokane and the fact that the site was already prepared and that the walls of the old building seemed to be sound”.

Welcome for the decision among farmers in the Borrisokane area was tempered by their view that the area should have a larger representation on the Nenagh Committee and that suppliers should not be asked to accept a lower milk price. The Nenagh Committee considered the response at their October 1959 meeting, but decided that the decisions taken should stand. The same day A. O’Brien proposed and R. Tobin seconded that they conclude the purchase of the old creamery at Borrisokane and the deed for the purchase was signed by

It was proposed by A. O’Brien and seconded by W. Gleeson that Borrisokane 121


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G. Boland, Chairman, M. Walsh and the Secretary and the affixing of the seal witnessed by J. Moloney and A. O’Brien.

should be a branch of Nenagh Creamery. Having discussed the request it was decided that T. Ryan, Manager and G. Boland, Chairman discuss milk processing in the Roscrea area with the IAOS with particular reference to the position of Centenary Co-op and Donoughmore Co-op.

Five tenders were received for the repairs to the Borrisokane building, ranging from £883.17s.9d. to £939.4s.0d. The meeting decided to accept the lowest tender from J. Tucker. The cost was subsequently adjusted upwards by £45. 0s.0d. to include additional work as defined in the specifications. Tenders were approved for the purchase of a milk separator at £930 and a weighing scales for £370. The tender of IAWS for the supply of a pasteurising plant for £2,047 was accepted.

In July 1961, the committee became aware that representations had been made to the Minister for Agriculture by farmers in the Cloughjordan area in pursuing the request for a creamery. The Inspectorate of the Department of Agriculture called to Nenagh Co-Op seeking information as to the intention of the committee on building a creamery in Cloughjordan. The Inspector outlined that there were five lorries serving the area for milk collection which was being delivered to the existing creameries at Nenagh, Toomevara, Cloncannon and Montore. T. Ryan, Manager was instructed to write to the Department of Agriculture to determine if Nenagh Creamery decided to build a creamery either at Cloughjordan or Roscrea, where the NFA were asking for a new creamery, if permission would be readily granted for such a creamery.

The creamery opened on September 1, 1959 with 256 suppliers to Nenagh transferring and providing a daily intake of about 1,500 gallons. The intake grew quickly to a daily intake of 4,500 gallons from 450 suppliers by 1961. In the Autumn of 1960, Michael Hennessy, Cloughjordan contacted the committee seeking that they receive a deputation from local farmers who were intent on pursuing a creamery for their area and sought a definite answer. After discussing the situation the committee decided that having opened the creamery at Borrisokane the previous year and being presently investing in new offices and a farm store at Nenagh they were not in a position to make a definite decision.

The milk intake at Borrisokane continued to increase. By mid 1961 the creamery was receiving 4,500 gallons per day from 450 suppliers.

Later that year they had before them a letter from Victor Mitchell, Secretary, Roscrea NFA pointing out that local farmers were interested in a creamery for Roscrea and their preference was that it

In October 1961, the committee considered a request from Banagher Muinter na Tire to have a new creamery 122


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The clear area shows the spread of Nenagh Creamery by 1974 including branch creameries which had amalgamated with the society and new creameries opened.

build in their area. It was decided to asses the potential for milk production in the area and the likely number of suppliers.

Chairman and T. Ryan, Manager, met the deputation and advised them that nothing could be done about building a creamery in the area at that time.

In December, 1961 James Moloney, IAOS, asked the committee to receive a deputation of farmers from Tynagh, Co Galway who were interested in having a creamery built in their area. G, Boland,

Early in 1962, G, Boland, Chairman and T. Ryan, Manager, reported on a meeting which they had with farmers in the Tynagh area, asking for a new creamery for the 123


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the day of the small creamery is gone. To survive nowadays and to pay suppliers as good a price as possible creameries need to be big to absorb the costs of production. As regard the building of Athleague, not only do the centrals require to be big but the branch creameries should also handle as much milk as possible. This fact has been recognised by the Department of Agriculture who have A delegation from Mexico on a visit to the plant at Nenagh. the issuing of licenses”, he told them. James Moloney, ICOS, said it was estimated that the creamery at Athleague would cost £19,000 approx.

area. The farmers also raised the issue of building a milk powder plant. There was a general discussion on both matters. It was decided that the committee as a body would visit Tynagh and neighbouring areas in Co Galway to assess the potential as a milk producing area.

Enquiries to An Bord Tionscal established that a grant of 50% of the building and machinery, excluding the pasteurising plant, would be available. A grant of 50% of the cost of the pasteurising plant would be provided by the Department of Agriculture under the Bovine Tuberculosis Scheme.

The March 1962 meeting of the committee was addressed by James Moloney, IAOS on the new creameries being built in the West and the interest that the traditional sheep and tillage farmers were now displaying in dairying.

A meeting between some members of the committee, the Chief Agricultural Officer and some agricultural instructors favoured Killimor at the best location for a creamery. They had also met with NFA members in the county who were pressing for a speedy decision. A visit by committee members to the Banagher area was also arranged. The members felt that Banagher was completely

“New branch creameries are being built at Athleague, Athenry, and about ten miles east of Tuam. It would suit the farmers of the south or south east Galway if a creamery was built there. It would also possibly suit Nenagh Co-Op because 124


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cut off from Co Galway by the Shannon. Following a general discussion it was decided on the proposition of A. O’Brien, seconded by R. Tobin that the creamery be built at Killimor.

and a deduction of 1d/lb butterfat from the milk price until the debt incurred in building the creamery was cleared. In February 1963 there was a request for the building of a creamery in Shinrone from the chairman of Shinrone NFA. The committee responded that they would consider the matter at the first available opportunity.

Galway NFA did not support the selection of Killimor, suggesting that it would not be suitable for the people of the Derrybrien area. The decision in favour of Killimor was affirmed by the committee and a deputation of Messrs G. Boland, J. Moloney, R. Tobin, A. O’Brien, M. Delaney and T. Ryan, Manager were appointed to source a site for the creamery.

The purchase of the site at Killimor was completed in March 1963. The IAOS engineer was commissioned to draw up the plans for the creamery and it was decided to install an automatic intake and can washing system.

Within a month agreement was reached with Bernard Hanney, Killimor for the purchase of a three acre site for £650, subject to approval from Galway Co Council for the building of the creamery. However, there were some concerns among Galway farmers in relation to the selection of Killimor for the creamery. James Moloney, IAOS informed the committee that he had been attending meetings in Co Galway and there was a certain amount of dissatisfaction among the farmers re Killimor creamery. The committee were not deterred. A decision had been made and they were proceeding. It was decided to set a minimum of 25 shares at £1 each for new shareholders, with two seats on the committee,

By the Autumn deputations were received from farmers in Shinrone, Rath and Birr to have creameries built in their areas. The Birr delegation consisted of Messrs Denis Hoctor, Flan O’Brien, W. O’Brien, J. Carroll, T. O’Meara, and J. Fitzpatrick.

As the creamery commenced exporting to world markets delegations visited the production plant at Nenagh. 125


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Each of the deputations put forward the reasons why their respective area should be chosen as a location for a creamery. The deputation from Shinrone consisted of the Lord Abbott, Cistercians Monastery, Roscrea, Very Rev Canon Hannon, T. O’Meara, President, Shinrone NFA, and Messrs White; Sponner; and Stanley.

A special meeting of the committee was held on October 24 to review the situation. It was the general view of those who visited the three locations that Shinrone was the most suitable place for the erection of a new branch creamery. It was proposed by M Walsh and seconded by A. O’Brien that an application be made to the Department of Agriculture for a licence to build in Shinrone. This was agreed in principle but on reflection it was not proceeded with.

They stated that there was 1,845 cows in their area supplying milk to various creameries and within the next year it would increase to 3,453 cows which should give a supply of 1.25 million gallons per annum for the creamery. If Nenagh decided to build the creamery, they would provide a free site and £5,000 in share capital in return for representation on the board.

As soon as the plans and specifications for the creamery at Killimor were completed by W Ebrill, IAOS Engineer, the building of the premises was put to tender. Two tenders were received. Hubert Hardiman, Main Street, Ballinasloe quoted £15,289 and Thomas Mitchell & Sons, Woodland, Ballinasloe quoted £16,850.

The committee agreed to consider the offers made and arranged to visit, Birr, Shinrone and Rath on October 16, 1963.



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SHANNON CROSSING CREATES HISTORY

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Chimney construction under way at Nenagh Creamery. 128


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MOVING INTO CONNACHT WAS A MILESTONE FOR EXPANDING SOCIETY

A

s the society passed the half century point since its founding it was well established within North Tipperary as a major dairy processor. The conversion from predominant livestock farming to a more balanced livestock and dairy mix of farm enterprises had become well grounded across the region. From the perspective of Nenagh Co-op, the society had established its dominance as the major co-operative creamery within North Tipperary, controlling a spread of creameries stretching from Silvermines to the Tipperary-Offaly border from the combination of amalgamations and the establishment of new creameries which had been a dominant feature of the growth during the later decades of the first half century.

Plans were progressing for the building of the creamery at Killimor on a three acres site adjacent to the East Galway village which had been purchased for ÂŁ650 from Bernard Hanney, whose schoolteacher daughter, Carol, was later to become the wife of politician, Eamon Gilmore, who became leader of the Irish Labour Party in October 2007, and was elected Tanaiste of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Irish Government following the General Election of February 2011. While there had initially been some division of views among the farmers in the area as to the most suitable location for the creamery, and Galway NFA had supported the farmers who had campaigned for the selection of Derrybrien, once the site close to Killimor village was chosen and purchased, the desire from farmers for a creamery in the area cemented a unified approach towards completing the project.

By this time much of the ground work had also been laid for the crossing of the Shannon into Connaught by the society. Substantial quantities of milk were coming to Borrisokane from the East Galway area south of Ballinasloe and Loughrea and over to the Clare border which had service from the D.D. Co.

The IAOS, which had provided the planning and engineering services for the expansion in the past, informed the committee that due to staff shortages they were not in a position to do likewise with the project at Killimor. 129


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The IAOS were deeply involved in developing branch creameries at Athlone, Athenry and Clonbeirne and a central creamery at Kilconnell.

Meantime there was renewed pressure from the Cloughjordan area for a creamery. The interest in having a ‘local’ creamery in an area had extended beyond the farming sector. It was being perceived and sought as a ‘local’ industry providing valuable employment and also having a commercial benefit to the area.

The IAOS suggested that a former engineering employee of the society, Mr Morris may be of assistance. On consultation he offered to provide planning and engineering services at a rate of £6 per site visit and £1 per hour for drafting of plans.

The April 1964 committee meeting considered a letter from John W. Armitage, Deerpark, Cloughjordan, as secretary of Cloughjordan Development Association urging progress on the building of a creamery in the area and requesting that a deputation be received. The committee felt that in the light of the Dairy Produce Survey Report and pending the outcome of discussions with farmers in the neighbouring parish of Shinrone a meeting was not appropriate at that time.

The tenders received for the building of the creamery were considered by the committee at their meeting in April 1964. It was agreed that subject to a check on the solvency of the contractor that the tender of £15,289 by Hubert Hardiman, Main Street, Ballinasloe, being the lower of the two received, should be accepted. It was also agreed that Mr Morris be engaged to plan and supervise the work.

Charles J. Haughey, TD, Minister for Agriculture performed the official opening of Killimor Creamery on June 11, 1965. The creamery opened for the intake of milk of July 1, 1965 with 447 supplies and a daily intake of 4,300 gallons of milk. The final cost of the creamery amounted to £32,098. The committee applied to An Foras Forbatha for a grant of £14,000 and half the cost of the pasteurising plant, at £2,915. Around the same time discussions had commenced on a broader scale to involve groups of creameries in the development of centres for the further processing of milk. Milk intake at Nenagh and branches was increasing at double the national average. The scale of increase was maintained for a number of years.

The official invitation to the opening of the new branch creamery at Killimor, Co Galway on August 5, 1965. 130


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Launching the North Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship, sponsored by Nenagh Co-op Creamery Seamus Hogan, Michael Maguire, Liam Walsh, Pat Dunlea, Patrck Ryan, and George Bourke.

Nenagh Co-Op became involved in discussions on the formation of a Limerick Federation of Creameries and subsequently a proposed Tipperary-Kilkenny Federation.

edge of any of the proposed groupings unlikely to become the chosen site for a processing plant. More than half a century later, the perceived objective of the founding members of the society in describing the initial development at Nenagh as a “Central Creamery” continued to the fore in the focus of the committee. As the decades progressed and the dairy industry in the region, became a driving force in agriculture, the decision of the founding fathers to describe the development at Nenagh as a ‘Central’ creamery appeared to have been more than a coincidence and the train of objective of successive committee members continued to endeavour to build on what, more than half a century later, was becoming much clearer as an original vision of Nenagh as a major hub for the sector.

The Nenagh involvement in both of these groupings always appeared to be one primarily of observation. They kept their options open rather than becoming either a driving force, or a very fully committed member in either. The support of the committee was always decided by the measure of benefit which any such grouping could offer directly to Nenagh. Although it was never explicitly expressed in their discussions, there is evidence that the Nenagh Committee believed that the town should be a centre for some of any development to materialise from these groupings. From the outset neither federations appear to offer much attraction to Nenagh who were conscious of their strength with a growing pool of milk and because of location on the outer

When a field at the back of the Railway Bar adjacent to the creamery at Nenagh 131


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not assisted by Avonmore, who refused a direct refund of the shareholding. It was only after a buyer for the shareholding was found that the investment was recovered by Nenagh. Their participation in the Federation of Limerick Creameries was also of short duration. Although they continued to be represented at meetings for some time, behind the scenes they were actively more interested in obtaining a licence from the Department of Agriculture and building a processing plant at Nenagh. They withdrew from their involvement when the group were considering Bunratty, Co Clare as a possible venue for a processing plant for the area.

A delivery of Nenagh milk on its way to customers.

became available on the market in Autumn 1965, the committee immediate engaged in negotiations to acquire the property. The purchase was actively engaged in and agreement was reached for the purchase of the ground for ÂŁ1,200. The committee appeared to have immediately earmarked this property, when it became available on the market, as appropriate for future development of the creamery processing.

Rationalisation of the creamery structure was also under discussion by the IAOS which could affect the Borrisoleigh area and the Nenagh Committee were asked for an undertaking not to accept any suppliers who defected over the change. The committee refused to agree indicating that suppliers had changed creameries in other parts of the area. The closure of Cloncannon creamery was also being considered. Nenagh were asked if they would accept Cloncannon suppliers at Toomevara. They agreed to consider it further before making a decision.

Their involvement with the proposed Tipperary-Kilkenny Group was short lived. Known as the Avonmore Group, once it became apparent that any development into milk processing by this group would be located in County Kilkenny and most likely controlled by Avonmore as the lead creamery in the federation, and a sizeable further percentage by the UK based Unigate, relations between Nenagh and the federation deteriorated to the point of some ranchor ending in communication mainly flowing between their legal representatives. It was some time before Nenagh recovered their investment in shareholding in the group. Their exit of the shareholding was

Applications were received from 49 suppliers to Cloncannon to have their milk accepted at Toomevara, rather than being transferred to Borrisoleigh on the closure of the creamery. Some pointed out that they farmed within 132


Chapter 9: SHANNON CROSSING CREATES HISTORY

Martin Leenane, Michael Coffey, Michael Ryan, and Pat Walsh.

two miles of Toomevara and were nine miles from Borrisoleigh. A deputation from Borrisoleigh Creamery Committee outlined that they were opposed to any of the milk suppliers being accepted at Toomevara and pointed out that the economic viability of Borrisoleigh Co-op could be adversely effected by the loss of milk suppliers. Having fully considered the situation it was decided that no action should be taken and the situation kept under review over the following months.

with a neighbour, but they could not send their milk to the creamery in a lorry or tractor trailer. The decision to accept the suppliers, with effect from July 1, 1967 led to acrimonious relations between the society and the ITGWU which represented the workers at Borrisoleigh Creamery who supported their committee and management in opposing the move. The minutes of a meeting of the committee on July 7 stated “The Manager informed the committee that on July 1 he was informed that there was a picket placed outside Toomevara Creamery by Borrisoleigh Creamery workers and that possibly Nenagh would be picketed. When he came to the creamery there was no picket but he gathered that a strike would be called.

A month later the society received applications from a further ten suppliers to Cloncannon Creamery to have their milk accepted at Toomevara Creamery. After consideration the committee agreed to accept these milk suppliers conditional on they delivering the milk to the creamery personally or in co-operation 133


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“He then met M/s Cleary and Leamy who told him that they had been instructed not to work in support of their union members in Borrisoleigh - one of those workers had got notice because we were going to take some of their suppliers. “Frank Lewis, Union Secretary then arrived and confirmed this. He told the Manager that the strike would be called off if he rang Toomevara and instructed that Cloncannon milk was not to be accepted there. The Manager told him that it was neither his job, the workers, and certainly not the unions to decide where any farmer should send his milk and that he was not prepared to ring Toomevara.

G. Kennedy, R. Tobin, T. Hogan, J. O’Sullivan, J. O’Brien, and S. McLoughney.

damaged by the incident in which the committee felt that the union had adopted an inappropriate involvement in trying to exercise control over the right of the farmers to sell their produce as they desired.

“The Manager fetched the Chairman, and together with Messrs. Moylan, Delaney and Tobin interviewed Frank Lewis and the staff. After various short meetings Frank Lewis informed us that pending meetings with IAOS and Borrisoleigh and a promise not to accept further suppliers pending this meeting the strike would be called off”.

It was ironic that at the same time the committee had received a letter from Frank Lewis requesting a substantial increase in wages for the workers at Nenagh Co-Op. The demand was rejected outright. The committee pointed out that the society was paying the terms of the National Wage Agreement.

The committee meeting was then addressed by Greg Tierney, IAOS, at length on the problems of “Borrisoleigh, Cloncannon and the proposed Arrowvale Creameries” and after a long discussion it was suggested that no further Borrisoleigh suppliers be accepted without consultation with the IAOS. The committee agreed to this.

The committee instructed that Greg Tierney, IAOS establish from the ITGWU Headquarters that the National Wage Agreement was still in force. He was further instructed to seek clarification from ITGWU Headquarters on the union position with reference to the involvement of the union in the dispute

Relations between the society and the ITGWU and in particular the local union secretary, Frank Lewis were seriously 134


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over the movement of the Cloncannon milk suppliers to Toomevara Creamery.

As the scale of the society and the number of suppliers had increased significantly, a rubber stamp was introduced for committee member signatures to cheques for the first time in 1967.

He was instructed to point out to the ITGWU that the society should have been consulted before any action was taken by the union, that the workers at the creamery were not consulted as a body, and to request clarification as to the authority of Mr Lewis to call a strike.

Towards the end of the year, the creamery was contacted by An Bord Bainne to ascertain if the they would be interested in the manufacture of a new product utilising the protein of skim milk.

A month later it was noted that no reply had been received from IAOS. The Manager, T. Ryan confirmed that he had been contacted by Mr O’Dwyer, IAOS, to the effect that J. Moloney, IAOS had received an assurance from ITGWU Headquarters that the union would never again interfere in a dispute between creameries.

The response from the creamery was positively in favour of exploring the idea.

While at the time, it may have been seen as a significant milestone for the creameries, it is unlikely that it was ever copper fastened in stone between IAOS and ITGWU and history later showed that it was not observed, when conflict developed between processors over milk supplies.

Towards the end of the sixties the committee came under increasing pressure from suppliers in the new creamery areas of Borrisokane, Killimor and Birr to provide shareholding for the suppliers and representation on the committee. While there was some support within the committee for the allocation of shares on a paid up basis, the Borrisokane suppliers were insisting on the payment for the shares to be phased over a period of time.

On the demand for a wage increase, the Manager was instructed to reply to Frank Lewis to the effect that in future all demand for wage increases would be dealt with at national level.

There was also persistent demand for the dropping of the levy of 1d/gallon on milk supplied to Borrisokane which was introduced to pay for the creamery. The committee resisted demands that the levy be dropped until such time as the cost of the creamery was cleared. They pointed out that the farmers in the area had committed

The committee also decided that instructions be issued to the co-op solicitor, Michael O’Meara to write to Frank Lewis pointing out that the wages being paid by the society were above the national average and also to seek an explanation and apology for his part in the attempted strike. 135


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to paying £1,000 towards the cost of the creamery, which had not been paid.

Chairman said that the Borrisokane suppliers had been offered shares on fully paid up terms, but they wanted to set their own conditions.

At a special meeting held in April 1968 to discuss the share structure there was some acrimony over the pressure being exerted by the Borrisokane milk suppliers in particular for shareholding. It was pointed out that they had not initially taken out the shares because they were apprehensive as to whether the creamery would succeed.

The committee deferred a final decision pending further consideration on the understanding that the matter would be revisited within the following year and this appeared to have been acceptable to the Borrisokane delegation.

Messrs Liam Whyte and James Armitage expressed the view that the farmers in the area were happy to be associated with Nenagh but they wanted a say in the development of the society through representation on the committee. They felt that they had more than paid up the cost of the creamery. Mr Armitage said that the milk price differential had cost him £90 the previous year. He said that they were looking for shares to be paid up over a number of years and no price differential between Nenagh and Borrisokane.

Meantime a consultant’s report on rationalisation of dairy co-ops was being awaited. A rationalisation plan that had been drawn up by the IAOS was not accepted. The committee held the view that there was no future for small societies. There would have to be amalgamations. Nenagh was in between in scale. It was one of the largest in the country outside of the processing centres. However there was probably sufficient milk around the Nenagh area to make processing possible.

The committee were concerned that there should not be the same benefit to new shareholders as those who had husbanded the society for over 50 years. G. Boland,

In the later 1960’s there were discussions on a venture comprising of the Federation of Tipperary Creameries, Dairy Disposal Company and Express Dairies. The Nenagh committee did not become actively involved.

R. Tobin, S. Molampy, J. Ryan, P. McGrath, and T. Harrington. 136

Sources close to the negotiations believe that Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Creamery was not in favour of working


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The society continued not to be impressed by the approach of the IAOS. Many of the committee were anxious to go ahead. While the society was anxious to provide a decent market for skim milk to improve overall return to farmers willing to sell the skim it was unclear among the committee as to whether suppliers would be prepared to leave all of their skim at the creamery which was crucial for the viability of the proposed powder plant. Analysis of discussions which took place at that time provide some insight into the line of action being taken by IAOS, as less than enthusiastically behind the Nenagh plan.

B. Sheridan and C. O’Connor.

with the Dairy Disposal Company in any co-operative or joint venture. In retrospect, there are many who knew him and worked closely with him who held the view that his objective had always been for the development of Nenagh as a processing centre rather than a participant in any group venture into processing.

This explains how the IAOS were threading a fine line between creameries, some of whom were making larger financial contributions to the organisation than Nenagh. Strong support for Nenagh would not have been favoured by other members, who’d prefer to have the milk supply from Nenagh available for processing. At that time the skim milk returned to the farms was valued by some of the farmers for feeding to calves and pigs. Both enterprises were common on a majority of the farms carrying on dairying.

In the Autumn of 1966, the committee held a long discussion on the merits of having a skim powder plant situated in Nenagh and the possibility of farmers being prepared to leave their skim at the creamery and purchase meals or skim powder for their calves and pigs. The general view was that the time was ripe to consider a powder plant and the Manager was instructed to request the IAOS for assistance in obtaining a licence.

The manager was instructed to ascertain as far as possible the likely response from suppliers, and also to contact Ballywilliam Creamery as to how much milk they were sending to Limerick.

J. Kelly, IAOS was not very encouraging in regard to the development. The view of the IAOS was that it was difficult to decide at that time whether further milk processing facilities should be provided in the south of Ireland. He was willing to engage in further discussion with the society.

Suppliers to the creamery indicated that they would be prepared to leave 50% of their skim milk and the building of their own powder plant for Nenagh was discussed at the 1968 AGM. 137


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The committee were very anxious to go forward and in December decided to formally apply to the Department of Agriculture for a licence for a powder plant.

The Nenagh committee felt that there was party political opposition to the granting of a processing licence, which was the privilege of the Minister for Agriculture. Jim Gibbons TD for the Carlow Kilkenny constituency from 1957 was Minister for Agriculture in the period 1970-73 holding the authority to approve or rescind any application for a processing licence. As Avonmore was within the constituency of the then Minister for Agriculture, Jim Gibbons, TD it was believed that he would not favour a licence for other co-ops near that region.

In the early 1970’s, McCormack Products Ltd, which operated a milk processing plant at Killeshandra, Co Cavan expressed an interest in obtaining skim milk supply from Nenagh and a joint venture with Nenagh was suggested as a possibility.

Barrister and Nenagh native with strong ancestral roots in agriculture, Michael O’Kennedy, had become active in politics in Mr Gibbons adjoining constituency of North Tipperary from the early 1960’s. He was elected to Dail Eireann for Fianna Fail in the North Tipperary Constituency at the 1969 General Election. Within less than a year he was gaining more influence within politics nationally. In 1970 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Education and in 1972 was promoted to a full cabinet seat as Minister for Transport and Power.

This suggestion had more than a little attraction for the Nenagh objective. When it materialised that McCormack Products Ltd were planning construction of a processing plant at Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon and a low capacity evaporation plant was the most likely decision for Nenagh, the committee were disappointed. The Nenagh Committee then offered a 50-50 investment arrangement in the financing of a larger plant at Nenagh and indicated that they were prepared to take the controlling share if that was necessary to secure the plant for Nenagh.

Although his role in the Nenagh development is not explicitly recorded in the records, the then newly elected Chairman of Nenagh Co-op, Richard Tobin recalled that “I remember that the local Minister at the time Michael O’Kennedy was very helpful to us in trying to obtain a licence for the plant”. In the Autumn of 1972 relations became strained between the society and the IAOS over the rationalisation plans for

An informal indication from an executive of McCormack Products Ltd that Nenagh may not get a licence from the Department of Agriculture, at least pending the outcome of plans by the Arravale Group, a federation of Tipperary creameries, was not well received. 138


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the industry in the region. While the committee were endeavouring to bring pressure on the Department of Agriculture to have their application for a licence to operate a powder plant processed without further delay, there was annoyance that J. Maher, B. McLoughlin, D. Quill, B. O’Brien, and D. Collins. the IAOS remained insistent on Nenagh being part of a wider rationalisation scheme for the area. The changing the approach of the Department. committee expressed “resentment at the It is believed that Michael O’Kennedy behaviour of the IAOS in trying to decide the was instrumental in arranging for direct future of Nenagh society without consulting talks with the Department of Agriculture us or informing us of what they were on the granting of a licence at which any considering”. damper on the Nenagh prospects for a licence was dispelled. The committee believed that the IAOS, as a national organisation, and their plans The timing could have been particularly for the development of milk processing important as, Mr O’Kennedy was out centres, were being influenced by a political of office shortly after, when Fianna Fail strategy in relation to the Nenagh region. lost the General Election in 1973 and he would not have been in as strong a position The minutes of the October committee to influence a decision make within the meeting recorded that “The chairman had Department of Agriculture or Government. spent nearly one hour on the phone with P. Kelly, Secretary, IAOS, but received no As the obstacle of the licence appeared to satisfaction from him”. be resolved there was another shock to the plan on the way. It is generally believed that Mr O’Kennedy made a vital contribution at that time. Richard Tobin, Chairman recalls “we had As a Government Minister, he sat at applied to the local AIB Bank for a loan for the Cabinet table with the Minister £120,000 for the building of the plant. I was for Agriculture, Jim Gibbons in whose delivering milk to the creamery one morning power the granting of a manufacturing when the manager, Tom Ryan called me into licence for Nenagh rested. Richard Tobin his office and told me that he had bad news. believed that influences outside of the The loan had been refused by the bank”. Nenagh area were putting pressure on the Minister for Agriculture not to approve a He went on “The Manager and myself went licence for Nenagh and the support from down the town to meet the manager of the Mr O’Kennedy had a big influence on local AIB branch, Michael Ryan. We didn’t 139


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make any progress. My belief is that the bank was probably under pressure from other sectors of the industry not to approve the loan, because they did not want Nenagh to get the plant”. Mr Tobin was determined not to be defeated. He did not like what he believed to be deliberate interference by other co-ops to stall the Nenagh plan. Outside societies should not be permitted to obstruct the society in doing what he believed to be good for Nenagh and for the farmers in the area to get a better return for their milk. He suggested as they drove past the Market Cross in the town “we could go in there” pointing to the competitor Bank of Ireland and he meant it.

Betty Devaney, and Anne Grace, administration staff, with Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-Op.

the next stage of development, a skim milk powder plant.

Bank’s too have ears. Once the word leaked of the alternative plan by the creamery for financing, the AIB became concerned at the likely loss of all the creamery business, if the creamery bank account transferred to Bank of Ireland.

A ‘revolving fund’ was introduced to provide funding. The milk suppliers agreed to the retention of 0.5d per gallon in a loan scheme to fund the development with the money to be repaid from the profits in subsequent years. The ‘revolving fund’ was a key to the success of the early years of the extended processing facilities eliminating the requirement for heavy borrowings with the milk suppliers in effect providing an interest free loan to the creamery.

“It frightened AIB because £120,000 was peanuts at that time and they quickly changed their approach and sanctioned the loan”, recalled Dick Tobin. The evaporator reduced the volume of milk to be transported to the processing plant at Ballaghadereen.

Such was the support for the fund and the contribution which it made, the fund did not run its full term before being repaid in full to the suppliers.

Once the evaporation plant was up and running the committee were considering

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A proud moment for Dick Tobin, Chairman and Tom Ryan, Manager after receiving the Read Cup for butter quality in 1983. 142


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NATIONAL FARMERS SEEK TO HAVE REPRESENTATION ON CO-OP COMMITTEE

T

he development of the processing facility at Nenagh in the early 1970’s proved a valuable catalyst as an incentive to neighbouring creameries to merge with the society. Most of these mergers went smoothly and with little opposition. Some opposition was experienced in Upperchurch where the initial negotiations failed to achieve agreement, and it was not until discussions were re-opened a year later that Upperchurch shareholders supported the merger.

in dairying, and therefore lack of expertise on the standards required, or the facilities necessary for modern dairy farming, created difficulties for farmers to achieve the quality standards demanded. The society provided support and advice and over a relatively short period producers who planned to remain in milk took steps to meet the standards required, while others decided to exit the system. The quality of milk from the Killimor area attained the highest standards subsequently and produced many quality award winners in annual competitions.

Meantime the spread by Nenagh north and east into counties Galway and Offaly was proving very attractive to the milk suppliers in both counties. By the end of the 1960’s there were 1,000 suppliers to the creamery at Killimor, about six miles from Portumna in East Galway. Prior to this, many had supplied to Borrisokane creamery.

The situation at the new creamery at Birr was quite different. Producers were larger in scale. Many of the suppliers had previously supplied Borrisokane Creamery, an area where there was some tradition in dairy farming for more than half a century. Newport and Bridgetown creameries amalgamated in 1974. Brief discussions took place with Scariff Creamery but they were not progressed beyond the very preliminary stage.

This was an area, where previously farming mainly comprised of sheep and tillage enterprises. There was no tradition of dairy farming. Initially the average dairy herd was very small by Nenagh standards with an average daily milk supply of less than 10 gallons at peak. The lack of tradition

The introduction of a pension scheme for managers was discussed in July 1964 when 143


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In general the attendance at Annual General Meetings had been low. In 1971 however such was the turnout of shareholders for the meeting convened for the offices at the creamery on March 18 that the meeting had to be transferred to the Ormond Hotel in the town before proceedings At the presentation of the Read Cup to Nenagh Co-Op in 1979 were Tom Ryan, could commence. Chief Executive, Michael O’Keeffe, Chairman, B + I, Kevin McSherry,

The large attendance may have been influenced by concerns among shareholders over voting rights for committee places and some alleged inequities in the levy on milk supplied to Birr Creamery towards payment for the cost of building the creamery.

John Ryan and Cyril Greally, Nenagh Co-op.

an evaluation of the cost and benefits were considered by the committee. Farm organisation divisions within the committee continued to influence decisions in elections to the Irish Dairy Board. When ICMSA President, John Feely, and NFA President, T.J. Maher came head to head for the vote of the committee for the Board seat, John Feely was successful winnning 11 votes to 9.

Shareholders felt that members voting rights for the election of committee members should be confined to the election of members to represent their own area and that it was unfair that shareholders could influence the election of committee members to represent branches to which they (voters) were not attached.

While there was strong representation from both NFA and ICMSA on the committee of the creamery, organisationally the society was not in favour of official representation being established even at a low level. This was underlined when a request from NFA for official representation at the AGM of three members was refused on the grounds that if such was agreed, ICMSA, ICA, ICMA, and ITGWU would equally be entitled to have representation at the annual meeting and the committee felt that this would not be desirable.

On the proposition of T. O’Meara and seconded by J. A. O’Brien it was agreed that a rule change be put to a Special General Meeting that shareholders would be regarded as shareholders of the respective branch creamery they supplied for the purpose of electing committee members and for non milk supplier shareholders, their area of residence would define their voting area. 144


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It was also raised that farmers who had previously supplied Borrisokane Branch prior to the opening of the Birr Branch were paying the construction levy for a second time. They were losing 1d/ lb butterfat on the milk supplied to Birr branch, having already paid the levy on milk supplied to Borrisokane branch until the cost of the creamery has been paid for. It was pointed out that practical difficulties would result from paying a different price to suppliers to the same branch. The meeting was told that the levy had amounted to £4,780 being deducted from milk payments at Birr Branch since the branch was opened.

As Ireland’s entry to the EEC (European Economic Community) approached it was indicated to the committee that the structure of Bord Bainne would have to change from being either state or semistate to that of a co-operative marketing organisation in which the co-operatives and processors would have the shareholding. It was also intended to introduce an Irish brand name for butter, with the introduction of the Kerrygold label. It would benefit Irish processors to have an Irish identity for home produced butter as a protection against the competition expected from imports after the opening up of the European Market and Ireland’s entry into the EEC. The society was selling 200 tonnes in butter rolls and were concerned to retain this market.

A site for a new office at Borrisokane was considered in March 1971. It was established that G. Brereton was willing to sell a three-quarter acre site between the creamery and the library for £200. It was agreed to proceed with the purchase of the site.

Early 1972 marked the completion of 25 years as manager of the society by T. Ryan. It was decided to hold a celebratory dinner, attended by committee members and their wives at which he would be suitably honoured. It was also decided

The development costs in the society in 1970 resulted in overdraft facilities being drawn upon to a much greater extent than heretofore. This led to an interest demand from the bank of £2,013 for the second half of 1970. The demand was withdrawn after the committee At the awarding of the Read Cup to Nenagh Creamery in 1983 were Nenagh decided to Creamery staff members, Cyril Greally, Kevin McSherry, Jimmy Maher, David challenge it. Searson, and Jimmy O’Sullivan. 145


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James Maher, Milk Powder Production, Manager at the operations at Nenagh Creamery.

that his salary be increased from £3,630 to £4,000.

a further vote taken in the same manner. This was unanimously accepted by the members.

At the same time, G. Boland who had served 22 years as chairman announced to the disappointment of the committee that he would not be going forward for re-election for health reasons.

When the vote was taken the result was R. Tobin 9, M. Spain 5, J. A. O’Brien 4, with two other members receiving one vote each. After it was decided to eliminate the two lowest, J. A. O’Brien indicated that he was withdrawing and M Spain did likewise, leaving Richard Tobin the only remaining name. He was declared elected unanimously.

He said that he had given considerable thought to the appointment of his successor. One of the main causes of the success of the society had been the harmony among the committee. To preserve this harmony he suggested that no formal proposals for different people should be put forward in the appointment of his successor, but that each member write down the name of their preferred candidate on a slip of paper. If no candidate received an overall majority there would be elimination of the lowest and

It was decided that all suppliers to Nenagh Society should be circularised to inform them of the plans being put in place by the society. At the same time the cost of the evaporator plant which had been placed on order the previous month at a quoted price of £82,000 had escalated to £100,000. The 146


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IAWS at Limerick through whom the evaporator had been ordered had indicated that a 10% discount would be applied for advance payment. This was considered unsatisfactory in the event of any difficulty arising. They were willing to pay one third advance, one third when shipping of the equipment was confirmed and the balance when it was installed and operating satisfactorily.

The evaporator plant came into operation in mid 1973. Approval for the construction of the powder plant was received from the Department of Agriculture in March 1973.

At the AGM on March 22, 1973, the shareholders were informed that approval had been received for the erection of a powder plant.

Towards the end of 1972 the pressure was increasing to meet the target of having the new plant operational in 1973 as the appointment of a building contractor was considered. Under the normal ‘Bill of Quantities’ system it was estimated that the work could be delayed for several months. Alternatively, the society opted for a ‘Bill of Rates’ system awarding the contract to Messrs Sisks Builders, Dublin. The ‘Bill of Rates’ system meant that they could not have a final contract price agreed in advance, but the estimated cost of the building and site development was put at £103,000. When the cost of equipment, and additional necessary services were included the projected total investment planned came to £410,000.

It was expected to cost £1.1m which would be financed through a bank loan for site development and buildings and leasing for all equipment. To meet the repayments it was proposed to the meeting that a revolving fund be established by retaining 0.5d/gallon on milk price for a period of 5-7 years with repayment to commence after the fifth year. Following a discussion the proposal was adopted on the proposition of Thomas Cleary, seconded by A. O’Brien. The revolving fund came into operation on May 1, 1973. The future treatment of effluent continued to the fore. The society approached the adjoining aluminium factory for ground for an effluent treatment plant without success. An approach was also made to the Nenagh Mart to ascertain if any land was available. Alternatively an area of six acres became available adjoining Chadwicks at Ballygraigue, the purchase of which was negotiated for £7,200.

The evaporator plant came into operation in mid 1973. There was a long discussion on the commitment being considered and the substantial investment involved. The view was expressed that the society would be in trouble with their suppliers if they dropped the plans. It was decided to proceed and appoint Messrs Sisks Builders on the proposition of D. Moylan and seconded by A.O’Brien.

In early September eight tenders for the erection of the powder plant were considered. The lowest tender was accepted 147


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and the committee approved Messrs Tom Hayes & Co, Killaloe at £390,287.87. As plans continued to progress with the powder plant the first advance payment for equipment was made.

Mechanical and electrical services budgeted at £75,000 had increased significantly. Regular meetings were held with the bank manager on the progress of the project and it was necessary to increase the overdraft limit to £600,000.

Some months later grant aid from I.D.A. of £132,000 was approved for the evaporator and drier.

Before the end of the year there was further pressure on funding and the committee gave approval for the society to increase the overdraft from the existing £600,000 to a maximum of £1,000,000.

Within weeks of the start of the evaporator, in June 1973, the ESB Fisheries Board were in contact with the society, alleging that effluent from the plant into the Clareen River had caused a fish kill and that they would not allow effluent into the river. Plans for an effluent treatment plant were brought forward as a matter of urgency.

The increase in the cost of completing the powder plant and costs of up to £200,000 associated with the amalgamations of Bridgetown, Newport and Upperchurch creameries had brought further pressure on the demand for finance.

Committee member Liam Whyte was congratulated on his election to Seanad Eireann, the first member of the committee to be elected to Government. On the election of a representative to An Bord Bainne, the committee rejected a request from Tipperary Creamery to support the nomination of T. Moloney and instead nominated, Thomas Cleary.

The official opening of the powder plant was arranged for November 27, 1975 with Mark Clinton TD, Minister for Agriculture to perform the ceremony. The social function to mark the occasion was arranged for December 3.

The amalgamation with Newport and Bridgetown was completed in March 1974 and the manufacture of milk powder also commenced on a limited scale in April 1974.

Meantime the problem between the ESB Fisheries Board and the creamery over the alleged pollution of the nearby river worsened with the ESB issuing a number of summons for alleged breaches during the summer of 1975. With the completion of the new effluent treatment plant about this time the problems in this area were satisfactorily resolved.

As the completion of the building was progressing slower than had been expected, the arrangements for the official opening were deferred until the Autumn. The cost of completing the plant was also proving more expensive than projected. 148


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some of the peak months. Some of the committee were concerned about the additional expenditure required. With the increase in throughput and the added value of the product, turnover and profits for the society had increased David Searson, Kevin McSherry, and Donal Fogarty, staff in the substantially. Income tax became butter manufacturing division at Nenagh Creamery 1983 when the an added issue for the society. creamery won the Read Cup for quality. In 1975 the society had liability It was a period of rapid expansion in for ÂŁ100,000 in income tax. In production on farms as farmers benefited discussion at committee level, there was from accession to the European Economic a feeling that co-operatives should have a Community (EEC). Farm incomes from more lenient form of tax to allow them to milk were rising steadily benefiting from develop their business. Fine Gael Senator an annual increase from the market place Liam Whyte, a member of the committee as well as EEC transition payments. Intake indicated that the another system of at the creamery was showing an annual assessing co-operatives for income tax may increase in all areas at approximately double be considered by the Government. the national average annual increase. Evaporator capacity was reached in 1975. Expansion was back on the agenda before the end of 1977. Discussions involving Nenagh and Tipperary Co-ops and An A larger evaporator was Bord Bainne on additional processing considered a necessity. facilities considered Nenagh as the best location for a whole milk powder plant. Messrs J. Murphy, Assistant It would provide additional options Manager, and J. Maher within the product range. Tipperary Co-Op favoured other options as being travelled to Europe to best suited to their own strategy for examine options in this development.

regard.

The proposed new plant and ancillary requirements could be commissioned to be fully operational before the end of 1979. The additional investment in equipment and services for the new drier plant was approx. ÂŁ850,000.

It was also considered that long term a second drier may have to be considered as the milk supply over the peak intake period was exceeding capacity. It resulted in milk being diverted to other processors over 149


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150


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The board of Nenagh Creamery in 1983. Front - T. OMeara, M. O’Malley, B. Skehan, P. McLoughlin, L. Walsh, S. Ryan (Newport), D. Tobin, L. McKenna, M. Moloney, P. Grace, E. Butler and J. Quigley. Centre - W. O’Brien, J. O’Brien, L. Whyte, P. Woods. J. Darcy, J.M. Larkin, T. Ryan, J. Powell, M. Malone, T. Foley and L. Ryan. Back- J. Murphy, J. Armitage, S. Kennedy, J. Kennedy, P. Kennedy, F. Ryan, G. Bourke, D. Gaynor, P. Ryan, T. Quigley, J Hanly, S. Dagg, T. O’Brien, and T. Ryan. 151


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At home on his farm at Bawn, Nenagh, Co-op chairman, Dick Tobin.

At the Royal Dublin Society Spring Show which was held at Ballsbridge, Dublin during the first week of May each year at the time there was a proud occasion for Nenagh Creamery in 1979 when the Read Cup was presented to Richard Tobin, Chairman, by a fellow Nenagh man, Michael O’Kennedy TD., Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Read Cup, which was sponsored by B+I, was awarded on the basis of four spontaneous inspections of butter at each of the 24 creameries throughout the country by the Department of Agriculture inspectors during the previous twelve months.

An additional evaporator already on order would offer benefits particularly over the peak six months. It cost £400,000. The sixty-fifth Annual General Meeting on April 28, 1978 approved a rule change for the society authorising the committee to increase borrowings to a maximum of £2,700,000 as required.

It was the first time for Nenagh Creamery to receive the award, considered the Blue Riband of the butter industry, for which they had been the runner-up the previous year.

With the rapid increase in milk supplies and proposed expansion in processing capacity it was necessary to increase the effluent treatment facilities again. The committee accepted a tender of Messrs Thomas Hayes, Killaloe of £105,280 for an extension to the effluent treatment plant. At the same time the tender by Messrs Thomas Hayes of £840,144 for the building for the new drier building was approved by the committee.

Tom Ryan, Manager, informed the committee at the October 1979 meeting that he had reached 65 years and eligible for retirement. At the request of the committee 152


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he agreed to continue in the position “for the time being”. Towards the end of the year there was concern about the doom among farmers about the future and in particular the prospect for dairy farmers. The society had been approached by the County Executive IFA. It was decided to hold a conference with expert speakers to help restore confidence in their future among the milk suppliers.

Teagasc advisors, Matt Ryan, Michael Hogan and Laurence Shalloo with Pat McLoughlin, chairman, Nenagh Co-Op.

Early in 1980 the society found themselves in an unusual situation. Some land adjoining the creamery which became available on the market, and which was seen as a prudent purchase. The property on the market was owned by Martin Gleeson and in addition to an area of land adjoining the creamery, included the licensed pub, a private residence, an adjoining residence and a cottage, all of which was on offer to the creamery at an agreed price of £170,000.

The amendment read “To carry on business as licensed vintners and dealers in wines, beers, spirits, and alcoholic beverages of all kinds, tobaccos and druggist supplies and to take and hold excise licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquor and other excisable products in the name of a nominee on behalf of the society; to carry on the business of hotel, restaurant, cafe and road house keepers and the business of caterers in all of its branches, and to buy, sell, import, export, produce manufacture or otherwise deal in food and food products, meat, groceries, fruits, confectionary and other articles required in the said business”.

Legally it was unclear if the rules of the society provided for the ownership of a licensed premises. There was also some concern as to planning for future development on the site. Advice was sought from IAOS.

Various options were considered for the pub. The most suitable was the appointment of a manager to run the pub on behalf of the society. Of six applications for the position, four were interviewed and two were recommended to the committee. A secret ballot was requested. It resulted in a majority vote for John Quirke. He was offered and accepted the position. J. C.

The expert advice was that the rules of the society did not entitle trading in alcohol or the serving of food. An amendment to the rules of the society was adopted at the AGM on April 23, 1980. 153


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Murphy, Assistant Manager, was appointed society nominee to hold the pub licence.

At the beginning of 1985, T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that he felt that the time had come for him to retire, having remained beyond the normal retiring age. J. C. Murphy, Assistant Manager, was the unanimous choice of the committee for the position with effect from June 1, 1985.

In 1984 G. Bourke replaced J. Quirke as manager of the Railway Bar. Differences between the IFA and ICMSA on funding being paid by dairy farmers came before the committee in September 1983. An ICMSA deputation of Donal Sheahan, Deputy President, ICMSA and Donal Murphy, Chief Executive advised that the ICMSA was not in receipt of any of the milk levy of which the IFA was a beneficiary. They were seeking a separate levy of 50p per £1,000 of milk price paid to farmers, which would be equivalent to 25p per cow. They also discussed the issues for farmers of the pending EEC quota on milk production, and the effect it could have for farmers.

In a realignment of responsibilities, Martin Lenane and James Maher were appointed assistant managers. Managers appointed to key areas were Butter - Cyril Grealy; Powder - Brendan Kennedy; Fresh Products - Jimmy O’Sullivan; Quality Control - Jerry Ryan; and Office and Accounts - Terry McCabe. In June 1987, Messrs Thomas Hayes Ltd., were awarded the contract for new offices for the society at Nenagh at a tender price of £371,184.59 plus Vat. The first meeting in the Boardroom of the new offices was held on March 23, 1988 at which R. Tobin, Chairman, presiding expressed thanks to the architects, engineers, and buildings on the fine job which had been completed.

The repayment of the revolving fund commenced in the Autumn of 1984. A total of £265,258.77 was paid in the October milk cheque. The last instalment of the revolving fund was paid in September 1985. Suppliers were refunded £249,586.

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An aerial view during construction of the second evaporator at Nenagh Co-Op Creamery. 156


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SKIM MILK BECOMES A MORE VALUABLE PRODUCT FOR FURTHER PROCESSING

I

n June 1964 the committee considered a letter from the IAOS on a proposed formation of a federation of creameries in the mid west, i.e. Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. It was agreed that the chairman, G. Boland and the Manager, T. Ryan should attend a meeting which was being called to discuss the proposal.

G. Boland, Chairman and T. Ryan, Manager were appointed to represent the society on the committee of the Federation. A special meeting of the committee was held on January 26, 1965 to hear an outline from G Tierney, IAOS on a proposed Kilkenny-Tipperary Federation of Creameries which would be called Avonmore Creameries. He told them that

It was agreed at the meeting that a federation of creameries in the area be formed. At the same time several of the creameries in the grouping were now selling separated milk to the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland factory at Lansdowne, in Limerick City. In August 1964, it was agreed on the proposition of A. O’Brien, seconded by R. Boland that Nenagh should join the newly formed Limerick Co-op Creameries Federation and to purchase 100 shares in the society at £1 each, with 2/6d per share to be paid up.

The official invitation to the opening of the new creamery at Borrisokane on August 31, 1959. 157


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the proposed federation would comprise of more than 30 creameries. The Irish creameries would have 80% control and Unigate, a UK company would hold the remaining 20%.

estimated that the total investment would be around £500,000 and Avonmore Creameries would qualify for a grant of £200,000 from An Foras Tionscal towards the overall cost. The balance would be provided through borrowings.

In his outline of the proposal he said that Unigate, a very large firm with worldwide contacts in dairy markets, was manufacturing cheese in Co Wexford and was also involved with a Co Waterford creamery. It was through Unigate that An Bord Bainne was marketing milk powder and cheese.

At the following meeting, T. Ryan, Manager was appointed to represent the society on the committee of the Avonmore Creameries proposed development. In the Spring of 1965 the committee discussed the selection of Callan, Co Kilkenny as the site for the proposed Avonmore development. T. Ryan, Manager, advised that he considered Callan a most unsuitable location from the point of view of Nenagh as a member of the new society and he neither considered it as the most suitable for many of the creameries which formed the new society. Following a detailed discussion he was instructed to oppose, as far as possible, the decision to build the new plant at Callan.

He said that the proposed Avonmore Creameries, to be built on a site yet to be selected, would commence business as a milk powder plant, and progress to cheese manufacture and possibly a central churning station. The milk powder plant would be one of the largest in Europe. At that time 27 creameries had promised to invest £93,000 in share capital. It was

The official invitations issued to the opening of the new branch creamery at Birr, Co Offaly on September 25, 1968. 158

The Avonmore plan was revisited in May 1965 when T. Ryan, Manager, recalled the January 1965 meeting at which it had been decided to join with other creameries in the Avonmore development. He pointed out that when the decision had been taken, it was understood that the society would only supply skim milk to the new plant, and if Nenagh agreed to join, that fact would be taken into consideration in the selection of a site for the plant.


Chapter 11: A PERIOD OF FURTHER GROWTH

At the official opening of Birr Creamery on September 25, 1968 Rev Dr Frank Burke, Rector, Birr, Rector, Birr, Ger Boland, Don Davern, TD., Fr P J Hammell, PP Birr, J Moloney, Michael Delaney, T Ryan, Alfie Brien, Michael Spain, Dick Boland, L Ryan, Birr, Ned Haverty, T O’Meara, Bill Gleeson, Smithfield, P. McLoughlin, D Tobin, Dan Moylan, Pierce Grace, Rody Kennedy, Phil Kennedy, Michael Walsh, Matt Malone, Jack Dagg, John Dillon, Sean Kennedy, Sean Cunningham, Jack Gleeson, Benedine.

He explained that he had been instrumental in having the location changed to Durrow, which was about 40 miles from Nenagh.

members of the society must sell all of their milk to Avonmore, with the exception of any milk separated to supply skim milk to suppliers, and any milk sold for liquid consumption.

While it appeared that Nenagh had hoped for a central location close to the Tipperary-Kilkenny border, Tom Ryan claimed that “Kilkenny people had influenced the Minister for Agriculture. Jim Gibbons TD with the result that the Minister is insisting that the site be in Co Kilkenny”.

The minute of the meeting states “The manager felt that if skim milk became very valuable, the farmers may not take any milk back and the result would be that we would have to send 40,000 to 60,000 gallons of new milk daily to Avonmore. Considering the late hour when all of the milk was in and the long journey, he did not consider this satisfactory. As a result he had withdrawn

He told the committee that furthermore the rules of the new society stated that 159


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his discretion to go back in if the outlined difficulties were resolved. The decision was not welcomed by Avonmore Creameries. Messrs Arthur Cox & Co, Solicitors, were instructed to write to Nenagh Co-Op requesting that they outline in what way the Avonmore rules were in conflict with the interest of Nenagh Co-op.

An aerial view of the new branch creamery at Birr, Co Offaly opened on September 25, 1968.

from Avonmore in the Committee’s name. The decision before the committee now was to stay out or go back in”.

Legal advisor to Nenagh Co-op, Michael O’Meara, Solicitor, informed the committee that Avonmore Rule 71 was “definitely against us”.

The meeting was attended by G Tierney, IAOS, who outlined that he did not attend with the intention of influencing the society to remain in the Avonmore group. However, it is recorded that he “spoke at length and persistently about the advantages of staying in”.

A couple of months later, T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that a communication from Avonmore Creameries had revealed that the project was experiencing financial difficulties and the capital expenditure share had been changed to 51% Irish and 49% Unigate.

He accepted the implication of the rules as referred to, but pointed out that in his opinion their interpretation was not the intention when it was being drawn up. He pointed out that if the society stayed out there was no provision in the rules to enable a refund of their investment and a rule change would be necessary if they were to get their money back.

Avonmore continued to refuse to refund the investment by Nenagh Co-op in shares. It was felt that neither would they pursue a demand for the payment of the balance due on the share purchase and in time it was likely that someone else would purchase the shares from Nenagh Co-op and they would get their money back in that way.

P. McLoughlin, proposed and A. O’Brien seconded that the manager’s decision to withdraw be approved, but he could use

Further pressure was put on Nenagh Co-op to take up additional share capital in Avonmore as the summer of 160


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1966 progressed, including a personal letter from the Avonmore Manager to Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-op. The committee were also informed that Michael Roberton, a senior executive of Unigate was willing to discuss the erection of a casein plant at Nenagh. It was decided that no action should be taken at that time.

The IAOS proposals on co-op reorganisation was raised at the 1966 AGM. After an outline of the proposals by Madden, IAOS, the meeting felt that there was no evidence as to whether Nenagh would benefit or not under the proposals. Farmers supplying Killimor Creamery rejected the proposed transfer to Kilconnell under the proposals and sought the assurance of the Nenagh Committee that no transfer would be agreed to without their consent. They received the assurance sought.

Meantime in June 1965 the formation of a Federation of County Tipperary Creameries, Dairy Disposal Company and Express Dairies was suggested. The proposal was discussed by the Nenagh Committee. It was decided “that no steps in that direction be taken at this time”.

Farmers in the Birr area continued to exert pressure for a creamery in the town, including a letter of complaint to the IAOS on the failure to build a creamery.

A circular from IAOS in August 1967 calling a meeting of the Avonmore Group to discuss further amalgamation and future expenditure was not favourably received.

The process of building a creamery at Birr was progressed to tender stage by November 1966. Three tenders were considered. They ranged from £12,559. 12s. 6d. to £15,993. 10s. 0d. After consideration of the suitability of the tenders, T. Geiger, Birr who submitted the lowest tender was appointed.

The “perturbed” committee felt that the IAOS should be aware that they had requested assistance to get out of the grouping and furthermore that the organisation had initiated discussions for the Limerick area including Nenagh. With the creamery at Killimor operating there was rapid growth in the number of suppliers to Killimor Creamery. By the end of 1966, it had become apparent that a second intake point would be necessary and it was also necessary to have another manager at Killimor for 1967.

The milk churns which were used by farmers

At the same time the provision of a second platform for intake of milk at Nenagh was being considered.

throughout the middle years of the 20th century (1940’s-1970’s) to delivery milk to the creamery now mark the site of a former creamery near Killoscully. 161


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In May 1968, there was a breakthrough in resolving the differences with Avonmore over the shareholding. A letter from Avonmore informed the committee that the Board were prepared to release Nenagh from their obligations on shareholding in the society by transferring their shares to another suitable society or societies and that such society would refund the cost of the shareholding to Nenagh. This offer was accepted. The following month 7,000 shares were transferred to Centenary Co-op, Ballyduff, Thurles and 3,000 shares were transferred to Barrowvale Co-op, Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny finally ending the link between Nenagh and Avonmore for any direct involvement in the processing plans being developed in the east.

society at 3d/gallon and discussed the possibility of erecting a milk condensing plant at Nenagh. It was explained to them that the farmers used the milk for feeding to calves and pigs on the farms. At the beginning of 1970, the committee received a deputation from Upperchurch Co-Op. The deputation comprised of Messrs Hanly, Joyce, (Manager), Ryan, Treacy, Moloney, Ryan and McGrath. They informed the committee that interest had been expressed by the Upperchurch Committee to amalgamate with Nenagh. Upperchurch Co-op comprised of a central creamery at Upperchurch and branches at Rieska and Croughmorka. There was a peak daily milk intake at Upperchurch and Rieska of 2,900 gallons each and 1,400 gallons at Croughmorka. They sought assurances on terms for shareholding and the future of the creameries.

Although the average milk supply remained small, there was rapid expansion in the number of suppliers to Killimor Creamery. By 1968 it had increased to 900 and the indications were that it would exceed 1,000 in 1969 to have the largest number of suppliers to a branch, although not matching average milk volume supply at the other centres.

After terms similar to those which had been provided for Killeen were agreed, with the exception that Upperchurch received two seats on the committee - special meetings of shareholders of Upperchurch and Nenagh were arranged for April 16, 1970 to vote on the merger.

The society was represented at a meeting of the Irish Cheese Manufacturers in Dublin in 1969 at which intention to build a lactose factory in the area of Limerick Junction was outlined. This would utilise whey from the creameries in the area. It was also considered likely by the meeting that casein factories would be started by individual societies and the lactose factory would also use whey from these.

The committee received a deputation from Pallas Creamery in the Spring of 1970. The deputation comprised of Messrs Ryan, Quinlan, Long and Butler. There was lack of clarity on the ownership of the creamery. The committee sought clarification before any further discussions took place. The solicitor for Pallas Creamery was to be contacted.

McCormack Products Ltd expressed interest in buying skim milk from the 162


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In the early seventies more suppliers were willing to leave the skim milk in return for a reasonable price for the milk. The society did not have a market for the volume of skim milk available.

At the same time a group of creameries in the Mid West region (Clare, Limerick and Tipperary) had been brought together by the IAOS. They were identified as “Group 19�. Their objective was to discuss further processing facilities within the area.

McCormack Products Ltd (Killeshandra, Co Cavan) and Golden Vale Food Products (Charleville, Co Cork) were both interested in the purchase of skim milk from the society.

At a meeting of the group held at Limerick in July 1971, it was decided to seek interest from other creameries in the area who were supplying milk to the Dairy Disposal Company plant at Landsdowne, Limerick. If all were agreeable a study group would be formed to examine the feasibility of amalgamation. One of the objectives to be considered was the building of a major processing plant to serve the group of creameries, but there was a general feeling that the purchase of the DDCo Landsdowne factory may be more practical.

The committee had some concerns about both offers. If they agreed to supply Golden Vale they felt that it may act against the longer term intentions to have a plant at Nenagh as the Department of Agriculture may refuse a plant licence. McCormack Products Ltd had indicated that they could erect a condensing plant at Nenagh, but the feeling of the committee was that this plant would be controlled by McCormack Products Ltd and that may not be in the interest of Nenagh.

Interest connections between Nenagh and McCormack Products Ltd were being maintained. McCormack Products Ltd had indicated that they were proceeding with the building of a factory at Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon and they were interested in the skim available from Nenagh. This company was named Connacht Foods Ltd.

Paddy Kelly, secretary, IAOS, suggested to the society that Nenagh and Kilconnell should consider a joint venture in a skim milk powder plant. This led to a long discussion at the June 1971 committee meeting arising from which T. Ryan, Manager, was instructed to contact McCormack Products Ltd to see if they had any suggestion and also to open communications with the Department of Agriculture on the prospect of a Powder Factory licence for Nenagh.

T. Ryan, Manager and J. Murphy, Assistant Manager, attended a meeting with William McAskey of McCormack Products Ltd which was to have a big influence on the direction for the society. William McAskey confirmed that they were interested in building an evaporation plant at Nenagh which would condense the milk to be transported to 20% of volume. Pending its erection they would collect the skim from Nenagh at 5d/gallon. 163


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When confirmation of the discussion was received in writing the outline was for the transfer of an existing 1,000 g.p.h. evaporator they had in Killeshandra to Nenagh on an interim basis. This would condense 18,000 - 20,000 gallons per day. The requirement would be to evaporate potentially 80,000 gallons of skim per day. This was not acceptable to the committee. Instead the committee offered to go 50-50 in the cost of a 5,000 g.p.h plant. The response was an offer to increase the capacity of the proposed plant at Nenagh to 1,500 g.p.h. This was rejected with the committee feeling that it would be a makeshift situation that would never be satisfactory.

Martin Leenane making a presentation to Jimmy Murphy on his retirement in 2005 after more than forty years service to the society.

Following discussion it was decided that Nenagh withdraw from participation in the Limerick Group 19 Study Group and a proposition of S. O’Brien, seconded by J. Moloney for discussion with McCormack Products Ltd was approved. It was decided that an assessment of the skim available from branches should be carried out.

The committee approved furthering an arrangement of 50-50 sharing in a larger plant, or more than 50% investment by Nenagh if necessary to achieve their objective.

In August 1971, McCormack Products Ltd were collecting 4,000 gallons of skim per day from Nenagh and 1,000 gallons from Birr.

The opinion in Nenagh was that Mr Lawes may have a better opportunity to receive Department of Agriculture approval for the erection of a milk powder plant.

A director of McCormack Products Ltd planned to visit Nenagh on August 19 to discuss the erection of an evaporation plant.

The prospect of the processing plant for Nenagh received a set back when it was conveyed to the society by the company that it had been unofficially learned that any application to the Department of Agriculture for a licence to operate the plant would not be approved, before there was more clarity on the Arravale Group, pending a break up or otherwise of the group.

The meeting was attended by B. Lawes, Director of McCormack Products Ltd, William McAskey, Manager, Killeshandra and Mr Lawes, Snr. They discussed the erection of a 5,000 g.p.h. evaporator and once this was operational they would proceed with a drier - a powder plant.

T. Ryan, Manager arranged a meeting directly with Dr. Hennerty, Department 164


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of Agriculture to clarify the situation. He foresaw no reason why Nenagh should be refused a licence to operate a condensing plant.

plant began operations in June 1973. A deputation was received from Silvermines Co-op at the committee meeting in January 1972 with a view to amalgamation of the society with Nenagh. The deputation comprised of Very Rev Canon Murphy, P.P., Messrs J. Leamy, J. Hanly, J. Quigley, and M Minihan. Following a discussion the delegation were offered similar conditions to that of the earlier amalgamation of Killeen Creamery.

An application was immediately made to the Department of Agriculture for a licence. The estimated cost of the evaporating equipment would be £100,000, buildings and services would be additional to that. The plan was discussed with the manager of the bank.

The amalgamation of Silvermines Creamery was approved at a special general meeting of the Nenagh Committee on February 24, 1972 on the proposition of R. Tobin, seconded by J. Moloney and carried unanimously on a show of hands.

Within a month the Department of Agriculture had granted permission for the construction of the proposed plant, with a licence to be granted in due course subject to approval of site, plant, premises, equipment, water supply and effluent disposal facilities.

At the same time the committee received a request from Ballywilliam Creamery for a meeting with Nenagh. Messrs Woods, Looby, Slattery, Ryan, Gill, Reidy (secretary), and O’Mara (manager) attended.

Discussions with the IAOS suggested that major problems could be encountered in meeting the conditions on effluent disposal, unless the society purchased a farm and either put up the proposed plant there or were prepared to transport the effluent and spread it on the land. It was decided to proceed with the plans in hand and handle any difficulties as they arose.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Pat Woods said that they had held a special meeting and were anxious to amalgamate with Nenagh if suitable terms were agreed.

Approval was received from A.I.B. for loan facilities for £150,000 for the construction of the proposed plant at Nenagh. The strategy being followed by Nenagh was to erect the larger evaporator on their own and they would then be in a stronger position to get a licence to erect a milk powder drier in due course. The evaporator

M. Prendeville, V. O’Brien and C. Murphy at a social event. 165


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The deputation pressed very hard for a representation of four seats on the committee. The Nenagh Committee were not prepared to concede an extra seats to Ballywilliam and indicated to the deputation that societies amalgamating in the future would be restricted to two seats.

However the target to have their own plant in operation for the following year was threatened by a condition from the planning authority that plans for the handling of effluent from the plant be submitted and approved before any construction commenced on the site. It was considered that the delay could have serious implications.

Special General Meetings were arranged for March 28 and April 11 for Nenagh shareholders to vote on amalgamation of Ballywilliam.

R. Tobin, chairman met with senior officials of the County Council management, engineering and planning outlining the serious difficulties which would result from the delay in the erection of the plant. |The society may have to consider siting the plant at an alternative location. The County Council did not want to see the plant moved away from Nenagh. Further discussions took place between the society, County Council and Urban Council. Agreement was reached to allow the construction of the plant. On condition that the effluent was treated to the required standard, the society would be permitted to let it into the town sewerage. The required treatment would cost the society ÂŁ1,000 to ÂŁ2,000 per annum. Any further development on the site would also have to be treated and the County Manager insisted that in future an agreement would have to be drawn up whereby Nenagh Creamery would either treat existing effluent or pay the UDC a certain agreed sum to have the effluent treated.

After a full discussion and separate meetings, the terms of the Killeen amalgamation were accepted with an added undertaking that the store at Ballywilliam Creamery would be maintained and developed. The amalgamation was approved by Nenagh Committee at a special general meeting held on March 14, 1972 In March 1972 a request was received from Upperchurch Creamery seeking a meeting to discuss amalgamation of Upperchurch and Hollyford Creameries, with Nenagh. The committee considered the request and advised them that if they re applied twelve months later it would be considered. A request was received from Limerick Co-operative Creameries asking for support for the erection of a milk processing plant in Clare to handle 100 million gallons of milk annually. It was decided to take no action and to proceed with their own plans.

The agreement allowed the plans for the plant to progress. Meantime Connacht Foods (McCormack Products Ltd) were closely observing the developments in the west. By Autumn 166


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the specified specifications. With required modifications it was decided that the lowest be further explored.

B. Devaney, V. O’Brien and M. Ryan enjoying a social event.

1972 they were informing Nenagh that any plans to extend in Ireland outside of Ballaghadereen were off the table. Of even greater concern to Nenagh was formal notification to Nenagh that they should make their own long term arrangements and that “the handling of milk for 1973 would be a big problem”.

The August 1972 committee meeting was attended by a deputation from Galway Creameries. It consisted of Messrs Raftery, Colleran, Lennon and Monaghan.

They explained that collectively they handled 10 million gallons of milk. They had succeeded in getting all of their skim away for 1972, but the situation for 1973 was less certain. Several approaches were open to them and hoped to have some arrangements in place for the next season.

There was a major increase in milk supplies at that time. They were prepared to leave their evaporation plant at Nenagh until the end of 1973.

There were foreign interests but they had a preference for association with a home firm. They were reluctant to put all of their cards on the table and a further meeting at Portumna later in the month was agreed.

The Nenagh evaporator became operational on June 15, 1973. Milk concentrate was sold to McCormack Products Ltd, Killeshandra and Connacht Foods at Ballaghhadereen.

At the meeting at Portumna on August 23, 1972 the Galway delegation suggested that Nenagh and Galway Creameries should jointly erect a milk powder plant in Galway and at a later stage full amalgamation between the two sides could be considered. In many ways it started a relationship that was to come to the fore again 20 years later.

In several ways the course being adopted by Nenagh was proving to be prudent and well timed. As plans were being furthered for their own plant, it was expected that the plant would be operational by the end of 1973 to coincide with the withdrawal of the existing facilities.

The situation outlined to the Galway delegates was that Nenagh were in the process of building an evaporator plant at Nenagh to be operational the following year and were expected to apply for a licence to build a powder plant.

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In the meantime, Cratloe, Co Clare was being widely speculated upon as a likely site for the major processing plant for the mid west region as a joint venture by creameries in Limerick, Clare and Nenagh. Although this was as yet without any official imprimatur there was a long discussion on the idea at the committee meeting in September 1972, arising from which it was decided that no action should be taken.

In early 1974 the committee were invited by Newport Creamery to discuss amalgamation. Discussions were also opened with Bridgetown on amalgamation. It was decided that Newport and Bridgetown be offered similar terms to Ballywilliam and Silvermines. The possibility of Scarriff Creamery joining with Nenagh was also discussed. The committee’s of Nenagh and Newport met jointly on February 22, 1974. The Newport representatives were Messrs P. Ryan, Chairman, M. O’Malley, J. Lee, T. Foley, S. Ryan, S. Gleeson, M. McCabe, M. Coffey, J. O’Connell, J. J. Quigley, T. Rainsford, D. Kennedy, P. Clifford, S. Ryan, and J. Lacey, Manager.

The November 1972 committee meeting discussed a letter from Newport Creamery seeking discussions on possible amalgamation. An informal approach had also been made through a member of the Nenagh Committee on possible talks with Drom and Inch Creamery. The committee decided that no harm could be done by engaging in talks with interested societies. At the request of Newport Creamery a deputation was appointed to meet representatives on December 22, 1972.

Mr O’Shea, IAOS outlined the conditions of previous agreements, but pointed out that it was not IAOS policy that Newport should amalgamate with Nenagh. John Lacey said that Newport had 210 suppliers and 300 shareholders. There was a milk supply of 1.2 m gallons at the central creamery at Newport and 0.2 m. gallons each at Killoscully and Knockfune. There was a full discussion on the future for Newport with assurances that Nenagh would operate the creameries at Newport, Killoscully and Knockfune and when bulk collection was introduced, Killoscully and Knockfune could become collection points. The committee would not endorse a planned £100,000 extension for Newport. A request for four seats on the committee was refused, but an offer of three seats was accepted.

J J O’Mara, Manager, Ballywilliam Branch and Jimmy Murphy on the occasion of his retirement. 168


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Amalgamation with Newport and Bridgetown was approved at a special general meeting on March 28, 1974. The amalgamation of Upperchurch was approved by shareholders of both societies in June. Upperchurch Creamery included the branches at Rieska and Croughmorka. A meeting also took place between Nenagh and Hollyford Creamery, but it was felt that the Hollyford Committee were not very interested in amalgamation with Nenagh. In the Autumn of 1980, James Moloney, Secretary, IAOS, “acting as ombudsman” decided that the society should not accept Golden Vale suppliers who had applied for a transfer to Killimor Branch and that the milk supply from one farmer in the area who was supplying the branch for some months should be refused. T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that he had visited the respective farmer to discuss the situation. He would have to take his milk three miles to a pick up point for Golden Vale. The Killimor milk lorry was passing his gate. The committee recommended that on humanitarian grounds that the society should continue to accept the milk supply.

Barbara Nolan presenting a bouquet of flowers to Alice Murphy on the occasion of the retirement of her husband, Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive.

Nenagh were primarily interested in amalgamation. Westmeath offered partnership in a joint venture at Nenagh with proportional equity. Talks terminated without progress, but contact was maintained. At the end of the year discussions were re-opened with An Bord Bainne and ICOS providing leadership. Agreement in principle was reached on the benefits to both co-op’s of a joint venture located at Nenagh. The intended product was casein, the export markets for which offered a premium on return for the existing dairy product range. Project sub committees were appointed by each society to further evaluate, this work continued through the early months of 1987.

Subsequently, Richard Tobin, informed the committee that he had been requested to attend a meeting with the chairman and manager of Golden Vale and James Moloney, IAOS, in relation to the milk being transferred to Killimor. His position, as outlined to them, was that if the farmer wanted to send his milk to Killimor it should be accepted.

The two sides met in June under the chairmanship of James Moloney, IAOS. An evaluation presented by James Hyland was considered favourable. Westmeath Co-op representatives indicated difficulties for their society in making a substantial investment in processing facilities

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outside of their own area. They were also concerned at the implications of taking milk out of supplies which were being sold to Virginia Milk Products or pig farmers in their area. Their board was divided on their approach and coming under pressure from other processors.

the major share. The company would be called “Carrig Bawn Milk Products Ltd” with authorised share capital of £3,000,000 and issued share capital of £1,250,000, made up of £750,000 investment by Nenagh Co-op and £500,000 by Westmeath Co-op in £1 shares.

After the Nenagh delegation indicated that furthering talks without more certainty of the intentions of Westmeath Co-op was pointless, there was a more positive approach from Westmeath. The July 1987 meeting of the Nenagh Committee was informed that meetings had taken place between Nenagh, Westmeath and their bankers. Westmeath Co-op had committed to a joint venture at Nenagh for casein manufacture, a year and a half after the initial discussions.

Following a tendering process, Messrs Duggan Bros., Templemore were awarded the contract for the construction of the casein plant at their tender of £735,600 with work on the site commencing on October 30, 1987. Simultaneously a contract for an effluent plant extension was awarded to Messrs Thomas Hayes Ltd., at his tender of £246, 256.90 plus Vat. An application was made to the Department of Agriculture for a licence for the casein plant and a target set to have the plant in operation by May 1, 1988. In September 1987, Chief Executive, J. C. Murphy in conjunction with the Irish Dairy Board visited some potential customers for casein in the United States.

A comprehensive agreement drawn up by Dublin based solicitors, Arthur Cox & Co provide the basis for agreement. Letters of intent exchanged provided scope for joint involvement on issues broader than the proposed casein project. It was agreed that the project would have a board of nine, made up to five representatives from Nenagh and four from Westmeath with the chairmanship alternating every two years, unless otherwise agreed for the retention of the outgoing chairman for a further term of office. Investment equity was agreed on 60-40 with Nenagh holding

The first meeting of the full board of Carrig Bawn Milk Products Ltd was held in March 1988 at which Garrett Farrell, Westmeath Co-0p was elected the first chairman of the new co-op and James Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-op was approved as Chief Executive and Secretary. The Board reported satisfaction with the progress to date.

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A delivery of Nenagh Milk making its way through the scenic countryside around Silvermines. 172


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PENALTIES ADD TO THE PRESSURE ON THE PRICE BEING PAID FOR MILK

T

he Government financial support for the milk price, by way of direct subsidy, continued to influence the price paid to producers through the mid 1960’s.

milk six days each week at Nenagh and two days at Borrisokane. Cyril Greally, an assistant manager, was appointed to supervise the quality milk scheme. At the same time it was agreed to appoint a technician to service milking machines. W. Sherlock was appointed. He was to attend a training course organised by An Foras Taluntais.

In May 1964, the Department of Agriculture informed the society that to enable co-operatives to increase the price paid to farmers for milk, the Government subsidy would be increased to 4d/gallon. The subsidy would not be paid on milk sold for human consumption. However, the Government would repay the levy of 1.375d/gallon Bord Bainne levy on the milk being sold to the public. After discussion the committee decided to continue to pay the premium of 2d/gallon to suppliers to the liquid milk plant.

The first months of a quality milk incentive scheme was assessed in August 1965. Phased improvement in quality was noted in the months after August 1965. It was estimated that the cost to the society of running the scheme for a full year would come to £3,000. At the same time, the installing of icebank coolers by farmers was under consideration to enable them to meet the higher quality standards. It was estimated that the operational cost and allowance for depreciation would come to around 1d/ gallon.

The introduction of a Quality Payment Scheme for milk was discussed early in 1965 “in so far as any details of a scheme are known” but in the absence of more details on such a scheme it was decided to make no change. Within a couple of months details of the quality scheme was received from the Department of Agriculture and after discussion it was agreed that they could work with the scheme for testing the

Suppliers to the liquid milk plant were given an increase of 2d/gallon to be paid from January 1966 to March 1966 after 173


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approval had been received to increase the price of milk to customers by 0.5d per pint. Some further progress was made on the Quality Milk Scheme. At the end of 1966, it was reported that 2,479,306 gallons of milk had qualified for the bonus payment, the value of which to the suppliers amounted to £10,330. 8s.10d for the year. The bonus was earned by 28% of the suppliers, and paid on 33% of total milk intake for the year.

Celebrating the success of Nenagh Milk, James Hanly, Dick Tobin, Jimmy Murphy, and John O’Brien.

Wage demands granted cost an additional £10,000.

Committee member, Paddy Kennedy felt that more should be done by the society to encourage more suppliers to meet the quality standards. He pointed out the importance of a high percentage of the intake meeting the quality standards if the society was to build a powder plant and suggested that suppliers should be informed of loan facilities available from the Agricultural Credit Corporation for the sinking of wells and the installing of ice bank coolers.

The total increase in costs was equivalent to 1d/gallon in milk intake. The committee felt strongly on the necessity to reduce the price of milk. It was decided that the payment to milk suppliers be reduced by 1.5d./lb butterfat. Before the end of the year, the Minister for Agriculture introduced a two-tier milk price with 1d/ gallon more to be paid on the first 7,000 gallons of milk supplied. The committee welcomed the decision. About 80% of the Nenagh suppliers were under 7,000 gallons per annum.

There was gradual improvement in the number of suppliers and the volume of milk qualifying for the Quality Bonus payment. End of year results for 1967 showed that 34% of the suppliers and 46% of the milk intake had qualified for the payment which was worth these farmers £30,440 during the year.

The levy of 1d/lb butterfat which had been imposed on Borrisokane suppliers towards the cost of the creamery was removed at the end of 1968. The general downward pressure on milk price brought an adverse reaction from farmers and both NFA and ICMSA became engaged in establishing ‘fighting funds’ to fund a campaign for a milk price increase.

Rising operational costs became a concern for the committee in the Autumn of 1968. The increase in the Bord Bainne levy was set to cost £23,000 for the year. 174


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The milk price continued to be a sensitive issue for both farmers and the society. It was agreed that the monthly committee meetings, which were usually held during the first week, in the future be held around the 15th of the month which was considered a more suitable stage for fixing of the milk price. It would not be possible to change the price for the previous month, but they could decide the price for the current month.

and Bord Bainne had slowed down payments,which were due for the two tier milk price, quality bonus and butter sales. Combined they owed the society £136,000. Overdraft arrangements for £100,000 had been made with the bank. The two tier milk price continued to benefit the majority of the suppliers to the society. Only 15.6% of the suppliers, supplied more than 7,000 gallons during the first 12 months of operation, meaning that 84.4% had qualified for the bonus of 1d/gallon on all milk supplied.

The Bord Bainne levy was increased by 1d/ gallon in early 1969. The introduction of the five day week added a further 0.5d/ gallon to costs. It was hoped that some relief would be granted in the budget. Therefore adjustment of the milk price was deferred until post the budget.

Towards the end of 1969 the Department of Agriculture set out their allowances on milk price. For the months of May-Aug incl, 1d/gallon would be paid up to 1,000 gallons. The two tier milk price would be increased to 2d./gallon to be paid in a lump sum at the end of the year. The Department of Agriculture also stated

There was no relief in the budget. The Bord Bainne levy and increase in operational costs for the year would amount to the equivalent of 2d/ gallon, which based on milk intake the previous year came to £78,000. A reduction of 5d/lb butterfat would be in the region of £72,500. The milk price remained under pressure. It was reported that most of the surrounding creameries paid 5/5d/lb for butterfat for April, but it was unlikely that this price could be maintained. A milk price of 5/5d/ lb butterfat was agreed. At the same time cash flow for the society was affected on two fronts. Both the Department of Agriculture

Dick Tobin, Chairman, Nenagh Co-Op receiving ISO Certification from Ivan Yates, TD., Minister for Agriculture, with Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive. 175


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that nationally 80% of suppliers were delivering less than 7,000 gallons of milk annually and therefore benefiting from the two tier bonus on all milk supplied. The breakdown on national production in 1969 was Under 7,000 gallons - 80% 7,000-14,000 gallons - 14% 14,000-20,000 gallons - 4% over 20,000 gallons - 2%

was instructed that in future these payments, as applicable, would have to be paid directly to each supplier, rather than incorporated in the price lb/butterfat being paid. When it was discussed by the committee they felt that the intention was to show to farmers the extent to which the milk price was being supported by the Government. The adjustment required a reduction of 1s.7d/lb butterfat. From December 1969 the price would be altered to 3s.10d/lb butterfat, plus the Government subsidy as applicable to each supplier.

The pressure exerted by farmers on the Government through the second half of the 1960’s continued to be of concern to the powers that be. It is highly likely to have been among the reasons for the decision by the Department of Agriculture to instruct creameries to implement a major change in the manner in which the milk price was shown on the farmer statements.

The subsidy of 7d/gallon was not applicable to milk supplied to the liquid milk plant. The Department of Agriculture informed the committee that 1d/gallon would be paid for April-September 1970 to a maximum of 1,000 gallons per month and the two tier milk price on 7,000 gallons would be increased from 2d/gallon to 3d/gallon.

The Government paid a subsidy of 7d/ gallon, plus 2d/gallon under the two tier price on up to 7,000 gallons, and 2d/ gallon quality milk bonus. The creamery

Michael O’Kennedy, TD, Minister for Agriculture, planting a tree to commemorate the visit of EU Ministers for Agriculture to Nenagh Co-op during the Irish Presidency of the EU. 176

There was a further increase in Government support for the milk price in 1971. The subsidy was increased to 5d/gallon for the first 7,000 gallons, with 4d/ gallon between 7,000 gallons and 10,000 gallons annual supply. A subsidy of 3d/gallon would be paid between 10,000 and 30,000 gallons, dropping to 1.5p/gallon


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between 30,000 and 40,000 gallons, with 1d/gallon paid for milk supplies between 40,000 and 50,000 gallons and 0.5d/gallon up to 60,000 gallons over which no subsidy would apply.

It was felt that some producers were not making sufficient effort to reach the Quality Standards and the new scheme could be more effective. It involved a deduction of 0.5p/gallon on the total milk supply for the month for each quality test failed. If a supplier failed all four tests the milk price would be reduced by 2p/gallon.

For the 12 months September 1970-71 the Government subsidy was worth ÂŁ108,689 to the society suppliers, with 82% of the supply qualifying for the higher rate of subsidy, having been supplied by suppliers of less than 7,000 gallons.

It was also outlined to the committee that Ireland’s imminent entry into the EEC (European Economic Community) would render Bord Bainne ineligible to continue to operate as a state or semistate body for the marketing of dairy produce. It would be necessary for the organisation to become a co-operative. It would necessitate all co-ops and processors taking shares in the new co-op, and it was intended to change the name to the Irish Dairy Board.

Changes to the Quality Milk Scheme for 1972 were discussed. It was suggested that the basic milk price should be increased to include the Quality Milk Bonus with a penalty deduction for each of test the milk failed during the month. There were four tests carried out each month. It was decided that no change would take place for 1972.

While there had been considerable growth in milk supply during the previous decade, Ireland’s entry into EEC was foreseen as an opportunity for rapid development in farming and in particular dairy farming. Expansion in production, with new markets and EEC support wast benefit the industry.

The returns for 1971 were also discussed. The milk price paid to suppliers averaged 30.5p/lb butterfat, including 5p/gallon for skim, compared to 27.14p/lb for 1970. The volume of milk qualifying for the Quality Milk Bonus increased to 53% of intake which was supplied by 36% of the suppliers.

Dairy equipment company, APV Desco invited a member of the society on a study tour of bulk milk collection in Sweden. There was widespread interest among the committee to avail of the opportunity to see at first hand the system of collection in Sweden. Committee member, Liam Whyte was selected to travel in a draw from those interested. On his return he informed the committee that he was very impressed by the system of bulk collection

The proposal to change the Quality Milk Scheme to increase the base price to include the Quality Bonus with a deduction for failing to meet the criteria was introduced for 1972. 177


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Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-Op Creamery presenting a piece of Tipperary Crystal to Henn Nallet, French Minister for Agriculture with Michael O’Kennedy, TD., Minister for Agriculture and Tom Harrington, Nenagh Co-Op.

operating in Sweden, but he had doubts if a bulk milk collection system was suitable for operation in Ireland.

none of the committee felt that a scheme was feasible for the Nenagh society at that time, as the average size milk producer was relatively small.

Early in 1973 there was further discussion on a milk collection system when a meeting of the committee was addressed on the issue by Mr Breen from Waterford Co-op where they had started a bulk collection system in 1964 with the participation of 50 farmers and a further 100 joining two years later. By the end of 1972 of the 5,000 suppliers to the co-op 2,000 were availing of the bulk milk collection system.

There was further discussion on bulk collection at the AGM in 1973. Shareholders were informed that the committee did not consider that the Nenagh area had much in common with areas of the country where bulk milk collection had been introduced. Nenagh had 1,456 suppliers with less than 25 gallons/day at peak, 528 suppliers of between 26 and 50 gallons/ day at peak, and only 70 suppliers of more than 100 gallons/day peak supply. It was added that bulk collection would require on farm refrigeration which would further complicate the situation for the farmers and the society.

They were operating 20 tankers, transporting 14 million gallons per annum and operating 18 hours per day at peak with alternate day collection for farmers. Following on the prolonged discussion 178


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The sale of skim milk to McCormack Products Ltd (Killeshandra) was intended as a boost to the return to farmers who opted to leave skim at the creamery. The target was a return of 7d/gallon. However when a charge of almost 1d/gallon was introduced by the company for transporting to Killeshandra and the allowance to Nenagh for evaporating was only 0.6d/gallon, which was scarcely enough to cover the cost, with no concession for loss, the return to suppliers came under pressure. The best price that could be passed on to suppliers was 6.6d/gallon.

collection system for 1974, increasing to 374 suppliers for 1975, and 432 suppliers seeking the service for 1976. The demand from suppliers led to the committee treating the requirement for a bulk collection system as urgent. It was decided to provide a lorry and a tractor unit for Birr, a lorry and a tractor unit for Toomevara, a lorry for Borrisokane and a lorry and a tractor unit for Nenagh. It would mean that all suppliers in the areas to be served would have to use bulk collection. It involved converting the multi can routes to a bulk collection system, with some inevitable rationalisation of runs where hauliers preferred to opt out for age and other reasons. The hauliers took to the system very positively as it eliminated the back breaking job of lifting cans. It was the first time such a complete conversion was made in the milk industry in Ireland.

The bulk collection of milk was back on the agenda before the end of the year when larger suppliers in the Birr area threatened to leave the society unless bulk milk collection was introduced, after bulk collection became available in the Tullamore area and Avonmore advertised a bulk collection service.

Bulk milk collection came into effect in March 1974. Some suppliers who had applied for the service did not accept it. The cost of milk collection was 1.5p/ gallon.

The committee felt that the completion of the powder plant was the first priority, but there was concern that some large suppliers would leave. It was decided to hold a meeting in each creamery area to assess the scale of interest in bulk milk collection and a questionnaire was also circulated. There was a return rate of 70% of forms. The results showed that 11% of suppliers intended increasing milk production in 1974 and a further 30% intended to increase their herd size by the end of 1976. Three quarters of the suppliers had piped water and 52% had milking machines.

The manufacture of milk powder commenced on a limited scale in March 1974, but it would be another month or two before the contractors work would be completed. Few if any liquid milk plants in Ireland were using cartons at that time with the

On bulk milk collection, 294 suppliers wanted the introduction of a bulk 179


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exception of Town of Monaghan Co-Op. All liquid milk was homogenised in 1975 also to facilitate the use of cartons. Liquid milk packaging changed over later that year from glass bottles to Tetra Pak cartons.

In the Spring of 1976 the planned transfer of a load of milk from East Clare Creameries to Killimor branch led to a threat from Golden Vale of a picket being placed on Nenagh Creamery. As a result it was decided by management not to accept the milk. Meantime a farmer at Abington (Murroe) wanted to transfer his supply to Newport Branch. The manager of the Newport Branch said that he had been threatened by the manager at Abington if the milk was accepted. It was decided to accept the milk supply.

Around the same time the committee discussed paying for milk on the basis of butterfat and protein content. This payment was put in place in 1975 and Nenagh was the first society in the country to adopt this payment system. As the processing sector expanded in all regions through the mid 1970’s, and the milk price to producers continued to increase beyond any prior expectations, dairy farmers were also becoming more conscious of the difference in return from individual processing centres and the overall impact on their incomes of even marginal differences in price/gallon. There was also an increase in the competition between societies for milk, although this was something that had existed from the foundation of the creameries.

Despite these differences, Golden Vale was interested in getting excess supplies of milk from Nenagh. They were willing to take 20,000 gallons of whole milk and a further 10,000 gallons of skim milk conditional on the supply being maintained for at least 40 days in the peak season. Milk being supplied by Mullingar Creamery came into question. It was important to the plans for further processing facilities at the creamery being considered. Nenagh offered to enter into an agreement with Mullingar Creamery to

During the visit of EU Ministers to Nenagh Co-Op Creamery, Tom Cleary, G. Kennedy, J. Powell, T. Quigley, L. Whyte, P. Ryan and P. Grace. 180


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accept all their milk, provided that their supply was committed for a minimum of five years and conditional on the operation of a revolving fund of 1p/gallon, which was later reduced to half that amount. However the deal was rejected by Mullingar, which eased the pressure on processing within the society to lose the Mullingar supply for 1977. The purchase of a second evaporator, which was expected to cost £300,000 was deferred for a period until commitments on external milk supplies would be clearer. As milk production in the area continued to increase at double the national average it was essential to acquire the second evaporator. This was acquired to provide flexibility and security over the peak period in particular.

Ger Kennedy packing butter at the co-op in the 1970’s.

Tipperary Co-Op decided to consider their own options in regard to the product range.

A request was received from IFA for discussions on independent milk testing. The matter was deferred for a year.

Quotations for the new drier plant of £663,074 and £183,980 for the silos were approved.

Following discussions between Nenagh Creamery, Tipperary Creamery and An Bord Bainne on the future of milk processing in the area, it was agreed that a whole milk powder drier to be erected at Nenagh offered the most suitable option having regard to existing facilities. Arising from the meeting held in May 1977, J. Armitage proposed and P. J. Kennedy seconded to approve of the erection of a whole milk powder drier. The decision was unanimous. The evaporator and ancillary equipment already in place at Nenagh would serve the new plant, and the additional drier would be commissioned in 1979 at the latest.

The quality standards required for the Whole Milk Powder plant, necessitated the first change to quality milk standards scheme since 1972 with the penalty for failing to meet the base standard to be increased from 2p/gallon to 4p/gallon, applied at the rate of 1p/gallon deducted for each of the four monthly tests failed. The new penalty came into operation on May 1, 1978. Later that month the society was informed by An Bord Bainne that higher standards and tougher penalties for antibiotics in 181


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dairy products would be applied with effect from June 1. Whereas previously the rejection level was 0.01 the new standard was being set at 0.003 which was affectively zero. Following discussion it was decided that the society had no option but to apply the new standard. It was decided that a penalty of 3p/gallon would be applied in respect of each test for antibiotics failed in any month.

D. Collins, M. Lumbroso, M Hayes and C Murphy at a social event at the co-op.

Milk containing antibiotics was not acceptable as any milk powder testing positive for antibiotics would be rejected and returned to the processor.

meeting. He outlined a developing serious situation arising from over production. The Board were in discussions with the Minister for Agriculture on how the situation would be approached. He advised them that a reduction in price, a freezing of the price, the closing of intervention during the winter months, and an adjustable co-responsibility levy were some of the options under consideration.

Overall milk quality standards were also being tightened. Early in 1980, Total Bacteria Count (TBC) testing was introduced for suppliers of refrigerated milk. Supplies of water cooled milk were subject to the Methalyn Blue test. The standards provided for penalties of up to 9p/gallons on milk supplies.

A serious fire, which broke out in a switch room at the drying plant in January 1979 caused damage estimated at £250,000 £300,000 and the society was fortunate that the fire was contained within a limited area of the plant. The plant was back in production within six weeks.

The expansion in milk production which had taken place during the years following Ireland’s entry into the EEC led to a developing over supply situation by the end of 1978.

The sudden ending of a boom period for Irish farmers post entry to EEC was signalled by T. J. Maher when he addressed the sixty-sixth AGM of the society at the Ormond Hotel, Nenagh on April 26, 1979.

An Bord Bainne member, Thomas Cleary addressed the committee at the October

Having commended the society on their performance, he warned of difficult and 182


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tough times ahead for all farmers, with a freeze on price increases, the threat of a property tax, and emerging financial difficulties for many who had invested heavily in their enterprises in prior years. He urged that co-operatives and factories should get together to become more effective and more efficient.

Killeen - P. Ryan, M. Kennedy and P. Grace. Borrisokane - M. Flannery, R. Dunne, and J. Cleary. Killimor - W. Treacy, P. Ryan, and P. O’Dwyer. Birr - P. O’Leary, Mrs M. Hoare, and I. Sheppard. Silvermines - B. Burke, J. Quirke, and D.Quinn. Ballywilliam - J. Weldon, J. O’Brien and D. Mulcahy. Bridgetown - P. Bourke, Mrs Hannon, P. Lynch. Newport - M. Ryan, Miss A. Russell, and Mrs M. Ryan. Upperchurch - P. Phelan, Mrs E. Stapleton, and E. Ryan.

After a hard winter for farmers, and the threat of a 2% produce levy from the Government, the Society considered how best they could contribute to reducing costs for farmers on feed purchase. Animal feed compounding by the society or in co-operation with other co-op’s was fully discussed.

Monthly quality milk awards of £50 were introduced for liquid milk suppliers. The winners for the first year of operation (1983) were S. McLoughney (4), G. Kennedy (3), T. Cleary (2), and J. Ryan, J. O’Brien and T. Hogan (1).

The introduction of higher quality standards for milk in the early 1980’s, to meet the criteria set down by An Bord Bainne for dairy products being produced for export, presented a challenge to producers. Total Bacteria Count (TBC) was introduced at the co-op for the first time. As an incentive the society introduced an award scheme for producers meeting the highest standards.

An offer by a group of Limerick farmers to transfer 5-10 million gallons per annum to the society was considered in 1983 when the decision was that “it would be better to keep out of milk wars”.

The first awards were presented to the top suppliers in each area on 1983 production. The winners received £100 - 1st prize, £60 - 2nd prize, and £40 - 3rd prize based on the overall average of milk supplied in 1983. The first winners of the awards were (for each area, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively) Nenagh - P. Conway, M. McCarthy, and V. Baker. Toomevara - Mrs Cleary, James Connolly, and S. McCarthy. Duharra - S. Molampy, P. McGrath, and P. Sexton.

M. Flanagan and M. Gaynor at a social event organised by the co-op. 183


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There was considerable conflict between milk processors in the Limerick-North Cork region at the time, regularly described as “milk wars�. Suppliers transferring milk led to frequent acrimonious battles, often splitting families. A round the clock blockade of Kantoher Creamery, near Newcastle West, by workers of the Golden Vale plant at Charleville over the acceptance by Kanother of former Golden Vale suppliers, which made national headlines was one of the most bitter. The local farmers were prevented from delivering their milk to the creamery in mid-summer by the picket mounted by some of their own family members who were employed at Golden Vale.

After the breaking up of Kantoher Co-op in 1991, Kerry Co-Op took over the majority of the suppliers with the exception of about twenty large milk producers who sought to supply Nenagh Co-op. The supply was attractive to Nenagh and agreement was reached on the purchase of the milk from the individual producers rather than from the group. Some anomalies between the payment in place in Kantoher and that in Nenagh were reconciled over a short period. Apart from a few who opted out of milk altogether, the remaining producers continue to be active suppliers to Nenagh for the past 22 years



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Charles Cavanagh, Managing Director, Abbey Machinery and John Quill, Manager, Nenagh Co-op Livestock Mart. John Quill was an assistant manager at the Nenagh Co-op from 1949 - 1970 and transferred to Nenagh Mart following the untimely death of Michael Delaney, Mart Manager in 1970. 186


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A.I. SERVICE BENEFITS BREEDERS AND CO-OP DRIVES PLAN FOR LIVESTOCK MART

T

he success of the operation of the creamery during the first year encouraged the committee to consider other ways in which the society could be of benefit to local farmers as early as mid 1915.

opposed by Rody Spain and Martin Ryan, while John Cooney felt that they should also consider forming a farmers association. After some discussion, decision was deferred for six months to the end of the year, with instructions issued to the Manager to arrange for a Special General Meeting to be convened to assess farmer interest, while the suggestion of a farmers association was not progressed further at that time.

Several of the co-op creameries which had been established in the region for up to a decade, and continued to trade successfully, had become engaged in providing additional services for farmers in their areas, and thereby also growing their business. The principal extended activity was expansion into store trading, to supply inputs to farming, seeds, manures, farm equipment, and some hardware. The objective was that the co-operatives could provide a valuable service to farmers in their area by stocking essential farm inputs locally. Using the co-op principle the inputs could be supplied at more competitive prices than available from commercial retail suppliers.

The Special General Meeting to discuss store trading took place on December 9, 1915 at 2 p.m. The attendance of 22 was mostly committee members. The disappointing response from farmers did not instil confidence of widespread general interest from farmers in the area in the proposed expansion for the society. The motion that the co-op engage in the sale of seed, manures and farm implements for the benefit of farmers was discussed at length. The mood was less than upbeat, because of the lack of interest shown by farmers and the motion to expand into store trading was lost on a vote of 8 for to 14 against the proposal.

John Spain was supported by Martin Gleeson in a proposal that the society open a store at the co-op premises to sell seeds and manures, etc to farmers. Not everyone on the committee agreed. The idea was

Two months earlier, in time for the beginning of the harvesting of the crop 187


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would become the responsibility of the user. At the end of 1918, after three harvests in use, it was decided to dispose of the Potato Digger by asking local auctioneer, Francis Slattery to auction it with a reserve of ÂŁ10. The venture into providing machinery for farmers and milk suppliers were to form a new organisation to construct hire by farmers failed to one of the first co-op livestock marts in the country. achieve the success they had hoped for and as a result of the problems experienced, in the area, they had decided to purchase mainly with maintaining the equipment in a potato digger from Messrs Hodgins to working order, the provision of machinery be hired out to the farmers. The digger for hire was discontinued. was purchased and the charge for hire to farmers was fixed at 10/- per day or 5/- per Following a discussion on the benefits, half day. in December 1919, the committee decided that a branch of the Cow In the Spring of 1917 the purchase of Testing Association should be formed in a sprayer for hire was discussed and the conjunction with the creamery. A special Manager instructed to get quotations. The meeting to formalise the formation of the co-op purchased the sprayer which was society was held on January 24, 1920. hired out to the farmers. However the attendance indicated a lack of interest from farmers in the idea. Six The cost of using the sprayer was fixed at farmers attended. Those present were 5/- per acre with the operator following the Messrs W. Walsh, William Gleeson, John sprayer to be paid 5/- per day. Spain, John Cooney, Tom Minogue, and L. Kennedy. Due to the small attendance Within a month there was difficulties no business was done. encountered when it was reported to the committee that the sprayer had been broken The anxiety among a section of the farmers while being used by a farmer. The co-op to have a co-operative store to supply instructed that the farmer be held liable for farm inputs was back on the agenda again half the cost of the repair and in the future within a couple of years. A special meeting the full cost of any damage to the sprayer was held on July 12, 1920, at which it The ‘Nenagh Guardian’ edition of October 8, 1955 announced that

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The stately mansion, once occupied by the Trant Family which became the headquarters of Dovea A.I. Centre, at Dovea, Thurles.

was unanimously decided to circularise all suppliers asking them to take shares in the co-op store which was about to open and while it would be under the umbrella of the creamery it would be operated as a separate co-op society.

0s 0d. and 10/- respectively for the first three prizes in the class. Within a few years trading difficulties were being experienced by the North Tipperary Co-op Stores and a meeting of the creditors was convened for early December 1925.

In August 1921 after receiving a deputation from Tipperary North Co-op Society, John Spain proposed and Martin Ryan seconded that the milk suppliers should be encouraged by the committee to take shares in the Tipperary North Co-Op Society.

The operation of the Cow Testing Association continued to impress the committee. In 1932, they decided to donate fourteen pounds of butter to the Association Dance Committee free of charge owing to the great benefit to the co-op of the work being done by the Association.

In 1923 the co-op decided to support North Tipperary Show by sponsoring a class at the show for the Best Three Dairy Cows exhibited by a supplier to the co-op. They allocated prize money of £3. 10s.0d for prizes of £2. 0s 0d, £1.

In June 1950, as interest among the more progressive farmers on the use of Artificial Insemination for livestock breeding was 189


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beginning to spread, the committee heard a report from T. Ryan, Manager on a visit to Mitchelstown A.I. Station. At the AGM in January 1951, Kevin Bernal, Brookwatson informed the meeting that he had been appointed by the Young Farmers Association to attend with a view to asking the committee if they would get an A.I.Station for Nenagh. T. Ryan, Manager, outlined details of the visit to Mitchelstown Centre by himself and a deputation from Nenagh Co-Op. He suggested that Kevin Bernal and some of his members could attend a meeting with the committee to discuss the economics of a centre at Nenagh.

but it would cost the creamery £600. It was decided that creameries at Newport, Ballywilliam, etc should be contacted to see if they were interested in the scheme.

By February 1952 considerable progress had been made nationally to provide an A.I. service. The indications were that the nearest stations would likely be Kilkenny, or Clarecastle. The Veterinary Head of the Department of Agriculture indicated that there could be a sub-centre at Nenagh

By April 1952 it was reported to the committee that the plan for an A.I. Station at Kilkenny had fallen through owing to not getting the support of the farmers. T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that the only option open was to join Clarecastle. He advised the committee that they should join with Clarecastle “so that the farmers around could breed cows to give a better supply of milk”. The station, to start on a small scale, would only involve an investment by the society of £100-£200 for the necessary equipment and if it was to fail they could always dispose of the equipment purchased and get back their money.

A month later, a letter from the Dairy Disposal Company in Clarecastle, Co Clare re having an A.I. station at Nenagh was considered. After a long discussion it was decided to request the IAOS to contact all creameries in the area to see if they were interested in the service so that the committee understood where they were before starting a sub centre at Nenagh. The committee agreed to join with Kilkenny if there was sufficient suppliers interested.

On the proposition of J. A. O’Brien, seconded by Dovea Leader 2, a Shorthorn bull at Dovea A.I. Centre, which was a direct decendant of Deerpark Leader, reputed J. Spain it was decided to join with Clarecastle. The manager was instructed to have been the best Shorthorn bull in the world. 190


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to visit Clare and provide all the details for the next meeting or to call a special meeting. Although the plan for the establishment of an A.I. centre at Clarecastle by the Dairy Disposal Company was continuing, at the same time the impetus to have a station in the TipperaryKilkenny area was far from off the agenda of farmers in Tipperary. In particular, farmers in the Thurles area were keen to have a station in their area.

Mary Lumbroso, Martin Leenane, and Conor Ryan, Chief Executive, Arrabawn Co-Op.

the Tipperary venture and that their contribution be paid.

In January 1953, Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Creamery indicated to the committee of a group being formed to operate an A.I. station in the TipperaryKilkenny area that Nenagh would be interested in becoming a member of the group. An application was made for a licence for the new station’s area to include the Nenagh-Newport area.

T. Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-op and Dan O’Mahony, Manager, Centenary Co-op were like minded men on the requirement to be progressive in development of essential services for the farming sector. They were also personally good friends. Once the move was made by Centenary Co-op to progress with an A.I. service for the area, the link with the development at Clarecastle was off the agenda.

In March 1953 the committee discussed a letter received from Centenary Creamery (Thurles). Centenary Co-op Creamery was managed by Dan O’Mahony, who had shown a progressive approach in the development of the creamery. The letter outlined proposals for an A.I. centre and pointing out that Nenagh Creamery was required to pay £791 for a share of the proposed A.I. service for the area, with £316 of the amount to be paid immediately, if they favoured becoming involved in the development. The matter was deferred to the AGM at which it was agreed on the proposition of R. Boland and seconded by Mr O’Brien that they support

The establishment of the A.I. Centre was progressed by Dan O’Mahony with the service to be housed at Dovea Demesne, situated between Thurles and Borrisoleigh. The property was formerly owned by the Trant family who were of Norman origin and purchased lands in Tipperary in 1748. A lecture was given by, Dr. Henry Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Irish co-operative movements in 1944, to farmers in the Thurles district and this 191


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had the intention that it would become the centre for the Bovine Artificial Insemination service in the South Eastern region of Ireland, covering the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly. From the beginning the centre provided an artificial insemination service of quality genetics for the milk and beef producing herds of its co-operative members. The Nenagh Creamery milk suppliers were circularised on the proposals for the A.I. service being developed in Tipperary. The following August, T. Ryan, Manager reported to the committee that G. Boland, Chairman and himself had attended a meeting of the South Eastern Cattle Breeding Society and “everything was very satisfactory”.

Diarmuid Quill former butter production manager and J. J. O’Mara, former Manager, Ballywilliam Branch.

was attended by Captain Laurence Trant. He was anxious that his house, lands and amenities be preserved and therefore offered his Dovea Estate as a demonstration farm for the betterment of the farming community.

Nenagh Creamery was one of the fifty two Co-operative Creameries in the area to become members of the newly formed South Eastern Cattle Breeding Society Limited in 1952. Initially the society leased and later purchased Dovea House for its head quarters.

Dr Kennedy was born at Toor, near Newport. An imminent educationalist, he was brother-in-law of Paddy Hogan, T.D. the first Minister for Agriculture. According to papers which have been acquired by the National Library the Trant family were originally from Dingle in county Kerry, before settling at Dovea in 1813 where the Trant estate originally amounted to almost 3,000 acres and was valued at just over £2,100.

Dan O’Mahony continued as a key anchor man in the development of the A.I. service for the area through the newly formed South Eastern Cattle Breeding Society. He became secretary of the new society while continuing as manager of Centenary Co-op. The first manager of the society was Jack Wolohan, a County Wicklow man and a qualified veterinary surgeon.

In 1952 Dovea House and the surrounding 500 acres at the time was bought by Centenary Co-operative, Bouladuff, Thurles. The visionary manager of Centenary Co-Op, Dan O’Mahoney

Originally the Dovea House and lands were leased to the A.I station. In May 1956, South Eastern Cattle Breeding 192


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Society purchased Dovea House and 140 acres from Centenary Co-op for £6,000. In October 1957, the society purchased an adjoining 230 acres of land for £8,000.

stating that the station was going very well, having returned a half year profit of £5,000 and the Dan O’Mahony, Secretary was full of praise for John Fogarty.

The number of livestock breeds on farms in general at the time were limited. The dominant breed to be found on farms in the country at the time was the Shorthorn, a breed that served both dairy and beef requirements on the farms. Hereford and Angus were also common on mainly beef farms.

The service became an instant success in the region, growing rapidly over the years. Within a few years the A.I. service was offering a new breed of livestock to dairy farmers. The arrival of the Friesian breed was received with mixed reactions. Dovea introduced a Friesian A.I. service to farmers in the area in 1955. This resulted in a transition from a dairy Shorthorn population to a Black and White Friesian type cow by the 1970’s.

The Dovea A.I. Service initially offered to its customers dual purpose Dairy Shorthorn and the Aberdeen Angus as well as Hereford beef breeds.

In the early 1970’s Dovea was again at the forefront in importing different beef breeds from continental countries. These included the Charolais, Limousin and Blonde d’Aquitaine from France and the Simmental from Austria and Germany

From the beginning there was a strong connection between the new A.I. station and Nenagh Creamery. It was decided that Nenagh would have one of the first sub-stations for A.I. Service outside of the headquarters.

Holstein genetics were introduced in the early eighties through purchasing bulls on the continent and Holstein semen from different A.I. Companies worldwide.

In January 1954 there were eleven applications for one position as Inseminator for the A.I. service for the Nenagh area. The Manager, T. Ryan informed them that they had the power to select two for interview by the Veterinary Surgeon as to which should be appointed. The committee were divided 8 for and 8 against with one abstention on a proposal that all applicants be referred for interview. John Fogarty became the first inseminator for the area.

A testing programme for Friesians continued through the years until the present day, resulting in Dovea being acknowledged as having the best pure Friesian bull stud worldwide.

The following year T. Ryan, Manager, informed the committee that he had attended a meeting of Dovea A.I. Station, 193


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At the opening of Nenagh Co-Op Livestock Sales Ltd on March 12, 1957, Very Rev M. Canon Hamilton, P.P., V.G. performing the blessing with Michael Delaney, Manager.

In the 1980’s Jack Wolohan was succeeded as Manager of the Society by Dermot Cahill, a native of West Cork and a former Livestock Inspector with the Department of Agriculture. He was a strong advocate of the dual purpose British Friesian as the most beneficial breed for the majority of dairy farmers in the region served by the society and later the station housed the acclaimed best selection of British Friesian bulls available through the A.I. service in the country.

Meantime the announcement by the Department of Agriculture that a Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme would commence on September 1, 1954 was welcomed by the committee because “it will provide facilities for individual farmers or groups of farmers in all parts of the country who desire to build up herds that are free of Tuberculosis”. The committee decided “to encourage individual farmers or preferably groups of farmers to avail themselves without delay of the valuable facilities which are now being provided under the scheme and thus assist in the early eradication of this serious disease”.

The Shorthorn breed was also maintained at the centre, which in the 1990’s housed the famous Deerpark Leader, acknowledged at the time as the best Shorthorn bull in the world. Progeny by Deerpark Leader and semen was keenly sought by breeders around the world. Many of his progency were purchased by Dr Dick Judy for the herd on his ranch in Texas U.S.A.

There was a lengthy discussion at a meeting on September 8, 1955 on the proposal for a livestock mart to be established at Nenagh. Messrs T. Ryan, Manager, G. Boland, P. Kennedy, M. Walsh, W. Gleeson, P. McLoughlin and 194


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P. Grace were appointed to meet with the local Farmers Club and the Farmers Union to discuss the project.

mart had accommodation for 550 cattle in 73 pens and a six tonne scale for the weighing of the livestock prior to sale. The mart premises also included a canteen for serving meals, offices, etc. The chairman of the committee was John Gleeson, MCC, Benedine, Nenagh.

The delegation met with representatives of Macra na Feirme, and N.F.A., on September 21. Most of the views were in favour of a co-operative mart. It was agreed to assess the level of public support for the project.

The construction of the mart was mainly funded by the purchase of £10 shares in the co-op by farmers with a maximum of £200.

As the plans progressed for the building of a mart, the committee agreed to provide a right of way through land which the creamery had purchased to facilitate the entrance to the mart yard.

The committee were consistently very supportive of the Irish Co-op Agency Society, the Limerick based society formed by a number of creameries in the region. In 1966 the Nenagh Creamery invested an additional £1,000 in shares in the Irish Co-op Agency as the society invested £120,000 in upgrading of their butter box manufacturing plant at Limerick from which Nenagh Co-op purchased butter boxes. This society was founded originally by Sir Horace Plunkett as was the Agricultural Wholesale Society.

The creamery was very supportive of the construction of the livestock mart on a site adjacent to the creamery. The new mart, which cost £12,000 to construct, was officially opened on Monday March 4, 1957 by Very Rev. E. J. Coyne, S.J., President, IAOS. It was the fourth co-operative livestock mart to be established in the country, providing farmers with modern facilities for the sale and purchase of livestock to replace the street fairs which had been the common Rev E. J. Coyne, S.J., President IAOS, performing the official opening market place for livestock. The of the Livestock Mart at Nenagh in 1957. 195


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The A.I. service played a major role in the transformation of the dairy herd in the Nenagh area from the traditional Shorthorn to Friesian during the 1960’s and 1970’s when Friesian became the dominant breed.

The committee were very supportive of the introduction of a Progeny Testing Scheme when it was suggested in 1967, with the scheme to combine A.I. Progeny Testing, Cow Testing Association and Pedigree Breeding Testing. It would be funded by a levy of 1/- per service on A.I., which would bring in £50,000 nationally, and a commitment from the Government to back the funding raised £ for £. A levy of 1/- per head would also be applied to livestock exported or slaughtered which would bring in an additional £50,000.

to support the purchase of International Meat Packers (IMP) and they also agreed to make an annual contribution of £50 to Macra na Feirme for a period of three years. Meantime an issue of bonus shares by Clover Meats increased the value of their holding from £530 to £2,200. At the 1970 AGM it was suggested that the society should purchase a slurry spreader which would be available for rental by farmers. The provision for rental of metal moulds for silage pit construction was also raised as was the possibility of a relief milking scheme, whereby trained operators would be available to carry out

At the end of 1968 the society invested £1,000 in shareholding in Cork Mart 196


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milking of herds on farms in the area in the event of illness of the farmer or labour replacement for a holiday period by the farm family.

Effort to have a national compulsory scheme of treatment for all livestock fell through and it was decided that a voluntary scheme would operate. It was up to each individual farmer to decide whether he wished to have his cattle treated at his own expense or not.

The formation of FBD Insurance Company in 1970 received the support of the committee with an investment of £100 in shares.

The society continued to offer support and encouragement for participation by farmers in the Eradication Scheme for Bovine TB and subsequently for the eradication of Brucellosis. Initially they provided a ‘bulk milk ring’ test for herds to identify those with a suspected high incidence of Brucellosis. This was followed by a test for individual animals within high incidence herds.

A national scheme for the eradication of the warble fly was introduced in 1970 at a cost of 4/- per animal. The dressing of animals in the area would be carried out by South Eastern Cattle Breeding Society and the committee approved facility for the deduction of payments due from milk cheque’s.

The result of the first bulk milk ring test carried out in the summer of 1976 showed that 69% of the herds were clear and the management was instructed to issue a circular to the suppliers with infected herds to advise them that a subsidy of 20d

However they decided that the Department of Agriculture should be contacted suggesting that the animal identification (Blue) cards should be stamped; portion of the cost of the scheme should be paid by the Department; calves should be treated at a lower cost than adult cattle; and that Department offices should provide information on the number of animals on each farm, to ensure that all animals in the herd The traditional dairy herd on farms in the area during the early years of the were treated. 1900’s were shorthorn. 197


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cow was available for the identification of individual reactors in their herds.

of Agriculture Veterinary Section to be provided at Nenagh, because the office at Tipperary was too far away for those wanting to do business. The society offered to provide space for up to two portacabins at the creamery if accommodation was a problem.

The expansion of the dairy herds through the mid seventies, following Ireland’s entry to the EEC led to the introduction of a Cow Purchase Scheme by the banks. The committee urged the AIB to engage in stronger promotion of the scheme among farmers, recommending farmers to avail of the scheme to increase their herds.

Further progress on the eradication of brucellosis was reported in 1985 when the Department of Agriculture informed the society that seven positive herds had been identified in the latest milk ring test. Herds in Duharra, Ballywilliam and Borrisokane were clear.

The creamery supported demands by farmers for an office of the Department



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Jimmy Maher, Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive and Ivan Hayes, Irish Dairy Board with some customers from South America on a visit to Nenagh Co-Op. 200


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FOCUS FOR MILK SUPPLY CHANGES AS OPPORTUNITY OPENS TO GO WEST

A

month before the official opening of the casein plant at Nenagh, relations with Westmeath Co-op took an unexpected and very unwelcome turn, which threatened to derail the venture by Nenagh Co-op into further processing by undermining the milk supply necessary for the viability of the plant.

The Nenagh Committee were advised that in accordance with the agreement for the establishment of Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd., between Nenagh and Westmeath, Nenagh had an option to buy out the Westmeath shareholding in the company before April 1992. However should Westmeath agree to terminate the existing agreement on shareholding, the obligation on their society to supply 5 million gallons of milk per annum to Nenagh would also cease.

A Special Meeting of the Nenagh Committee was urgently convened on February 22, 1988. The committee were informed that the previous day Westmeath Co-op had examined two proposals, (a) their continued association with Nenagh Co-op versus (b) a link with Avonmore. Because the Avonmore offer appeared more acceptable to them, they had voted unanimously to accept it and were to recommend it to their shareholders.

After lengthy consideration of the developing situation it was decided by the board on the proposition of L. Ryan, seconded by L.Whyte and unanimously passed that should Westmeath Co-op amalgamate or be taken over by any concern involved in similar processing as Carrigbawn, the Nenagh Society would exercise its right under the agreement to purchase the Westmeath shareholding.

Interest from other groups including additional proposals Food Industries, controlled by the Goodman Group, Kerry plc., Killeshandra/Virginia Milk Products were not considered by the committee. It was a major set back for the casein plant at Nenagh, the construction and equipping of which was almost complete.

The decision by Westmeath Co-op was noted as a grave disappointment to the plans for Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd., but it would not be allowed to take from their determination to go ahead and ensure that the development was a success. 201


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Arrabawn Co-Op Executive Committee, J. Murphy, B. Lynsky, T. Colleran, J. Donnelly, P. McLoughlin, Gerry Hoarde, M. Moloney, Eamon Butler, T. Doorley, M. Darcy, S. Ryan D. Tobin, and E. O’Connor.

Within three days the situation had become more serious for Nenagh. It was learned that the Goodman Group controlled Food Industries plc had put a proposal to Westmeath shareholders, for the acquisition of their shareholding, without reference to the Co-op. The Nenagh Board met for a further Special Meeting at which it was agreed to engage a Senior Council to assist with the case and appoint an additional three members to the negotiating sub-committee. Messrs. T. Cleary, P. J. Kennedy and T. Quigley were appointed.

for Westmeath Co-op succeeded. An approach to Food Industries Ltd to discuss the purchase of their shareholding in the Carrigbawn operation did not receive a positive response. Two meetings arranged with Food Industries plc were postponed by Food Industries Ltd. In May, following a meeting with Nenagh Co-op, Food Industries plc indicated that they intended to retain the shareholding in Carrigbawn. The Nenagh Board decided to exercise forthwith their option for a buy-out as provided for under the original agreement for Carrigbawn shareholding.

The society engaged in negotiations with Avonmore on the Westmeath shareholding in Carrigbawn and terms were agreed for the purchase by Nenagh of the shareholding if the Avonmore bid

At the beginning of July 1989, Westmeath Co-op representatives resigned from the board of Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd., and Dan McCarthy, John Mollin and 202


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Larry O’Brien were replaced by David Dilger, Paul Marron and Jim O’Mahony representing Food Industries plc. The first meeting of the new board held on July 6, 1989 discussed the pending start of operations at the casein plant and it was decided to further evaluate the market trends and the pending losses for the year.

Behind the scenes, a smooth exit from their brief involvement in dairy processing was under consideration as the best course for Food Industries plc. There was also a firm belief that the exercise by Nenagh Co-op of the option to purchase under the share agreement would be successful if pursued by the co-op, which they had indicated that they intended to do.

The consideration of £500,000 for the 500,000 shares at £1 each, plus a payment for interest on the shareholding, was agreed by the Nenagh Board and approved.

The changing environment eased the course of events favoured by Nenagh Co-op. Positive talks on acquiring the shareholding were engaged in by both sides. The offer by Nenagh Co-op for the purchase of the shareholding of Food Industries plc in Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd was accepted, and approved by the Nenagh Board.

The diversion into milk processing by the Goodman Group, was a venture into a sector of agri processing, which was relatively unknown to the Group, which previously had been exclusively engaged in beef processing. The Group held the major stake nationally in beef processing in which they operated very successfully.

Two months later following discussions between Nenagh and Food Industries plc progress on acquiring the Food Industries plc shares in Carrigbawn was reported to be looking more favourable.

Within a very short time of the entry by the Group into the dairy sector, the involvement became challenging, and the Group realised that a successful future in the sector was doubtful. It was likely that the partnership with Nenagh Co-op, operating on a co-operative principle, would conflict with the Group policy as a plc, leading to a troubled relationship in the management of At the purchase of O’Hara & Co, Tyone Mills, Martin Leenane, Jimmy O’Hara, the Carrigbawn Jimmy Murphy and John O’Hara. plant. 203


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dropped from 42.8m gallons to 36.4m gallons mainly due to the loss of milk supply from Westmeath Co-op. Intake from Nenagh Co-op own suppliers amounted to 31.4m gallons. Production of the casein can be seasonal and be dictated by market demand, there Tom Cleary, Michael Lowry, TD., John Ryan, TD, Michael O’Kennedy, TD., was a necessity to Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-Op and Gerry Farrell, Chairman, increase the supply for Westmeath Co-Op at the opening of Carrigbawn Milk Products. the plant to become a more viable operation. The acquisition of the shareholding was The society was willing to consider options completed on October 27, 1989. The to acquire additional milk. requirement to supply milk to Nenagh ceased with the purchase of the shares. Dissention between milk suppliers and the Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd., became a processors in the West Limerick and North wholly owned subsidiary of Nenagh Co-op. Cork areas continued into the 1990’s. An approach to Nenagh by a number of Richard Tobin, Chairman, Nenagh Co-op large suppliers to Kantoher Co-op in the had a direct role with James Murphy, Autumn of 1991 was carefully considered. Chief Executive in the negotiations. The West Limerick processor which was experiencing difficulties was put into Richard Tobin recalled “The Goodman receivership by their lenders in October Group were very powerful in the beef sector, 1991 and twenty-three of the largest but fortunately for us they did not have suppliers transferred to Nenagh on October the same knowledge of the dairy sector and 22, 1991. The remaining Kantoher Co-Op realised that. We considered it was a very suppliers transferred to Kerry C-Op. good deal to purchase the shares at their original cost. We could hardly have hoped Through the 1990’s a strong business for better and it gave Nenagh complete relationship was developed with Mid ownership of the casein plant”. West Co-op. Discussions had taken place between the two societies as far back as However the outcome had a significant 1972 on milk processing. By the mid effect on the milk supply for the Carrigbawn 1990’s the Mid West Co-op was supplying plant at Nenagh. Milk intake for 1989 over 14m gallons to Nenagh which 204


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compensated for the loss of supply from Westmeath Co-op.

and Nenagh on working more closely together to reduce costs. Centenary’s links to Glanbia were of concern to the others. A consultant was commissioned to carry out an appraiser of each of the society’s for study by the group.

By the end of the decade discussions had commenced on a longer term arrangement between Mid West and Nenagh. The Mid West Farmers Co-op Society Committee had discussed the possible sale of the society. Nenagh Co-op was interested in cementing the relationship to the point of acquisition and a special sub committee was formed in 1999. The committee comprised of Messrs Richard Tobin, Chairman, - two vice chairmen -Messrs J. Donnelly, a former President of the Irish Farmer’s Association, S. Fahy, M. Malone, and M. Moloney.

By mid Summer 2000 relationships between Mid West and Nenagh had continued to strengthen. At the end of June 2000, accountants Ernest and Young were appointed to carry out a valuation of the two societies and Fergus Slattery & Co commissioned to provide a valuation of the property. Discussions commenced on centralised butter making and liquid milk processing to reduce costs to both societies. It was agreed to have a professional estimate of the cost of converting the creamery at Kilconnell to a Liquid Milk Processing plant.

In February a delegation from Mid West Co-op visited Nenagh Co-op, the feed compounding mill at Limerick and subsequent to the visit an agreement was finalised with Nenagh Co-op for the supply of all skim milk and buttermilk for the following three years. Discussions commenced on the possibility of the two societies working more closely together, but there were signs that the future of the Kilconnell plant would slow down progress in the short term. Later in the year there were brief discussions between five Co Tipperary Co-op’s, Centenary, Drombane, Thurles, Tipperary,

John Tyrrell, Director General, ICOS, was appointed to co-ordinate discussions

A group of the attendance at the opening of Carrigbawn Milk Products at Nenagh. 205


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L. O’Brien, D.McCarthy, G. Farrell, Chairman, Westmeath Co-Op, Michael O’Kennedy, TD, L McKenna, T. Harrington, J. Mollen, J Ryan, L. Ryan, M. Lowry, TD and D. Tobin, Chairman, Nenagh Co-Op at the opening of Carrigbawn Milk Products.

between the two sub committee’s as chairman of a Steering Committee.

on the merger proposals. There was an attendance of 652 members at the Nenagh meeting. They voted 632 for and 17 against with 3 spoiled votes.

The Steering Committee met on September 12, 2000 to consider the professional valuations. It was recommended to the meeting that based on the valuations the relative ratio should be 3:1 with Nenagh holding 75% and Mid West at 25%. Based on the milk supply Mid West representatives sought a 35% share. Following discussion a ratio of 68.5% and 31.5% was mutually agreed.

The attendance at Mid West meeting was 309. They voted 259 for and 49 against with one spoiled vote. The confirmatory General Meetings were arranged for January 3, 2001. In 1994 the society purchased Nenagh Fuels and Agri Supplies (Suttons), a privately owned business which was located close to the creamery.



Special General Meetings of both societies were held in December 2000 to vote

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Conor Ryan who was appointed Chief Executive of Arrabawn Co-op with effect from July 2005. 208


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EEC MILK QUOTA REGIME HALTS EXPANSION AND SOME FARMERS EXIT INDUSTRY hrough the 1970’s there was a continued gradual change over towards dairy farming throughout the area.

T

the incentive. The price of agricultural land rocketed. Investment in farming structures quadrupled. By the late 1970’s milk was being likened to the new ‘white gold’.

Ireland had become a full member of the EEC on January 1, 1973. Supplying the European Market offered incentives to both dairy farmers and processors as well as challenge to take full advantage of the enlarged customer base.

Growth in Ireland was among the highest in the EEC. Increased production had also taken place in other member states. There was a growing surplus of dairy products by the early 1980’s, and the price to producers was being supported by the EEC through an Intervention system for the purchase and storage of produce for which there was no ready market within the Community.

The average size of dairy herd was less than 20 cows with average milk yields 600-850 gallons. The more progressive farmers were targeting carrying a cow per acre with yields of 1,000 gallons.

Production by suppliers to Nenagh Co-op had continued to increase by double the national average year on year as the dairy enterprise on farms in the area expanded.

At the time of entry to EEC dairy farmers were receiving an average milk price of 17p/gallon. From a combination of an annual milk price increase and annual EEC transition adjustment to bring Irish prices into line with the EEC average, the price paid to Irish producers doubled within three years. Dairy farmers were among the first to realise the major benefits of EEC membership.

The growth in production was restricted in 1984 by the introduction by the EEC of a milk quota system to curb over production, because of the increasing cost on the Commission of disposing of surplus dairy products. This restricted expansion on dairy farms. Producers were restricted to producing the equivalent of their previous year’s output, with heavy penalties to be applied for over production.

The improvement continued through to the late 1970’s. Farmers responded massively to 209


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The control on production contributed to the stabilising of dairy product prices by providing protection from the affect of a collapse in the event of over supply on markets.

Nenagh Co-op suppliers delivered 31.4m gallons for the year. Average herd supply was 18,580 gallons at 3.58% butterfat and 3.19% protein. Suppliers received an average of 107.1p/gallon an increase of 10p/gallon. The Milk Quota System continued to restrict expansion in milk production for most of the society suppliers. After six years of exceptional growth in the price of milk, by traditional standards, there was a weakening in dairy markets at the end of 1989. The market returns fell by the equivalent of 17p/gallon.

By 1987 milk intake at the society had reached 39.6m gallons. The average supply was 17,425 gallons. The society paid an average price of 84.5p/gallon.

The pressure on milk price continued into the early months of 1990. The March milk price was reduced to 87.5p/gallon. There were further reductions in the Autumn of 1990.

At the same time higher standards were being demanded from developing dairy markets. In March 1989 it was decided to introduce a Somatic Cell Count (SCC) test for all milk supplied. Suppliers of milk with an average SCC over 700,000 would receive a reduced milk price. For those with SCC 401,000-700,000 there would be no change in price. Suppliers of milk with SCC under 400,000 would be paid a premium. It was agreed that the new milk quality test would come into effect on March 1, 1990.

World markets for casein were also affected and the operation of the new casein plant was delayed until October 1991 as a result. Milk intake for 1991 increased by 1.3% to 31.19m gallons. There were 1,716 suppliers with an average supply of 18,199 gallons. The average milk price paid was 90p/gallon. A total of 35.2m gallons was processed by the society.

Milk intake for 1989 dropped by 6.4m gallons mainly due to the loss of milk intake from Westmeath Co-op after that society was acquired by Food Industries plc and withdrew from involvement in the Carrig Bawn Milk Products casein plant which had been jointly developed Beatrice Cleary, Tom Cleary, John Michael Larkin, Sean Larkin, and at Nenagh.

James Armitage at the merger of Nenagh Co-op and Mid West Co-op in 2001. 210


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William Moorehead, George Langley, James Friday, Sean Butler and John Seymour at the merger of Nenagh Co-op and Mid West Co-op in 2001.

As over production continued to affect market returns an EEC ‘Buy-Out scheme’ for milk quota was introduced. Nenagh lost 200,000 gallons of quota to the scheme, as producers exited.

The milk quota system continued to restrict expansion in production through the 1990’s. The average farm supply increased only as the number of producers declined. There was an annual decline in the number of suppliers and a corresponding increase in average supply.

From 1,714 suppliers in 1991, there was a drop of 115 suppliers in 1992 and a further decline to 1,442 in 1993 with the average supply increased to 22,679 gallons. Four years later the number of suppliers had dropped to 1,223 with an average supply of 27,017 gallons.

Whey, a by-product of casein manufacture, was supplied to pig farmers for feeding. The increasing value of processed whey on world markets towards the end of 1992 and the over supply for pig feeding, led to discussion on investment in additional processing facilities at the plant to take advantage of the emerging market for whey powder. Investment in filtration to reduce volume was estimated at £500,000.

An agreement with the Connacht based, Mid West Co-op in 1994 to deliver three loads of skim per day for processing at Nenagh, increased to 10m gallons in 1995 with a significant contribution to the throughput of the processing facilities at Nenagh and the volume of milk processed increased from 36.5m gallons to 49m gallons. The society benefited from

A US company, tendered at £394,000 for the supply of an Ultra Osmosis plant to be installed within the casein factory building and the cost of ancillary equipment was estimated at £100,000. P. Dunlea proposed and L. Ryan seconded to incur the expenditure which was approved. Concentrated whey was sold to Shannonside Milk Products Una and Con Cleary, and Sean Hogan, at the merger of Nenagh Co-op for a period. and Mid West Co-op in 2001. 211


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rate of 60%. On the age structure of suppliers 33% were under 40 years, 40% in 40-55 years age bracket and 25% over 55 years. The average milk quota was 43,000 gallons in the Nenagh region and 47,000 gallons in Mid West region. The average farm size in the Nenagh region was 121 Sean Myers, ICOS, Dick Tobin, Chairman, Pat McLoughlin, James acres with an average dairy Murphy, Chief Executive, and John Donnelly, Vice-Chairman at the merger herd size of 51 cows. In the of Nenagh Co-op and Mid West Co-op in 2001. Mid West region the average additional milk from Mid West Co-op farm size was 85 acres and average herd size after another processor was unable to was 44 cows. More than 80% of suppliers handle the committed supply. in the Nenagh region intended to purchase additional quota, while almost 70% of The merger between Mid West Farmers suppliers in the Mid West region intended Co-op and Nenagh Co-op in April 2001 to expand production through purchase of forming Arrabawn Co-op provided a additional quota. stabilising of the milk supply. In 2001, milk supply for Nenagh Co-op area was 34.03m gallons and 17.48m gallons for the Mid West area. There were 945 suppliers in Nenagh and 522 suppliers in the Mid West. The average per supplier was 36,019 gallons in the Nenagh area and 33,483 gallons in Mid West. The average price paid was 30 John Gill, the third generation of the family to farm at Kilgolan House, cents/ltr (ÂŁ1.11/gallon). Kilcormac, Birr being presented with the Arrabawn Co-Op Milk Supplier

A survey of suppliers was carried out at the end of 2004 with a response

of the Year 2004 by Pat McLoughlin, Chairman. With him are George and Robert Gill, his father and grandfather, Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive,



Arrabawn and Paul Anglim, AIB, Nenagh.

212


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CHAPTER 16

PROFITS PEAK AT €1M.

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Dick Tobin the longest serving chairman of Nenagh Co-op who retired in 2001, having served for 29 years. 214


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FURTHER ACQUISITIONS IN MILLING AND HARDWARE OUTLETS ARE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED

T

he later years of the 1980’s were occupied with the expansion of processing facilities at Nenagh and challenges to the society to retain milk supply as “milk wars” raged between processors, and relationships with Westmeath Co-op took an unexpected turn.

It was a very significant development in the further expansion of the society although the expansion of individual herds was now controlled by the EEC Milk Quota system and growth was restricted to a redistribution through purchase of quota from farmers exiting dairy farming and allocations of quota from the National Reserve managed by the Department of Agriculture.

A casein plant at Nenagh was a joint 60:40 venture between Nenagh and Westmeath Co-ops who came together as Carrigbawn Milk Products Ltd. to establish the processing facility at Nenagh.

It also marked the end of a ten year period of major capital expenditure in dairy processing. The development over that period was completed on a phased and planned basis without any recourse to bank borrowings and was financed from the cash flow of the society.

Work progressed on the construction of the casein plant through 1988 with completion of the plant during the later months of the year marking another milestone for the society.

Coinciding with the completion of the casein plant came the totally unexpected and gravely disappointing development of a change of course by Westmeath Co-op holders of a 40% share, taken over by Food Industries Ltd.

The plant was completed at a cost of €1.9m on an area within the existing co-op site with capacity to process 5,000 gallons per hour. The official opening of the plant was performed by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael O’Kennedy, TD in December 1988. The commencement of operation was however deferred because of the weakening of the world market for casein.

Nenagh Committee considered exercising their right under the agreement to a buyout if necessary. Avonmore had agreed to sell the shares to Nenagh in the event of they acquiring Westmeath Co-op. 215


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The Dan O’Connor Mill acquired in 1991 was one of the top six animal feed mills in the country with capacity to produce 100,000 tonnes annually. Gerry Clifford, Manager, DOC Feeds and Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-Op. 216


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However events were overtaken by a bid from the Goodman owned Food Industries plc for the Westmeath business which was successful.

co-opted on to the committee in 1988 and attended his first meeting as a member of the committee on June 24. In 1990 during an industrial dispute farmers assisted management in the operations of the co-op on a round the clock basis for almost a week following which differences with employees were resolved.

It was a totally new venture for the group, which dominated in the beef processing sector. It was also seen within the industry as a totally unexpected diversification by the privately owned company. The Goodman Group controlled Food Industries plc originally decided to retain their share interest in Carrigbawn. In October 1989 agreement was reached between Nenagh and Food Industries for the purchase by Nenagh of the 500,000 shares at original cost of £500,000 plus interest.

After a prolonged delay in the commissioning of the new casein plant, due to the weakening of the world market for casein, the operation of the plant commenced in mid October 1991 with a very successful start up and prospects were favourable for contracts for casein with US and European companies.

Jimmy Murphy, then Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-op recalls that the purchase of the shares was a significant development for the co-op and consolidated Carrigbawn as a totally owned operation of Nenagh Co-op.

With the improvement in demand for Casein a further investment of £380,000 in additional manufacturing and washing equipment for the casein plant was approved by the committee in December 1991.

“It meant that we were in control of the operation at Nenagh which was considered to be more satisfactory from a co-op point of view”, he said. However the withdrawal of Westmeath Co-op from the Carrigbawn venture resulted in a loss of 6m gallons of milk for processing.

The introduction of the milk quota system in 1984 meant that there was a cap on the amount of milk to be processed on bahalf of milk producers. The society focused on the development of agri business in the region. Some branch outlets were converted to retail sales facilities to provide farmers with inputs for their farms.

A long time supporter of the society and the society nominee on the Irish Dairy Board for a number of years, Tom Cleary, Ballycapple, Cloughjordan, who was Chairman of the Irish Dairy Board, was

The society acquired the O’Hara Milling Plant at Tyone in 1989, a valuable addition to the facilities for the intake of grain and manufacture of animal feed as well as a retail outlet for hardware and 217


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The last Nenagh Co-op Board (2001) immediately prior to the merger with Mid West Co-op and the founding of Arrabawn Co-op.

farm supplies. The O’Hara retail outlet at Kenyon Street, Nenagh became part of that deal, it was subsequently sold onto Nenagh UDC. In 1990 Nenagh Co-Op purchased the hardware business of Fogarty’s in Stafford Street, Nenagh.

own steel buildings from a mill closing for rationalisation purposes, completed a substantial investment in animal feed processing. The following year was another milestone for the society when profit of £1m was recorded for the first time after allowing for rationalisation costs of £350,000 on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the founding which was celebrated by a bonus of £50 to each employee and 2p/gallon bonus for milk suppliers on milk supplied for October 1993.

A further acquisition was completed in July 1991 when the society purchased Dan O’Connor Ltd, milling and animal feed compounding business at Limerick, with an output of 60,000 tonnes, from the Russell Family. This plant was a major animal feed compounder in the region and produced a range of quality animal feeds for farmers. The purchase shortly afterwards in the U.K. of a modern feed storage and handling system with its

Arra Co-operative Society Ltd., was formed to facilitate the purchase of shares from members who had ceased to supply 218


Chapter 16: PROFITS PEAK AT €1M.

milk. The shares were made available for purchase by other suppliers.

The following year Mid West supplied 10m gallons and 1995 proved to be an exceptional year for Nenagh Co-op. The volume of milk processed increased to 49m gallons with turnover increased by 16.8% to £75m. In 1996 the society processed 33m gallons from their own suppliers and an additional 14.2m gallons purchased mainly from Mid West Co-op.

The loss of supply from Westmeath Co-op increased the pressure to secure additional skim milk to operate the process at optimum efficiency. In 1993, Mid West Co-op contacted a number of processors, including Nenagh, to discuss the sale of skim milk. The Nenagh Committee were immediately interested in the opportunity to increase the throughput at the society’s processing plant. An agreement was reached for Mid West Co-op to supply two loads per day in June 1994 to Nenagh increasing to three loads per day in September which was a considerable boost to the efficiency of the processing plant.

On September 29, Mid West Co-op sought a meeting to review 1995 and discuss supply for 1996, offering to supply 13m gallons in 1995. The following January Mid West indicated interest in a two year agreement on similar supply. 219


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Arrabawn Co-Op Board 2004 - John Donnelly, Michael Flaherty, Gerry Rigney, Michael Moran, Martin Callanan, Brendan Lynsky, Sean Ryan, Patrick McLoughlin, Jimmy Murphy, Liam Walsh, Eamon Butler, Thomas Colleran, William Harty, Michael Leamy, Michael Moroney, Paddy Brennan, Gerry Hoade, Tony Doorley, Michael Kennedy, John Woods, Seamus Ryan, Michael Darcy, Patrick Meskell.

Whey drying was commenced in October 1997, with the project being completed at least cost, due to the plant being contained in existing buildings.

Nenagh Creamery was awarded the Read Cup for butter in 1999 for the fouth time, having previously received the award in 1979, 1983 and 1989.

Richard Tobin, Chairman after receiving the Read Cup in 1989 with Tom Cleary, K. McSherry, and Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive. It was the third time for the society to receive the award. 220

The relationship with Mid West Co-op proved mutually beneficial. In 1998 both societies were interested in initiating more indept discussions on their future relationship. The following year an agreement was made for the supply by Mid West of all skim milk and buttermilk to Nenagh for a three year period.


Chapter 16: PROFITS PEAK AT €1M.

Closer working relationships continued to develop between the two societies and by the end of the decade merger discussions were under way. In 2000 these discussions were progressed by a Steering Committee under the chairmanship of John Tyrrell, Director General, ICOS.

He said “We were conscious of getting a balanced result. Their demands were challenging. The Mid West negotiators knew that they had a valuable milk pool and we had the capacity to process it. They were tough negotiators”. He added “I remember one evening at a meeting in Portumna and discussions had broken down because we could not reach agreement and it appeared as though it was all over. I thanked John Tyrell for his involvement and then I suggested that rather than end the discussions we should adjourn for a fortnight. That was agreed to and it was the turning point in the talks. When we reconvened issues were seen differently

Dick Tobin, Chairman, Nenagh Co-op recalled “Negotiations with the Mid West were tough. We had been in talks with another society in the northern part of the area and when they fell through there was a tremendous effort put into securing agreement with for the mutual benefit of the two societies by our Chief Executive, Jimmy Murphy”. 221


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Patrick McLoughlin, Chairman, Conor Ryan, newly appointed Chief Executive and Jimmy Murphy, retiring Chief Executive after more than forty years with the society, reviewing the accounts at the 2005 AGM.

and agreement was reached, but without that adjournment it would have been all over and Mid West would never have been amalgamated with Nenagh”.

Following professional valuations a ratio for merger of 68.5% and 31.5% for Nenagh Co-Operative Society Ltd and Mid West Farmers Co-op Society Ltd respectively was mutually agreed.

He said that there were further difficult minor issues to be negotiated in the remainder of the talks, but the corner had been turned in the talks and there was no going back. “It would have been a great disappointment for both parties if we failed to find consensus. The important thing was trying to strike the balance not to give away far too much - which probably would not have been acceptable to our respective suppliers who were going to have to have a final say in any deal that was made”, he stressed.

By the end of 2000 Special General Meetings of shareholders of both societies had voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger. The 652 members who attended the Nenagh meeting voted 97.4% in favour and 309 shareholders who attended the Mid West meeting voted 83.8% in favour. Shareholder approval for the merger was confirmed at meetings on January 3, 2001 and Arrabawn Co-Op was registered on April 2, 2001. 222


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The first meeting of the newly formed Arrabawn Co-operative Society Ltd was held at the Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna on Thursday April 19, 2001.

farmers is the same to-day as it was when our respective societies were established. Many things have changed but our basic philosophy remains the same. We have merged our two entities from a position of strength. We have something to build on”.

The attendance at the meeting were Messrs R. Tobin, P. McLoughlin, J. Donnelly, T. O’Brien, P. Dunlea, J. Fletcher, G, Kennedy, M. Kennedy, M. Darcy, G. Darcy, M. Moloney, L. Walsh, J. Powell, M. Quigley, F. Ryan. W. Harty, M. Egan, M. Malone, S.Dagg, P. Coffey, D. Grace, E. Butler, D. O’Meara, J. Armitage, S. Fahy, T. O’Meara, T. Doorley, L. Gleeson, T. Young, J. Woods, P. Ryan, P. Meskell, J. Bolton, S. Ryan, M.Coffey, M. Ryan, G. Bourke, T. Ryan, T. Storan, T. Colleran, B. Lynskey, J. Burke, M. Callanan, M. Casserley, J. Coughlan, K. Egan, S. Finn, M. Flaherty, P. Hannon, G.Hoade, T. Keenan, S. Kelly, J. Mannion, M. Moran, C. O’Connor, E. O’Connor, G. Rigney, J.J. Shaughnessy, F. Tuohy, S. Ryan, S. Monaghan, N. Flynn, M. Ward, and J. Murphy, Acting Secretary.

Brendan Lynskey, who was nominated to represent the Mid West Co-op area and Patrick McLoughin, and John Donnelly who were nominated to represent the Nenagh Co-op area were elected vice-chairmen. Four new members were elected to the board. They were Messrs Sean Ryan, Sean Monahan, Michael Ward and Noel Flynn. It was agreed that former Irish Dairy Board representative, T. Cleary should be invited to attend board meetings in recognition of his long service to Nenagh Co-op. J. Murphy, Chief Executive, Nenagh Co-op was appointed first Chief Executive and Secretary of the new society.

On the proposal of T. O’Brien, seconded by L. Gleeson, Richard Tobin was elected the first chairman of the new society.

R. Tobin presided at the First Annual General Meeting of Arrabawn Co-op which was held at the Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna on Thursday June 7, 2001. At the first meeting of the Board following the AGM which was held at Portumna on Wednesday July 4, 2001, R. Tobin did not seek re-election as Chairman and was succeeded by Thomas Colleran, the nominee of Mid West Board area in accordance with the agreed procedure under Rule 65. Tributes were paid to Richard Tobin, who had served as Chairman of Nenagh Co-op from 1972.

Thanking the members for giving him the honour of being the first chairman of the new society, Richard Tobin described it as a historic occasion. He stated “The overriding commitment of our society to the welfare of our 223


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by Mid West Farmers Co-op. The shareholding was valued at ÂŁ970,750. In April 2001, an area of ground adjacent to the creamery at Nenagh, the property of Nenagh Co-op Mart became available. It was agreed to purchase 14 acres and take a one year option on an Pat McLoughlin, Bernie Tobin, Dick Tobin, Padraig Gibbons, and John additional 13 acres Tyrell, Chief Executive, ICOS at the presentation of the Plunkett Award to plus a dwelling house and Dick Tobin in 2006. rear garden. Later in the year the Licence attached A rotation was agreed for the chairmanship to the Railway Bar at Kenyon Street, to be filled by a representative from the Nenagh was sold to a commercial business Nenagh area for the first term, followed being established in the town. by the Mid West area and a further term to be filled by a Nenagh representative, following which it was to become an open election. Later that year the society sold to Connacht Gold Co-op, shareholding in the Shannonside Co-Op which had been purchased

At the presentation of the Plunkett Award to Dick Tobin in 2006 were Alice Murphy, Karen Tobin, Deirdre Tobin, Bernie Tobin, Bridget Tobin, James Murphy and Dick Tobin. 224


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In 2003 the development of a liquid milk plant at Kilconnell was projected to cost €3.46m and expansion of whey processing at Nenagh at a cost of €1,435m.

Secretary. Conor Ryan took over as Chief Executive in July 2005. Early in 2005 a field to the rear of the office attracted considerable interest from purchasers resulting in acceptance of a bid of €2.3m from a developer in trust. In January 2006 it was decided to purchase a house and four acres of land adjacent to Tyone Mills consolidating a land bank of eight acres beside the existing property.

A Special Meeting was convened at Portumna on December 11, 2003 at the request of members to discuss ongoing issues and in particular the development of the liquid plant at Kilconnell. The latest costings for the plant was stated at €4.2m with net proceeds from the sale of Oranmore Dairies expected to yield €2.8m towards the outlay. The dairy at Oranmore had been acquired by Mid West Co-op from private ownership in the 1980’s and transferred to Arrabawn through the merger. On the proposal of M. Moran, seconded by T. Colleran it was agreed to proceed in the immediate future.

The decision of Greencore to exit animal feed compounding at the former site of the sugar factory at Thurles was viewed with opportunity for expansion. In September 2006 the purchase of the property, comprising of coarse ration plant standing on 11 acres, as a going concern was agreed. The plant had an output of 50,000 tonnes of feed for cattle and horses and annual turnover of €10m. The plant would compliment existing facilities at the DOC mill at Ballysimon, Limerick. In January 2008 planning permission was secured for the development of a 7,000 sq ft DIY store at Newport, and Agri Store of 1,700 sq ft and three retail units with total investment estimated at €3.2m. The new facility on the site of the century old creamery in the town was opened on November 22, 2008.

In November 2004, J. Murphy, Chief Executive who had previously agreed to continue post normal retiring age to complete the consolidation of the merger of Nenagh Co-op and Mid West Co-op and to put the liquid milk plant at Kilconnell in place indicated his desire to retire at the end of March 2005.

A rule change agreed at the 9th AGM of Arrabawn Co-op on April 8, 2009 was indicative of the advance in modern communications, when participation at meetings by conference telephone was approved on the proposition of S. Finn and seconded by M. McDonnell, giving effect to a person participating in board meetings

By that time he would have completed 47 years in the employment of the society, 17 years as Assistant Manager, 10 years as Deputy Manager, and 20 years as Chief Executive. Should the Board desire he would continue for a further period as 225


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RTE Commentator, Micheal O’Muircheartaigh (Left) presenting the judges award in the NDC Quality Milk Awards 2010 to Patrick and Phyllis Kennedy and their son, Martin, from Toomevara, with Helen Brophy, CEO, NDC in 2010.

by telephone or other such communication equipment and deemed to be present at the meting with full voting rights. After a boom in dairy markets in 2008 returned all time record prices to producers, there was a sharp downturn in 2009 which resulted in a drop of over 9 c/ltr on the 2008 average. Turnover for the society which had increased from €122m in 2005 to €178m in 2007, dropped to €126m in 2009.

Jimmy Murphy. former Chief Executive, Arrabawn Co-Op after receiving the Plunkett Award at the ICOS AGM 2009 with his wife, Alice, and farmers who had served as chairmen of the society, Dick Tobin, Eamonn O Connor, (Mid West Co-Op), Thomas Colleran, Patrick McLoughlin,



Michael Flaherty and Tom Cleary, former chairman Irish Dairy Board.

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Chapter 17: THE MEN AT THE HELM

CHAPTER 17

THE MEN AT THE HELM

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The processing plant at Arrabawn takes its place in the skyline over the town. To the right is Nenagh Castle and the spire of St Mary’s Church is visible in the background. 228


Chapter 17: THE MEN AT THE HELM

MEN OF VISION AND LEADERSHIP WHO GUIDED DEVELOPMENT

F

ive managers have directed the operations of the society over the first century from the humble beginning in 1914 when the creamery opened with an intake of 159,543 gallons of milk in the first year, for which an average of 4.56d/gallon was paid, and 67,190 lbs of butter was manufactured and profit for the year amounted to £100. 1s. 1d.

their objective to make Nenagh Co-Op a leader within the sector and never doubted the ability within the society to become a force within the dairy processing sector in the country. At all times the welfare of the farmers, who were members of the society, and for many years all of them milk suppliers, remained to the fore. The ‘Men at the Helm’ at5 Nenagh Co-Op Creamery over the decades have served the true interest and spirit of the co-operative movement well.

By the end of the first century the society had expanded from its original Nenagh base to serve milk producers in five counties stretching from Limerick to Roscommon, and had plans in place to provide facilities to process up to 2 million litres of milk per day at peak supply. Turnover for 2012 was €185.2m leaving an operating profit of €1.14m for the year.

MICHAEL CASS (Manager (1914-1914) Although Michael Cass was officially the first to be appointed manager of Nenagh Co-op as arrangements were being finalised for the opening of the creamery in 1914, his tenure lasted less than a week. Michael Cass was Manager at Kilcarrido before being appointed manager of Toomevara Co-op at the opening of the creamery in July 1909.

They were men of vision who provided excellent leadership through the different phases of development for the society. Through the years they exeperienced challenges and dificulties. How they overcame the problems which came in the way of their plans is now a matter of record. Looking back, the history shows the determination with which they pursued

He was appointed manager of Nenagh Co-op on January 26, 1914 but five days later he declined the appointment without having taken up the position. 229


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P. COLEMAN

at a committee meeting on February 16, 1945. His appointment was initially for a two year period at a salary of £200 p.a.

(Manager 1914-1935) P. Coleman, took up duty as Manager of Nenagh Co-op in February 1914. He had been manager at Athlacca Creamery, Co Limerick and was a former Manager at Templederry Creamery. He was appointed at a salary of £120 per annum. Recollections of Mr Coleman describe him as “a very tough man in very difficult times for creameries and for farmers”.

On Friday, January 10, 1947, almost two years after his appointment, the committee made the position of John J. Ryan as manager of the society permanent. They were extremely pleased with his performance as manager and were very complimentary to him for his role in the continued progress of the creamery. Six weeks later they were mourning his unexpected passing. When the committee met on Monday February 24, 1947, the Chairman, W. Walsh leading a vote of condolence to the wife and family of John J. Ryan said “We the Committee of Management of Nenagh Co-op Creamery Ltd have learned with profound regret of the death of our manager, John J. Ryan and mourn the loss of a loyal and devoted official, whose ability, training and fidelity is proved in the continued success and expansion of the creamery since his appointment. To all of us he was a kind and sincere friend”.

One source who knew him stated “He was a very good man at marketing. The butter market in Cork was his main outlet, but he succeeded in getting out of that and getting markets for the butter in Britain which was a very big step at that time”. They added “He was a calm, very shrewd man and there every day. He walked out the yard and met the farmers coming in with their horses and cars delivering milk. I knew him very well. He always wore a brown or white shop coat and went around the separating room watching every step. He was a good manager and the creamery owed a lot of its success in the early days to him”.

THOMAS RYAN (Manager 1947-1985) A native of Newport, Co Tipperary where his father, D. K. Ryan was manager of the local co-op creamery, Tom Ryan, as he became well known to the farmers, was one of 32 applications for the position of manager at Nenagh Co-op when the position became vacant in 1947.

J. J. RYAN (Manager 1945-1947) Thirty-three applications were received for the position of manager in 1945. After an elimination process, John J. Ryan was appointed by 8 votes to 3 for J. McKenna 230


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Eight applicants were short listed for a secret ballot by the members of the committee at a meeting held on March 6, 1947. Voting was by secret ballot. On the third ballot, following a process of elimination of the lowest candidates there was a head to head between A. McCarthy and T. Ryan. The ballot resulted in a tie at 7 votes each. Tom Ryan was selected on the casting vote of the chairman, W. Walsh. His appointment was then proposed by W. Gleeson, seconded by J. Kennedy. The position would carry a salary of £300 per annum, with a requirement to provide a Fidelity Bond of £1,000, which could be reduced after a year.

In a tribute to Tom Ryan on his retirement, Richard Tobin said that history would “record with pride the transformation of the Society, from a relatively modest concern with a few hundred milk suppliers, to one of the country’s leading milk processors . . . a multi million £ concern . . . . serving 2,500 farmers” during his management.

Dick Tobin who knew and served as chairman of the society for many years during the management of T Ryan said “He was a wonderful man for the co-op. We thought he was like God Almighty”.

“Since you assumed the responsibility of management, and as a result of your foresight and commitment, the operations of the Society have been extended through expansion and amalgamations, to embrace a total of twelve Branch areas, in five counties.

“His contribution to the success of Nenagh was outstanding. That is not to take away from Jimmy Murphy who was the assistant manager, but they complimented each other very well. If we wanted to do something and Tom felt that we could not afford it, because he would have been conservative in hard times to make money, Jimmy being the younger would get round him and point out the benefits for the creamery” he said.

“This proud record is due in great measure to your thorough knowledge of the industry; to your wise, courageous, and far sighted direction; and to your zeal and determination to avail of the latest technology to serve a market that continues to change, particularly since Ireland’s entry into The European Economic Community. “Your personal integrity was unquestioned and unquestionable, encouraging others to deal with you at all levels in full confidence that truth, justice and honour would prevail”, he added.

“I remember at one stage that the IAOS were trying to force Nenagh into going with Avonmore, because that was their policy at the time, but Tom was totally against it and I heard him one day telling Paddy Kelly, who was the General Secretary of IAOS that it would not be acceptable to Nenagh and that was that”, he added.

Tom retired in 1985 after 38 years service and twenty years after his retirement, he passed to his Eternal Reward in February 2005. 231


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JAMES C. MURPHY

Jimmy Murphy’s contribution to the co-operative movement was recognised by ICOS when he was presented with the Plunkett Award for Co-Operative Achievement in 2009.

(Manager 1985-2005) Although born in Adare, Co Limerick, James Murphy spent most of his early years in Pallasgreen before the family moved to Tralee where his father served as a member of the gardai.

CONOR RYAN (Manager July 2005 - ) A native of Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, Conor Ryan became manager of the society when the operations were well developed in milk processing, product manufacture for world markets, and animal feed milling and compounding. He was previously employed by Kerry Group.

However the relationship with Pallasgreen where two aunts and an uncle resided was maintained. He qualified in Dairy Science in 1958 and worked in Ballingarry Co-op, (Thurles) as an assistant manager for a brief period of relief due to the illness of both the manager and assistant manger of the society.

Having continued the consolidation of the business during the years immediately after taking up the position, he was faced with the abolition of milk quota which the EU announced would cease to be applied to production after April 1, 2015. He commissioned a survey of suppliers which indicated their intention to increase milk production by up to 40% post the milk quota regime.

It was during this period that he was contacted by Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-op and offered holiday employment as assistant manager at Nenagh.

Under Conor’s direction, phased further investment of nearly €20m since 2010, is gearing the society to process the increase in milk production which is projected to materialise from 2015.

His employment as assistant manager continued until he was appointed Deputy Chief Executive in 1975 and appointed Chief Executive on June 30, 1985 when he succeeded the man who had given him his first permanent job. Dick Tobin, whose long term as Chairman of Nenagh Co-op spanned the management of both Tom Ryan and his successor, Jimmy Murphy summed up Jimmy Murphy as “a very, very fair manager to everyone and he always kept me informed of everything that was going on”. 232


Chapter 18: THE BRANCH STRUCTURE

CHAPTER 18

THE BRANCH STRUCTURE

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THE FAMILY TREE 1913

Society established at Nenagh with milk separating and butter making

1945

Amalgamation with Toomevara Co-Op

1953

Amalgamation with Duharra Co-Op

1959

Erected new branch creamery at Borrisokane

1966

Erected new branch creamery at Killimor

1954

Amalgamation with Killeen Co-Op

1955

Commenced liquid milk business

1968

Erected new branch creamery at Birr

1972

Amalgamation with Silvermines Co-Op

1972

Amalgamation with Balywilliam Co-Op

1974

Amalgamation with Bridgetown Co-Op

1974

Amalgamation with Upperchurch Co-Op

1987

Erected casein plant in joint venture with Westmeath Co-Op

1989

Acquisition of business of O’Hara & Co., Nenagh grain and feed merchants

1989

Acquired Food Industries (Goodman) share, formerly that of Westmeath Co-Op in Casein Plant

1991

Acquired the business of Dan O’Connor Ltd, at Limerick feed mill and ingredient business

2001

Amalgamation with Mid West Co-Op to form Arrabawn Co-op

234

1974

Amalgamation with Newport Co-Op


Chapter 18: THE BRANCH STRUCTURE

THE SOCIETY SPREADS ACROSS COUNTY AND PROVINCIAL BOUNDARIES rom the small beginning, with the founding of the co-op creamery at Nenagh in 1913, the society quickly established roots within the region, and developed business relationships with several of the local co-op creameries.

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As these smaller co-ops observed the progress which was being made by Nenagh Creamery, the incentive for the local creamery committee’s to merge their societies with the larger centre became attractive.

Almost all of the creameries which had been built by the farmers in the surrounding parishes in North Tipperary operated only as separating stations for milk. The cream was manufactured into butter at other locations as few had invested scarce capital in facilities for churning.

The first creamery to amalgamate with Nenagh was Toomevara in 1945. In 1953 Duharra joined and the following year Killeen Co-Op joined up. Silvermines and Ballywilliam Co-Op voted for amalgamation in 1972 and Bridgetown, Newport and Upperchurch follow in 1974.

Within months of opening some of these societies were in contact with Nenagh Co-Op Creamery to discuss contract arrangements for the churning of the cream. Birdhill farmers co-op, which was located close to the Limerick-Ballybrophy railway line sent the cream to Nenagh by train from the nearby railway station. Others used road transport.

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TOOMEVARA before becoming a reality in 1909. Co-op societies had been registered in 1895 and again a decade later in 1905. Neither became operational. In between efforts were made in 1902 and again in 1907. The farmer impetus was stronger in 1909 when a successful society was established. In March 1902, T. M. Russell, IAOS Field Officer, in a memorandum to R. A. Andersen, IAOS Secretary recorded that he had met with the parish priest and some of the farmers of the district re a creamery at Toomevara.

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uring the later years of the nineteenth century and through the first decade of the 1900’s when farmer run creameries were being organised in scores of parishes across the south of the country, the farming enterprise mix in the Toomevara area was less conducive as a base upon which for local farmers to build and run their own creamery.

“This district from what I could see and hear would not be able to build or support a dairy. It is a tillage district for the most part with sheep and dry cattle; very few milch cows. Some of them got their fingers burned in the cause of co-operation before”. The recommendation from R. A. Andersen was not to bother any further with involvement in the area, because a great deal of time could be spent on the area without benefit and in his view it was only at best, a location to support an auxiliary creamery, and there was no central within

Dairying was in the minority of enterprises on the farms, which at the time were dominated by tillage and livestock. Several attempts were made to establish a farmers dairy co-op at Toomevara 237


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“There is no room for doubt as to the final success of this project. After the meeting I inspected several proposed sites for the creamery and recommend to the committee to secure the plot available on Mr Devaneys land”, he said. He described the site as being a reasonable The Toomevara Creamery heading during the early years of the society. distance from the the area to which it could become an village, which was desirable auxiliary. and should not present difficulties in disposing of sewerage. The amount of land Three years later, on Match 6, 1905, J. D. required was one rood. Collins in a communication to R Moore, IAOS said “I think you should lose no time On November 6, 1905, Rev Fr Hogan in looking up the Toomevara district. If you C.C. reported that “We had a most call on Denis O’Meara, Clashnevin he would successful meeting in Toomevara yesterday. go with you to the place. His curate Fr D Selected a committee and secured the site from O’Meara would give you some help in the Mr Devaney”. movement”. It was suggested that the new society should In July, R. Moore gave a lecture on be registered as Pallas Co-operative Dairy dairy farming and the benefits of the Society, but a society of similar name was co-operative movement at Toomevara. already registered in Co Wexford. It was then suggested to use the name Toomevara Rev Fr P. J. Hogan, P.P., Toomevara was Co-operative Dairy Society, until it impressed and told Mr Moore “Your lecture was discovered that this name had been and statement are producing good results. previously registered although the society I have heard during the week that a great had never worked. Difficulties existed many are very interested and desirous that the further in so far as some shareholding had movement will succeed. I do not think that been collected for the earlier attempt. It there will be much difficulty in getting an was believed that the shareholding had auxiliary at or near Toomevara”. been refunded in full. However it would be necessary for an indemnity to the On October 29, 1905, R. Moore attended effect to be filed before the Registrar of a meeting in Toomevara and reported a Friendly Societies could cancel the previous very positive response from farmers for an registration, clearing the way for a new auxiliary creamery. registration of the same name. 238


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The letter from the CWS, which operated private creameries in the area to the IAOS in 1907 after they had been invited by some farmers to start a creamery in the Toomevara area. 239


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Toomevara Co-op Creamery Society Ltd was registered on December 28, 1905 following the cancellation of the previous registration.

parish proved a failure. Fr Hogan exerted himself but in vain to get the necessary cows guarantee. The people in this district do not seem to have realised the advantages that follow from co-operation and consequently it has been found impracticable as yet to carry out any project here on these lines. No share capital has been applied for or allotted”.

The plan then was to send the cream from Toomevara to Hollymount for manufacture into butter, but difficulties were being experienced at Hollymount. The solution considered was to make Toomevara a central creamery and build an auxiliary at Gurtagarry.

At this point it was clear that another attempt to start a farmer creamery in the area had proved unsuccessful.

E. Donohue was appointed secretary to the new society and within a couple of months doubts were beginning to surface again on the future of the society.

Sixteen months later the privately owner CWS, which had creameries in many parts of the country, were petitioned by farmers from the Toomevara district asking them

On January 26, 1906 he informed the IAOS “I regret to have to inform you that the attempt made to start a creamery in this

Michael Gleeson, Manager, Jack Hackett, Delaney (Cross Roads, Lissiniskey) buttermaker, Matt Hogan, Woodville, Ballymackey, and Mick Searson, Toomevara in the early 1930’s. 240


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to build a creamery at Toomevara and an auxiliary at Gurtagarry. By this time the CWS were being effected by competition from the newly formed farmer creameries in many areas and were cautious about building further creameries. They had sold some of their creameries to local farmers to be operated as a co-op rather than have the operation drained of milk supply. Uncharacteristic of their general policy up to that time, they contacted the IAOS suggesting that it would be better for farmers to start their own creamery in the Toomevara area. They did however appear to have kept a close eye on developments in the area and immediate progress on the establishment of a creamery, of which there was little evidence visible.

Sinking a well at Toomevara Creamery in 1978.

parish at that time for a Bacon Factory at Roscrea, he suggested deferring the matter for a short time. Rev A. J. McNamara CC presided at a meeting of local farmers on Sunday August 9,1908 to discuss a creamery for Toomevara. A provisional committee of 11 representatives were appointed but there was concern that interest in the spirit of the co-op was still regarded as weak.

Early in 1908 a creamery was being organised at Cloncannon, which was nearby, and in May 1908, CWS which had been involved in the running of commercial creameries in several locatations in North Munster, including parts of North Tipperary for more than twenty years, purchased a derelict building from Sir Cox who ran a creamery business for a short time at Gurtagarry which was adjacent to both Cloncannon and Toomevara.

Meantime the CWS had opened the creamery at Gurtagarry, with some reservations about how farmers would react, and the effect that an adverse reaction could have for the success of the creamery. To head off a possible direct challenge from the farmers the CWS agreed to hand over the lease of the creamery to farmers at any time they asked for it. This may have been the first time that the CWS, which had its headquarters at Liverpool, but branches at Limerick, Kilmallock and Tipperary town, made such an offer to farmers in any part of the country.

Some farmers in the area then became anxious that the creamery project should be re-activated. Rev Fr A.J. McNamara, C.C., Toomevara was contacted but as shareholding was being collected in the 241


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Ariel view of Toomevara Creamery.

A meeting on January 16, 1909 was attended by J. Ryan Manager, Silvermines, Mr Cass, Manager, Kilcarrido, Mr Ryan, Manager, Ballinahinch, Mr Phelan, Manager, Cloncannon and Mr Bourke, Committee member Ballinahinch. Plans to make Toomevara a central creamery to serve auxiliaries at Cloncannon, Gurtagarry, and Kilcarrido were discussed.

of £13. 2s.6d. Rapid progress was made on the construction and fitting out of the premises. The new creamery opened on Monday July 10, 1909.

The new society was registered on January 21, 1909 as Toomevara Agricultural and Dairy Society Ltd. By early March 1909 the focus of attention moved to the drafting of plans for the construction of the creamery at Toomevara.

File records show that the first committee of the society comprised - President/ Chairman, Rev A J McNamara C.C., Secretary, Matthew O’Meara, Timothy Delaney, John Dillon, Patrick O’Meara, James Fitzgerald, Thomas McCarthy, Timothy O’Brien, Denis Harty, Joseph Quirke, Thomas O’Meara, William Looby, Patrick Bohan, Patrick Delaney,

Intake started with 34 suppliers delivering 373 gallons per day during the first week. Before the end of July the number of suppliers had increased to 49 supplying almost 600 gallons per day.

A rood of ground was purchased as a site for the new creamery at an agreed price 242


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Martin Cummins, Patrick Ryan. Michael Cass, was appointed Manager, Richard Casey, Butter Maker, and Thomas Rourke, Engine Driver.

Competition from neighbouring creameries put pressure on intake during the later years of the decade. Milk intake in 1919 was 208,000 gallons, a decline of one third on the supply in 1913.

For the first full year of operation, 1910, milk intake amounted to 200,223 gallons for which the farmers were paid an average of 4.06d/gallon. The supply increased to 305,344 gallons in 1913 with the average price increasing to 4.31d/gallon. The society reported profit for the year of £163. 2s. 9d.

Although escaping the spate of attacks by Crown Forces on creameries in Tipperary in 1920, the society was subject to a order by the Crown Forces on June 28, 1921 for the closure of the creamery for fourteen days. The reason for the action was claimed to have been “recent outrages committed in the district”. During the closure the farmers supplied milk to creameries at Nenagh, Cloncannon and Gurtagarry. No material loss was suffered by the closure. Milk intake was resumed on July 13, 1921.

The supply dropped in 1914 and again in 1915 declining to 253,927 gallons. The society continued to operate at a profit, adding £322. 7s. 5d. for the year to show the accumulated profits at £727. 3s. 11d. Cream was being purchased from Cloncannon Creamery.

Profitability suffered during the early 1920’s, falling to £81. 13s. 10d. in 1922 and £16. 10s. 11d. the following year.

In April 1917, E. J. Casey, formerly of Howardstown Creamery, Bruree, Co Limerick was appointed Manager to replace M. Cass who had accepted an appointment in Co Wexford. Mr Casey was appointed at a salary of £150 per annum, Presentation to Tom Shanahan on his retirement after 35 years at Tooemvara plus house at an annual rent of £20, Creamery, Terry McCabe, Tom Harrington, Tom Shanahn and Stephen Randles, former manager, 1990. and garden. 243


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operate the creamery was submitted to the Department of Agriculture, the Department officials also favoured the Ballintemple House site. However the creamery plan did not get beyond discussion stage. The society continued to show losses for 1940 and 1941 and on June 26, 1942, Mr Gleeson, Manager offered to resign after some discussions with a Special Sub Committee. He was replaced on July 1, 1942 by John Joseph Power, as Manager. Tom Shanahan at Toomevara Creamery.

In March 1945, the society approached Nenagh with an interest in amalgamating. A deputation of Messrs. Delaney, Downes, O’Meara, and Boland accompanied by Mr Power, Manager, and Mr O’Brien, I.A.O.S. Field Officer met Nenagh Creamery to discuss a merger. The deputation were offered 1.5 Nenagh shares for every three shares.

In the mid 1920’s M Gleeson was appointed Manager. The society remained under pressure for milk supply and profitability continued to be effected. For 1930 the society showed profit of £40, with the bank account overdrawn by £1,500. The viability of the society continued to be under pressure. In 1935 consideration was given to erecting auxiliaries at Moneygall and Cloughjordan to operate as milk separating stations. It was assumed that the creameries would not take supply from Cloncannon, Montore, Roscrea, or Borrisokane creameries.

Nenagh co-op proposed that any balance owing by Toomevara on merger be paid for by a levy of not more than a quarter of a penny per gallon on milk supplied to Toomevara Creamery until the debt was cleared. Shareholders of both societies approved merger proposals on April 18, 1945 and at confirmatory meetings on May 9, 1945.

One of the sites considered was at Cullenwaine, just off the MoneygallCloughjordan road and another was at Ballintemple House. The Manager, M Gleeson favoured the site at Ballintemple and when application for a licence to

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were Tom Harrington and Tom Shanahan.

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DUHARRA Meetings were held at both Newtown and Portroe on April 26, 1912. Rev Fr O’Halloran PP presided at Newtown and Rev Fr A O’Shea, C.C. at Portroe. The meetings were fairly well attended but the farmers appeared less than wholly enthusiastically behind the venture and only a few shares were signed for. On May 19, 1912 a meeting was held at Quigley’s Cross, midway between Portroe and Newtown. No shares were signed for at this meeting. It is reported that a local funeral interfered with the attendance. The meeting was told that the milk supply of about 450 cows had been promised for the creamery.

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everal co-op creameries were in operation in the neighbouring areas before the local farmers initiated moves which resulted in the establishment a creamery in the parish of Youghlarra.

Some further shares were subscribed for at a meeting at Newtown on June 21 and at Portroe.

On March 28, 1912, Jeremiah McDonnell wrote to the IAOS stating that “Many of the farmers in the area are anxious to have a creamery and have asked me to write to you for information how to go about the business. Some years ago an attempt was made to get up a creamery here but it then fell through. People are now more in earnest over the matter and wish to have a factory”

At this point the farmers interested in establishing a creamery were raising questions as to where the creamery should or would be built. It was an issue for most of the people supporting the project that the distance from the creamery could leave it less attractive for them. It was 245


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agreed to locate it as close as possible to mid way between Portroe and Newtown, although farmers in the Portroe area sought a location which was more in their favour. A further meeting was held on June 23 in the Church Yard at Newtown. At this point the total shareholding signed for amounted to ÂŁ329 which was not very encouraging after more than six months promoting the project in the area. It was then suggested that in the event of not getting sufficient support within the area for an independent creamery to be built that an auxiliary to Ballywilliam Creamery could be considered. A creamery account from 1919 showing milk supplied and the account summary for the month. 246

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Newtown School House on Saturday October 19, 1912 at 7 pm and at Portroe School House on Sunday October 20 at 12 o’clock. Additional meetings were held at both centres on Friday January 24, 1913. At this point, after nine months slowly building support, the prospects were looking more positive.

The Society was registered on February 25, 1913. The registration application was signed by Michael Corbett, Pallasbeg, President/Chairman, and Jeremiah McDonnell, Secretary. The first ordinary general meeting of the Duharra Co-operative Society was held three days later on February 28, 1913. The meting was chaired by Michael Corbett. It was decided to appoint a committee of twelve members. The following were elected - Michael Corbett, Henry Smithwick, Philip Ryan, John O’Brien, Michael Seymour, Patrick Coffey, Jerry McKeogh, Patrick Bonfield, Percival Sparling, Michael Geary, and John Malone.

Inspection of possible sites was carried out on January 30, 1913 At least four sites were assessed, Bonfield’s field near the bridge, Patrick Cregan’s land, H. Smithwick’s land, and D. Hurley’s land. A corner of Smithwick’s field nearest the forge was regarded as being the most suitable.

The letter heading used by the creamery at Duharra. 247


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Following a number of meetings on the selection of a site, the tender of Mr Kennedy for ÂŁ540 for the erection of the creamery was accepted at a meeting on August 15 with the society undertaking to put the gravel and sand on the site for the contractor. When agreement could not be reached with Ballywilliam Co-op to churn the cream the committee approached Nenagh Co-op willing to pay 4/8d/cwt of butter produced. Fourteen applications were received for the position of Manager. The Committee agreed to appoint D. Gleeson, Manager, Crannagh Creamery at a salary of 20/- per week. The IAOS had advised the committee not to appoint a local man, but the committee all supported one or other of two local candidates among the applications for the position. John Malone, one of the founders of the creamery. His son, Matt Malone later served as chairman of

It was agreed that Mr Fant, IAOS Engineer should revisit the area for a further inspection of the suggested sites before a final decision was taken on the most suitable site.

After the committee realised that Mr Gleeson was not at the time a fully qualified manager and therefore they were unlikely to get approval of the Department of Agriculture, for the appointment it was reviewed and John Phelan, Dunkerrin was appointed, to take up the position from April 1914.

The contract to build the creamery at Garranakeevin, Newtown, Nenagh was advertised nationally with tenders to be submitted to Jeremiah McDonnell, Secretary for the construction of an independent auxiliary creamery.

The creamery opened for operation on May 22, 1914 with 73 suppliers delivering milk.

the society.

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rather see them holding a substantial number of shares in co-operation with the quarry men who would be employed with other elements both local and national who might be attracted to the feasibility of working the quarries on a paying basis. The scheme strikes me as an over ambitious one for a small body of farmers who have already found it as much as they could do to start an auxiliary creamery. I do not want to throw cold water on the admirable spirit of co-operation in this instance, but my advice would be to move very cautiously”.

In April 1917 the society having already purchased a fertiliser distributor, decided to purchase a corn drill, a reaper and binder, and a horse sprayer, with the expressed intention to purchase a threshing mill at a future date. On January 22, 1918, the Manager, John Phelan, wrote as follows to the IAOS “My committee have taken up the matter of helping to organise a co-op slate company. A deputation from the committee interviewed some of the proprietors of the Killaloe Slate Quarry Company, now closed some months. They agreed to acquaint the other proprietors as soon as possible and then submit their terms of sale to the deputation.

One of the directors of the company, Mr Fry, told a deputation of the farmers that the quarry had ceased to be a paying proposition owing to a variety of causes, which included the labour available in the area. He advised that the cost of operating the quarry had increased considerably, owing to the increase in wages and the increased cost of coal.

“These quarries produced the finest slates in Ireland and are situated two miles from Duharra Creamery. The quarries have been owned by various companies for the last 40 years. They are now closed down some months, but of coarse all the machinery and plant are still there in good working order. The stoppage of this fine industry was not only a serious loss to the 60 workers employed there but to the parish of Portroe and district”. The society requested technical and administrative assistance towards the objective of purchasing and operating the quarry from the IAOS. The advise of the IAOS to the farmers was “I cannot think that a co-operative society of farmers would succeed where trained experts failed, nor do I think that the re-opening of the quarry is a matter in which farmers should take the chief responsibility. I should

A sample of the auditors report for the creamery. 249


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He advised that he did not foresee a scarcity of slates which was being taken up by imports from Wales. The Killaloe slates were very good, practically everlasting, but somewhat brickle which resulted in many of them breaking during boring for nail holes.

He was not encouraging about the prospect of success for the farmers. The direct involvement of the co-op was stalled.

The creamery was attacked by the Crown Forces on November 21, 1920 and Portroe Police Station served a closing order on the creamery on July 4, 1921 as the society was about to resume operation, following completely rebuilding of the premises and replacing all of the machinery.

He added that “the amount of royalty payable to the two old ladies who owned the property was out of all proportion to the value of the quarry and nothing would induce me to put a penny into the quarry, except it could be re started as a means of providing employment for the people of the district and that would be as a charitable institution”.

There was a net profit for 1921 of £20. 19s. 5d which increased to £48. 4s. 10d in 1924 when the society processed 199,919 gallons of milk for which the farmers were paid an average of 7.28d/gallon. The slump in the export trade for butter during the mid years of the decade affected the return to the society. Under the agreement with Nenagh Co-op for the manufacture and marketing of butter the society was responsible for a sharing of the losses incurred in 1925, the recovery of which led to differences between the societies. Some differences also developed between the society and the IAOS and the society did not affiliate for several years during

Pat (Padna) McLoughlin. a founder member of the creamery society. His son, Patrick later served as chairman of Arrabawn Co-Op and President of ICOS. 250


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The winding road at the Slate Quarries at Portoe cut through the discarded stone from the industry is a reminder of the business which Duharra Co-Op were strongly advised by the IAOS not to take over the running of when the business closed.

the early 1930’s during which the chairmanship had been taken over by Dan Flaherty, Portroe. He was later succeeded by Matt Malone.

on July 1, 1953, the meeting of Duharra suppliers to be held at 8 p.m. and Nenagh shareholders to meet at 9 p.m Twenty-three shareholders attended the Duharra Creamery meeting. They voted fourteen in favour and nine against amalgamation of the two creameries. As the vote in favour failed to reach the required two-third majority the amalgamation was deferred indefinitely.

On June 6, 1953 a deputation from the society comprising of Messrs Matt Malone, Chairman, R. Kennedy and J. O’Sullivan met the Nenagh Committee to discuss a merging of the two societies. After a lengthy discussion it was agreed that the take over terms agreed should be put the shareholders of both creameries

The committee were disappointed by the narrow margin of defeat which was 251


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that they were given four seats on the Nenagh Committee.

The Nenagh Committee agreed to the request. Duharra Shareholders met at 3 pm on December 9, 1953. Thirty shareholders attended. Twentynine voted for amalgamation. Later that evening Nenagh Co-op shareholders unanimously approved the amalgamation proposals with Duharra shareholders to receive Nenagh shares equal to their shareholding in Duharra Creamery and suppliers to be paid the same as Nenagh suppliers for milk supplied. Confirmatory meetings of the shareholders were held the statutory three weeks later on December 30, 1953 to approve the merger.

The co-op accounts.

a set back for the plans of the society to unite the two co-ops. The low turnout of shareholders for the vote may have contributed to the defeat. IAOS organiser, N. O’Brien continued to urge shareholders to favour the merger. In November the society contacted Nenagh Co-op interested in furthering amalgamation on condition

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were John O’Hart and Liam McKeogh.

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KILLEEN Nenagh based engineer, R P Gill, BE, in a report to IAOS in early 1899 stated that the Killeen farmers had “failed to amicably arrange their differences” on the construction of a co-op creamery in the area. However the farmers in the Silvermines area went ahead with their own creamery which opened in May 1896. On the same day a privately owned creamery was opened by CWS a private dairy company, at Happygrove, near Dolla and about midway between Silvermines and Killeen.

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he initial plans for the establishment of a farmer co-op creamery at Killeen were being mooted in the early 1890’s. It was originally being planned to build a central creamery at Killeen with a creamery being planned for Silvermines in the neighbouring parish expected to operate as an auxiliary.

The CWS were forging ahead with plans for a creamery at Killeen with the support of some of the farmers in the area, who felt the necessity to have a creamery in the area.

There appeared to have been local difficulties which grounded the creamery plan. Farmers support was divided between the desire of some to have a co-op and those who supported a private enterprise creamery.

In March 1899, G M Russell, an officer of the IAOS was contacted by Jeremiah Ryan, Secretary of the nearby Silvermines Co-op Creamery urging that the society 253


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do everything possible to stop CWS from building a private creamery at nearby Killeen where the plans for a farmer co-op had floundered. “Do you think that the farmers there (Killeen)would put up an auxiliary to your society”, replied Mr Russell in his response to Mr Ryan. He added “R. A. Anderson will be with you on Saturday. I can assure you that anything we can do to put a stay on the hand of CWS we will do”. R. A. Andersen, a farmer’s son from North Cork had been directly involved in the founding of the co-operative movement in the country with Sir Horace Plunkett who relied heavily upon him and had appointed him next in line of command in ICOS as the first secretary of the organisation of which he was president.

James Kelly, the first Chairman of Killeen Creamery.

Killeen Creamery heading in the early years of the 1900’s. 254


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A Share Certificate issued by Killeen Creamery to Edward Butler in 1910.

Within six months the creamery at Happygrove had ceased operations leaving debts owing to the farmer suppliers who had not been paid for the milk supplied. Attempts to incorporate the creamery with Silvermines Co-op proved unsuccessful.

5/- per cwt of butter with Killeen Co-op to cart the cream to Nenagh and to supply a cream vat. In April 1948 Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-Op, advised the committee that Killeen Creamery may be calling on Nenagh Creamery to discuss amalgamation in the near future. The matter was fully discussed.

In May 1915, the society agreed terms with Nenagh Co-Op for the churning of the cream and marketing of the butter at 255


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It was outlined that there was only £21 in shares in Killeen Creamery and suggested that if the creamery wanted to join with Nenagh that the milk suppliers should be asked to increase their shareholding and also to accept 1d/lb butterfat less than Nenagh suppliers. On June 17, 1948 a deputation from the co-op met with Nenagh Co-op Committee to discuss amalgamation. The deputation comprised of Messrs M. Ryan, P. Ryan, M. Delaney, and J. Gleeson, Manager. The meeting was also attended by W. O’Brien, IAOS Organiser. Following a lengthy discussion, Nenagh Creamery Committee offered to take over Killeen provided that the Killeen milk suppliers accepted 1d/lb less on butterfat than the Nenagh price. The Killeen delegates rejected the proposed terms as not be acceptable to their suppliers.

Michael Flanagan, the first secretary of Killeen Creamery.

Kennedy accompanied by their manager, J. Gleeson met Nenagh Creamery Committee on February 11, 1954. After a lengthy discussion agreement was reached on a merging of the two societies with Killeen to get two seats on the committee.

Discussions on amalgamation were resumed with Nenagh Co-op in 1954. Three members of Killeen Creamery, Messrs P. Boland, P. Grace and P.

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were Michael Hayes and Chris Coughlan.

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SILVERMINES Details are scant about the actual erection of the initial building. The site for the creamery was provided on land owned by Lord Dunalley, an extensive land owner. Subsequent information suggest that the building was small, with limited facilities, and originally intended to become an auxiliary to a planned farmers co-op creamery at Killeen, in the next parish. On April 15, 1896 Jeremiah Ryan, advised IAOS of their intention to have the creamery operating from the beginning of May 1896.

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he co-op spirit among farmers for the establishment of their own creamery at Silvermines blossomed within a few years of the first farmer creameries in the country.

The creamery opened on May 4, 1896, Jeremiah Ryan, who had been secretary to the committee being appointed the first manager. Wm Freese, Kilmore was the first President/Chairman. The society had 40 shareholders. Of the 100 farmers supplying milk only 37 had purchased shares.

By the mid 1890’s the impetus for a creamery was being discussed by the local farmers. One of the earliest contacts from the area with the IAOS came from Jeremiah Ryan, whose ancestors came from Glenculloo, near Killoscully. He ran a grocery, wine and spirit business in the village and probably was also a land owner in the immediate area. He became secretary of the local committee spearheading the development.

In 1899 R P Gill, BE, in a report to IAOS stated “The Killeen farmers having failed to amicably arrange their differences, the Silvermines with commendable pluck decided to start a full creamery. 257


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Farmers delivering milk to the creamery at the Silvermines.

“Owing however to a mistaken idea of economy they did not add to the size of their building and gave the order to a firm that put in a cheap tender which supplied them with obsolete separators which were too ponderous for the engine. This was done entirely in opposition to my advice.

to grocers shops, clubs, hotels and private consumers which will enable him to keep the concern open for the whole of the winter at a profit”. The early years proved difficult for the society. As an economy measure the creamery closed during the winter months and suppliers claimed that they were left without a purchaser for their milk.

“They commenced work therefore in a miserably cramped building with a bad floor and ineffective machinery. However as against that they secured an excellent manager and a first class dairy maid and their milk supply increased rapidly.

Farmer unrest at the operation of the society, provided an opportunity for CWS to undermine the farmer co-op and the farmer initiative in running their own society suffered a set back.

“The members of this society have arranged to purchase all their manures and seeds jointly and are already buying basic slag. “The manager has secured a considerable connection for the sale of butter in rolls

In March 1899, G M Russell, IAOS was urged by Jeremiah Ryan, Secretary that the society do everything possible to stop CWS 258


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from building a private creamery at nearby Killeen where the plans for a farmer co-op had not developed.

“I exhausted all my influence on my committee to buy Happygrove and use it as an auxiliary but failed. I then employed a wagon from that locality that gave a large supply to it (Happygrove) giving it a subsidy of 7/- per week on consideration of it bringing 200 gallons per day for six months of the year which it did and 200 gallons more followed it that could not find room for on same.

“Do you think that the farmers there (Killeen) would put up an auxiliary to your society”, asked Mr Russell in one of his communications. He added “Mr Anderson will be with you on Saturday. I can assure you that anything we can do to put a stay on the hand of CWS we will do”.

“I then bought that dairy myself - and all that was in it for £68. I kept it on hands for nearly twelve months in hope that my people would wake up to their own interests, but no. I then was compelled to break it up and sell all separately the best I could, which I did, making a large profit.

R. A. Andersen, a farmer’s son from North Cork had played a key role working very closely with Sir Horace Plunkett in the establishment of the co-operative movement in the country and became the first secretary of the organisation. Meantime the milk supply for Silvermines had come under pressure from the private creameries.

“In ‘98 the owner of the wagon appeared before the committee asking if they would continue giving him the subsidy. Some of them opposed it on the grounds that all the milk that came from that locality was only ruining us, it was coming only once daily, but the majority of the meeting was for giving it to him on the same terms as before. They

At the end of 1900, the IAOS was concerned at the serious depletion of milk supply at Silvermines and questioned what the society was doing about it. On February 16, 1901, Jeremiah Ryan, Manager, in a long letter to IAOS outlined the background to the situation in which the society found itself. “The dairy opened on May 4, 1896 and another dairy owned by Mr Little opened on the same day at Happygrove within two miles. I was then left a fairly free hand and after six months Happygrove closed down taking a months pay from their suppliers.

Former Manager at the creamery, Martin Minehan and his wife, Maura. 259


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him to build a dairy which he did in early 1899, leaving us minus 460-500 gallons per day. “First meeting in January 1898 (Silvermines) committee decided to close the creamery for the winter and left farmers without an outlet for milk. Eventually a small majority decided to keep it open”.

The wages at the society were reduced. The Manager, Jeremiah Ryan, provided his services for free and the wages for a working boy were reduced from 13/- per week to 8/per week. In a report on the situation within the area on April 24, 1901 Jeremiah Ryan stated that he understood that W Stokes intended to establish a churning station at Nenagh and expected to have Youghal, Toomevara, Gurtagarry, Latteragh, Tinnoe, and Killoscully as auxiliaries and throw in Killeen, Greenane and Currabaha as well. during the winter months.

A report published in the ‘Nenagh Guardian’ on February 9, 1895 that a creamery was being proposed for Silvermines.

then refused to pay and the contractor sued in court and won a decree for the amount. “During the summer of 1898 Wm Stokes (CWS) visited the area - only one man encouraging him. He came again as soon as the wagon was disemployed and was surrounded by the farmers who encouraged

It was fortunate for Silvermines that the CWS plans were not so ambitious and little came of such a scheme for the area. Accounts to December 31, 1902 showed 260


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a profit of £11.19s.8d after purchasing 236,636 gallons of milk at an average prices 3.5d gallon.

12, 1921 but the closure had a big impact on the society. A week after the re-opening fears were being expressed for the future survival of the society, which was being reported as being “on the verge of bankruptcy” because a great majority of the suppliers had not returned their supplies to the creamery.

A local priest, Rev Fr D Flannery in a letter to ICOS was supportive of the creamery. By mid 1903 the situation at the creamery had improved. On June 17, 1903 Jeremiah Ryan, Manager said “My prospects are fairly bright this year. If prices keep moderately high I expect to creep out of some of the liabilities, but as you are aware I am placed at a great disadvantage for want of a good water supply”.

Anger was heaped on manager of the society, Jeremiah Ryan, who had nurtured the society from its formation. His resignation was demanded at a meeting of the suppliers, many expressing that they would not return milk supplies to the creamery while he held office, although their reasoning for this approach appears difficult to understand.

In 1915 the society won a Gold Medal for buttermaking and also became well known as a manufacturer of cheese which was being exported to France.

Milk intake at the creamery was down to 200 gallons per day. The future looked uncertain. Suppliers expressed that a private operator was likely to get control of the creamery within a short time.

The creamery was the subject of an attack by the Crown Forces on September 15, 1920 when the premises was extensively damaged. They struck again on June 28, 1921 when the Crown Forces entered the creamery building ordering the workers out and warning them not to re-enter the building. Before leaving the Forces posted a notice ordering the creamery to remain closed for 14 days, this notice was posted on the door of the creamery and the manager’s house adjoining the creamery.

On July 28, 1921 a meeting of members was held to consider winding up the society. The meeting concluded without taking a final decision. The following month, Jeremiah Ryan, Manager, retired on grounds of failing health. Regrettably it was surrounded by serious division among the suppliers. Many tributes were paid to him in appreciation of the loyal service, and dedication which he had devoted to the development of the society for a quarter of a century. The manner of his departure was felt by many as very regrettable for a man who had served the society so honourably and with

The reason for the action was claimed to have been in reaction to the kidnapping of two police from the local station. During the closure, at the peak of the production season, suppliers took their milk to creameries at Cranna and Nenagh. Silvermines Creamery re-opened on July 261


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dedication to succeed in serving the farmers of the area. He was one of the longest service co-op managers in the country, at that time and held in very high regard by the IAOS in their dealings with Silvermines Co-op.

year milk intake had dropped to 148,043 gallons and by 1925 the throughput was down to 142,605 gallons.

The milk supply was being seriously eroded by competition on milk price from neighbouring co-op creameries at Nenagh, Ballywilliam and the CWS private creamery at Crannagh. The indebtedness of the society to the bank was increasing.

He was succeeded by Denis Ryan, Manager Monagea Co-op, Newcastlewest, Co Limerick. By February 1922 the vast majority of the suppliers had resumed supplying the creamery. Milk intake had recovered and ninety-two suppliers were prepared to send milk when the season opened. Denis Ryan, Manager was hospitalised with serious injuries received in a road accident and in November, Timothy F. Ryan, Manager, Ballycarron Co-op, a native of Lisnageenliah, Silvermines , was appointed substitute Manager.

IAOS official, Mr Conway was in liaison with Silvermines and arranged a deputation from the society to be received by Nenagh Co-op in July 1925 to discuss a better working relationship between the two societies.

Plans for the rebuilding of the creamery, following the attack by the Crown Forces was initiated in mid summer 1923 after compensation had been received, and building got under way at the end of October. Compensation of £3,865. 6s. 5d. awarded in the action against the Crown had been received in 1922. A second claim was lodged for £905 in respect of loss for the closed period.

Nenagh did not show any interest in engaging with Silvermines Creamery Committee in connection with the feasibility of amalgamation. There was concern at the indebtedness of the society which owed in excess of £2,000 to the bank, under a loan for which local farmers had given personal guarantees.

The creamery was operating as an auxiliary in 1923 and the cream was being churned by Nenagh Co-op for which Silvermines was paying 9/4d per cwt of butter produced. The intake for the year was 180,588 gallons and the society recorded a profit for the year of £114. The following

In 1926 the society was faced with some serious decision making under the chairmanship of Maurice Leamy, Erinagh, Capparoe. A merger with Nenagh was ruled out. Joining with Ballywilliam was considered as a possible option, but never 262


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Jim O’Brien, Liam Nolan, Christy Gleeson and Michael Minehan, Creamery Manager, on their way to Mass in the old Church at the Silvermines.

discussed with the Ballywilliam society and liquidation was another option being suggested.

the society entered an even more challenging period in its existence. The indebtedness of the society was a restrain on their ability to match neighbouring milk prices. In particular the milk supply was flowing towards Nenagh Co-op and securing sufficient milk for the society to be viable proved difficult, leading to differences between farmers in the area on the operation and support for the co-op.

The debt was secured by personal guarantees given by a number of suppliers. A small number, about five or six, had gone guarantors for most of the borrowings. A much larger number had given security for the balance. Further credit was not available. The guarantors of the loan stood to suffer substantial personal losses. Some of them had withdrawn their milk supply from the creamery and were supplying to other creameries.

At the beginning of 1927 the formation of a Co-op Credit Society was considered under a new scheme introduced by the Department of Agriculture to provide finance for farmers, known as the State Agricultural Credit Scheme.

Denis Ryan, Manager, was succeeded in 1926 by Michael Minehan, as 263


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The Co-op Credit Society to be operated within the dairy society was registered on March 8, 1927. The trustees appointed were Rev Fr. Donal O’Dea, C.C. and John Leamy, Ballygowan, Capparoe. The Secretary was Richard Devane, Silvermines. Forty-four farmers joined the new society.

This entitled the society to apply to the Department of Agriculture for an advance of double the value of their deposits. An advance of £688 was received from the Department and recorded at a meeting attended by Rev Fr. O’Dea, Denis Flanagan, Michael Quinlan, Thomas McSoley, Laurence Ryan, Pat Carroll, Thomas Carey, Michael Minehan, Manager, and Richard Devane, Secretary.

On April 28, 1927 Rev Fr O’Dea and Denis Flanagan, Gurtheenbeha, Silvermines lodged £344 to the credit of the society. The money had been deposited by 24 members in individual amounts varying between £6 and £17.

Further deposits were made by the members and additional state advances were applied for and received. By November deposits had increased to £565, and State advances to £1,130 with the loans advanced to the farmers at £1,678 at an interest rate of 5%. The previous year, 1,100 acres of land, portion of a local estate was divided among

Stephen O’Brien, Brud Young, Jimmy Quirke, Anthony Collins and Sean Forde. 264


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Brendan Bourke, Brud Young, Brud Stepleton, and John Boland at the creamery.

farmers in the area. A further 1,000 acres was divided in 1928. Many of the farmers who borrowed the money used it to purchase stock for the land.

Into the 1930’s the challenges and difficulties continued for the society. The farmers were also experiencing difficulties in repaying the loans to the Department of Agriculture.

Repayment arrangements for the loans and interest proved difficult for many of the farmers. In 1930 the Department of Agriculture threatened to take legal action against the farmers for overdue repayments. Accounts for the Co-Op Credit Society Ltd were still outstanding and being demanded for 1927, 1928 and 1929 approaching the later months of 1930.

Rev Fr J. F. Enright, P.P., became chairman in 1933 in an effort to improve the operations. The price being paid to farmers for milk in 1935 was 3.57d/gallon which was on the low side, relative to the competition, leaving the society vulnerable to suppliers being encouraged to transfer their milk supply to other processors.

Milk suppliers, other than the elected committee members exercised considerable control on the running of the society and there are no records of annual meetings being held during the later years of the 1920’s.

The tightness of the operation was reflected in the importance which was placed on securing a refund of taxes from the Inland Revenue in 1937 covering the previous six years. The society received a total refund of 12s. 9d. 265


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Milk intake increased from 246,506 gallons in 1931 to 314,477 gallons in 1936, before declining again to 275,459 gallons the following year, when the society was recording a profit for the year of over £300.

The decade ended on a positive note for the society with the prospect that they would have turned the corner financially within a year or two. Liabilities on the society had been reduced to £600 compared to £2,000 in 1934. Michael Minehan gave long service to the society remaining manager until 1958 when he was succeeded by his son, Martin Minehan. A deputation from the society attended a meeting of Nenagh Co-op in January 1972 with a view to amalgamation of the society with Nenagh. The deputation comprised of Very Rev Canon Murphy, P.P., Messrs J. Leamy, J. Hanly, J. Quigley, and M Minehan.

A review of the operations at the society filed with IAOS early in 1939 stated “The society paid £150 to the Department of Agriculture for 1938, due to the untiring efforts of the secretary with the help of the committee. They did not hold a single meeting during the year. They would have been able to repay the Department £2,200 were local conditions a little more prosperous, but the manager assured me that the Department now have no anxiety regarding the balance and it will be paid in full, and I believe with a little patience this arrangement will continue”.

Terms for amalgamation of the two societies were discussed, with Nenagh offering similar arrangements and benefits which had previously been agreed with the neighbouring Killeen Co-op. The amalgamation of Silvermines Creamery was approved at a special general meeting of the Nenagh Committee on February 24, 1972 on the proposition of R. Tobin, seconded by J. Moloney and carried unanimously on a show of hands.

In 1939, Denis Flanagan, Gortnacreha, Silvermines was President/Chairman with Michael Quinlan, Boherbue, Treasurer, and Michael Minehan, Manager, secretary. The committee members were Thomas McSolen, Laurence Ryan, Knockamore, Patrick Carroll, Coolcan, Thomas Carey, Coolcan, John Kirby, Lisnaglenida, and John Cuddihy.

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were Martin Minehan and Joe Gleeson.

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BALLYWILLIAM cost of £8. She also applied for 8 shares in the co-op. The plans were drawn up for a creamery capable of processing the produce of 700 cows. The tender of Evans & Co was approved by the committee on the proposition of P. Slattery and seconded by T. Mulcahy. Work commenced on the construction of the creamery the following month when local man, George Bowler was hired to quarry stone from Deignan’s quarry. He was contracted to quarry over 200 tonnes of stone at 1/- per tonne. Mrs Deignan was paid £5 for the use of the quarry.

A

meeting of local farmers in November 1894 laid the foundation for a co-operative creamery at Ballywilliam. Unlike some of the neighbouring areas on the Limerick side, there was no private creamery in Ballywilliam. The nearest private creamery was at Castlecranna. The alternative challenge which the farmers encountered was securing a site for the building. After refusals from both local landlord G. M. Finch and Mr Tuthill, in February 1895 an approach was made to local farmer, Mrs Powell who agreed to provide the plot of ground required at a purchase

The first shareholders in the society included Messrs. J. Bonfield, J. McGrath, T. Boyle, M. Corcoran, M. Ryan, J. Ryan, J. Slattery, J. Minogue, W. Darcy, T. Hogan, T. Dunlea, P. Keogh, and W. McGrath. By late Autumn the completion of the building was well advanced and preparations for its operation commenced with the appointment of Mr Melican, as Manager, at a salary of 15/- per week. Alice 267


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The letter heading used by Ballywilliam Co-Operative Society Ltd in the early years of the creramery.

Moylan was appointed dairymaid and Martin Finn, engine driver.

a common form of roughage for animal feeding at the time. The first season of production was a satisfactory one in general for the new co-operative.

At the beginning of January 1896 the opening price for milk was fixed at 4d. per gallon depending on the quality of the milk and the manager warned farmers to stop sending milk to the creamery from cows which had been fed with turnips,

A year later, November 1897, the founding chairman, Rev Fr. P. Crowe, C.C. resigned and he was replaced by J. Donoghue. A market was secured for milk in Limerick for the winter months at 5.5d/ gallon and Pat Hayes was contracted to transport twelve churns of milk per day to Limerick for which he was paid 3/6d per day. It was also decided that each supplier be required to provide their horse to take a load of milk and those who failed to comply would be fined 3/-. As was common with several of the new farmer run creameries commencing operations around that time account

A butter wrapper used by the creamery. 268


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keeping and financial balancing was less than perfect. At the beginning of the 1899 season an audit of all accounts for the three seasons since the opening of the society exposed that the society was in financial difficulty.

Assessment of the financial situation at the end of October showed that the society had made a profit of £2. 19s. 0d. The salary for the manger was reduced by 6/d per week. The following January a consignment of butter was lost in transit between Nenagh Railway Station and Kingsbridge Station (Dublin). The value of the butter, which was never traced, was equivalent to the profit for the society for the year.

The founding chairman, Rev Fr. P. Crowe, C.C. was re-instated as chairman. His first challenge was to urge the 87 farmers supplying milk to continue support for the society and by working together they would overcome their temporary difficulties.

At the beginning of 1901, the building of an auxiliary creamery at Youghlarra was considered but not progressed. The payment for milk, which up to then had been based on gallonage supplied, was changed to reflect the constituent level of the milk. Payment was based on the

Six applications were received for the position of manager. J. C. O’Brien was appointed manager at a salary of £1.15s. 0d per week and required to sign a security bond for £50. The price of milk was reduced to 3d/gallon.

Copy of a receipt issued for the purchase of one ton of Slag in 1924. 269


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Pat Reidy receiving a presentation from J J O’Mara, Manager, on the occassion of his retirement as Chairman of the society with (back) Paddy Reidy, Josephine Reidy, Catherine Reidy, Mary Reidy, Una Reidy, Johnny Reidy, Oliver Kennedy, (front) Peggy Kennedy, Emma Reidy, Pat Reidy, J J O’Mara, and Mary O’Mara.

butterfat at 1/- per lb/butterfat, which was equivalent to less than 4d/gallon for most suppliers.

to Nenagh Railway Station for despatch to Dublin. Over the decades the society developed a local market for butter and at its peak in the 1950’s two delivery men were employed full time supplying retail outlets in North Tipperary.

The dismissal of the manager and dairymaid on January 20, 1904 led to the temporary closing of the creamery. Following an advertising process, Tim Gleeson was appointed manager at a salary of £1. 5s. 0d. per week.

In 1950, C. Stapleton was appointed his assistant, but his decision in 1953 to enter All Hollows College, Dublin to study for the priesthood coincided with the passing of Tim Gleeson. He was replaced by D. McCarthy as manager. C Stapleton completed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood in June 1959.

There followed a relatively stable period for the society the creamery under Mr Gleeson’s management. The society concentrated on buttermaking. Most of the produce was transported by horse and car 270


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Although the minutes of the society reported the society being “in a sound financial position” in early 1952, the society appeared to come under pressure immediately after and employees were asked to share the burden of reducing operational costs.

Tim Gleeson died at the beginning of 1953 and was replaced in February 1953 by D. McCarthy who was subsequently replaced by A Murray. Communications with the creamery took a major step forward in October 1954 when a phone for the creamery was installed. Like all such operations at that time, particularly in rural areas, the creamery was powered by steam until 1958 when it was connected to the ESB network.

The salary for the Manager, Tim Gleeson was reduced from £30 per month to £18/month with effect from May 1, 1952 which represented a substantial reduction and reflection of the scale of cost cutting applied.

In 1961, Sean Keane replaced A. Murray as manager and he was succeeded by J. J. O’Mara. Jim Hassett was manager for a short period before the return to the position by J. J. O’Mara who continued in the role until the society amalgamated with Nenagh.

Advertisement for Ballywilliam Butter which was popular in shops in the Mid West region. 271


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Early in 1972 the society applied to Nenagh Creamery for amalgamation. Messrs Pat Woods (Chairman), Looby, Slattery, Ryan, Gill, Reidy (secretary), and O’Mara (manager) on behalf of Ballywilliam Creamery attended a meeting with Nenagh.

A delegation from the Ballywilliam Parish Council addressed the last agm. It consisted of Very Rev Fr.Moynihan, P.P., John Joe Slattery and Patrick Looby. The minute of the meeting recorded that “The delegation led by J J Slattery requested that some of the balance in the society be given to the parish to effect the debt on their church”.

After a full discussion and separate meetings, the terms for amalgamation were agreed with an undertaking that the store at Ballywilliam Creamery would be maintained and developed.

Committee member, John Ryan said that Ballina-Boher Parish would also be requesting a donation as the milk supply to the society also came from Boher parish.

The amalgamation was approved by Nenagh Committee at a special general meeting held on March 14, 1972.

The members of the committee at the time of amalgamation were Pat Woods, Ballywilliam, Chairman, Martin Gleeson, Carrigal, Vice-Chairman, Pat Reidy, Rosemount, Secretary. Committee: John Ryan, Curraghmore, Patrick Bray, Scragg, Michael Bray, Boher, Jack Maher, Gortmore, Patrick Ryan, Gortmore, Denis O’Brien, Dromin.

At the time there were 149 farmers supplying milk to the creamery, a decline from the prior peak of 200 suppliers, and there were eight full time employees.

The society requested a representation of four seats on the Nenagh Board, but following discussion accepted two seats, the same representation as given to neighbouring creameries.

The society had reported a net profit of £1,537 for 1969 and £1,643 for 1970. There was a turnover of £260,529 for 1971 the last full year of operation as an independent society. The minutes of the last agm held in early 1972 reported £2,000 in shareholding by the society, £2,500 in a general reserve account and the profit and loss account showing a credit balance of £8,885 at the end of 1971. Records showed that there was indebtedness to the bank of £718.

Pat Woods and Patrick Ryan were appointed to the board of Nenagh Creamery to represent the area. Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were J J O’Mara, Patsy Mulqueen and Willie Walsh.

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BRIDGETOWN of group purchasing of slag to improve the fertility of pasture land at the most economic price. The first contact with the IAOS on the formation of the co-op society came from Ernst Brown, Clonboy House, Bridgetown early in 1911. Ernst Brown was an extensive land owner who also owned a considerable number of houses at O’Brien’s Bridge which were let to tenants. Information leaflets were supplied by IAOS to Messrs Nash, Walsh, Hogan and Skehan. The farmers were very anxious to get started as soon as possible and intended to be up and running for the Autumn of 1911. They planned to commence operation with the purchase of Slag. They were also interested in acquiring a threshing mill.

U

nlike most of the other farmer co-operatives in the region, the processing of milk was not the foremost objective of the farmers when they set about forming a farmer run co-operative society at Bridgetown in 1911. Dairy farmers in the area were supplying the creamery operated by the privately owned, Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) which operated several creameries in the surrounding areas, but they were anxious to have a better service for the supply of farm inputs. The local creamery operated by CWS was built in 1904.

On October 24, 1911 they recorded the formation of the society with the election of Ernst Brown, Clonboy, O’Brien’s Bridge as Chairman. Michael Hogan, Fahy, O’Briensbridge was appointed Secretary in an executive role to be remunerated with commission of 2.5% on sales.

Bridgetown Co-operative Agricultural Society Ltd was formed for the purpose 273


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The registration of the society was approved on November 11, 1911. Ninetythree members were enlisted with a total holding of 119 shares. The premises from which the co-op operated was situated at O’Brien’s Bridge.

Hogan told the committee that he could not make a living from the commission on sales. He applied for a job to the IAWS (Limerick) with whom he had been trading for the purchase of the fertiliser, but they had no vacancy.

During the first year they concentrated on bulk purchase of Basic Slag from the IAWS Depot at Limerick for farmers in the area with some interest also expressed in obtaining supplies of Sulphate of Copper.

The following year turnover increased to £742. The society had 115 members with Share capital paid up of £17. 12s 0d. There was a loss on the year’s trading of £12. 8s. 3d and the society incurred a bank overdraft of £500.

At the end of the first year the membership had increased to 115 with a turnover of £684. 0s. 0d. Michael

Michael Hogan sought an increase in commission on sales to 5% on the first £500 per annum and 2.5% on the balance as he continued to work for the co-op. Following a fire at the CWS auxiliary creamery serving the area in 1912, dairy farmers were left without a local purchaser for their milk. They sought assistance for the formation of a dairy co-operative society and the building of a creamery. The IAOS were not in favour of two co-op societies in the small area, likely trading with or against each other. They encouraged the farmers to work with the Bridgetown Co-operative Agricultural Society. The farmers pushed ahead with the formation of a separate dairy co-op, many of them involved being the same people running the existing co-op . Michael Hogan agreed to act as pro tem secretary for the calling of a meeting to form a dairy society to be called Bridgetown Co-operative Creamery Ltd.

Bartholomew Skehan, the founding chairman of Bridgetown Co-Op Creamery. 274


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The first meeting was held on January 26, 1913. Although according to some records it was not regarded as “a successful one” it did lay the foundation for a farmers creamery. The meeting was attended by Rev Canon Flannery, presiding, Rev Fr Maloney, C.C., Edward Bourke, Manager, Ballinahinch Dairy Society, near Birdhill and P. King , Manager, Kilteely Dairy Society, Co Limerick.

Of a meeting held on February 3, 1913 he said “Our meeting to-day was a wonderful success Rev Fr Brown took the chair and reminded the people and cautioned them to remain true and in the course of 10 weeks they would have their own dairy .....” The meeting reported that 100 members had signed up with 689 cows on the grass and something like 17,000 gallons of milk to start.

Following the meeting, Rev Moloney, B. Skehan, P. Reddan and M. Walsh visited house to house to canvass support for the creamery. They got 11 members, one refused and 113 shares were sold, with 117 cows. The following Sunday a meeting was attended by 37 members with 211 cows, combining 328 cows being signed for.

On February 10 an inspection of six possible sites was carried out. One site, the property of Mr O’Sullivan was close to a public well on a elevated site over looking the public road A second site also the property of Mr O’Sullivan was opposite the fair green and weigh bridge. Mr Mullins offered a site consisting of a small field close to the Catholic Church and large graveyard. Sites owned by D. Fitzgerald, regarded as a good site in a corner close to the school, but low lying was also considered, and sites offered by Mr Murray and P. Rabelly were also inspected.

“Cleeves is about to build, but it has not taken a feather out of us. Three hard days before us yet canvassing with Father Moloney” Michael Hogan is on record to have told the IAOS. On January 29, 1913 Michael Hogan reported “We are doing well. Fr Moloney travels with us every day. I had a letter from Cleeves firm to-day informing me that they are to re-build. I am to have a reporter on Sunday at our meeting.

The site opposite the Fair Green was recommended to the committee. There was opposition from some farmers who favoured the elevated site overlooking the public road. When the owner of the recommended site, Mr O’Sullivan, indicated that he was not willing to provide the site because it was the only good land he had available to move his stock to when his farm flooded, the committee opted for his other site, which he willingly provided in return for whatever the committee felt was a fair price.

“We have travelled all in Clare and results are as follows, 562 cows use the grass. I expect 100 more”, he added. “Intend to cross into Tipperary and target the Birdhill area where Cleeves operate. They are likely to make a central at Birdhill and use O’Brien’s Bridge as an auxiliary” he said. 275


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The owner of a licensed premises in the village, the site offered by Mr O’Sullivan for the co-op was situated across the road from his premises which held the prospect of some business from farmers delivering milk to the creamery.

William Walsh was Chairman for a very short period around the time the creamery was built and he was succeeded by Bartholomew Skehan, Fahy, Bridgetown. D. Gleeson, was appointed Manager. M. Walls tendered at £540 for the building of the creamery. He subsequently reduced the tender to £490 which was accepted. A tender from the Creamery Supply Company of £900 for equipment for the creamery was also accepted.

It was agreed that a rood of land was sufficient and that work should proceed immediately with the construction of a building which could be used as the milk separating unit for the creamery. It was agreed that the creamery would serve the parishes of Bridgetown, Garranboy, Clonlara, Kilbane and Castleconnell

Large posters in the village advertising the “Grand Opening of the first farmers creamery in Clare on July 27, 1913” were posted around the area. The opening was a major occasion within the community. Milk intake at the creamery commenced on August 1, 1913, less than six months after the formation of the society.

Bridgetown Co-operative Creamery Ltd was registered on February 24, 1913.

Patrick ‘Brud’ Skehan, chairman making a presentation to Jack Duggan on his retirement with Jackie Skehan. 276


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Jack Bolton, Peg Ryan, Patrick ‘Brud’ Skehan and Tom Ryan, Manager, Nenagh Co-Op Creamery.

There were 26 applicants for the position of Manager of the new society from which J. O’Brien, Edgewardstown, Co Longford was appointed.

sprayer, at a cost of £40. 2s. 0d. Earnings for 1913 were £17. 9s. 9d. An enquiry was made to IAOS to source rape seed. The society required 4 stones of rape seed and suggested that it could be sent by rail to Castleconnell Railway Station.

Bridgetown Co-operative Agricultural Society Ltd remained in existence after the formation of the dairy co-op. Most of the same people were involved in the running of both societies although they kept separate accounts. It also appears that there was sharing of management at least to some extent.

In July 1913 they contacted the Grand Canal Co requesting the construction of a jetty or landing and store at O’Briensbridge Bridge, a request which was subsequently supported by both IAWS and IAOS. The society believed that demand for fertiliser, and feed would increase and they were also examining the possibility of selling coal. They received a quotation from IAWS for erection of a store measuring 50’ x 25’ x 8’ to accommodate

The agricultural society extended the range of farm supplies and engaged in the provision of agricultural equipment for hire by farmers. They purchased a manure distributor, a slag spreader, and horse 277


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The creamery at Bridgetown which was converted to store trading for agricultural supplies.

150 tonnes of coal, slag and feeding stuff at ÂŁ27 less 2.5% for cash.

The committee were concerned at several aspects of management. In particular there were concerns about the financial affairs in the society and the manner in which financial records were being kept. Assessment at the request of the committee supported the concern of the committee at the quality of management.

By May 1915 milk intake at the creamery had increased to 700 gallons per day, but an inspection of the operations showed that it was taking 2.8 gallons to manufacture one pound of butter, and the committee were advised that it was below the norm and was affecting the profitability of the creamery.

In June the society advertised for a new manager and received eleven applications. From the previous experience the committee moved very cautiously on a new appointment.

The cream was being supplied to Annacotty Creamery for butter making at a cost of 5/6d per cwt, but no blame was being attached to Annacotty for the low production as the society only handled the cream supplied.

In the interim, the accounts for the society for 1915, confirmed their concerns by 278


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showing that there was a loss of £173 for the year.

The creamery was out of action and all the records and accounts of the agricultural store were lost in the fire.

In the Spring of 1916, J.J. Collins, Ballyhaise, Co Cavan was appointed manager and took up the position.

It was particularly unfortunate for the agricultural society which was under pressure and experiencing trading difficulties. The society was being pursued for payment of debts owing to the IAWS at Limerick for supplies of fertiliser and feeding stuffs, but B. Skehan, Fahy, Bridgetown, Chairman explained that they were unable to collect money from the farmers and therefore unable to pay the IAWS.

Milk intake in May 1916 had increased to 840 gallons per day. J. J. Collins had a short tenure as manager and was replaced by M. J. Desmond. M. J. Desmond, Manager commenced the manufacture of cheddar cheese in 1919 without realising the challenge involved and the following year he was replaced as Manager by Mr Cusack, who came from Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry to take up the position.

1922 was a very difficult year. It was suggested that they should try and find a buyer for the plant and machinery, with their advisors believing that the society would go into liquidation.

Tragedy struck for the operations of both the creamery and store when both were the subject of an attack by the Crown forces on January 20, 1921.

On December 5, 1922 B. Skehan reported that the society was in an unsatisfactory position and considering disposing of what remained of the store and machinery. “The society ceased to do practically any business since the death of its late Manager, M. P. Hogan four years ago owing to many causes chiefly that the society was owed nearly £600 by various debtors. The Manager R. F. Cusack had only succeed in collecting £60 by the time of the burning of the premises by Crown Forces in which the accounts were destroyed rendering further collection impossible. We lodged a claim for £50 for the loss of accounts We owe Munster and Leinster Bank a sum in excess of £1,000 with small assets”.

An account of the event read “At 9.30 am on Thursday January 20, three lorries approached the village from Killaloe and placed a bomb in the gate lodge at Ernest Browne’s and then proceeded to the creamery which they completely destroyed before going to a nearby farmer’s house which they also set on fire. Extensive damage was caused. It is believed to have been in reprisal for the Sixmilebridge ambush”.

The financial situation of the society continued to deteriorate over the following 279


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The society received an award of £100 for the burning and loss of records. During the late 1920’s the dairy co-op came under pressure from their bankers with the overdraft Bartholomew Skehan, Founding Chairman’s signature to the minutes of increasing, the bank the society for the last time days before his unexpected death. refusing to extend few years as efforts continued in vain to credit, the society operating at rescue the society. a loss, and the Condensed Milk Company reported to be setting plans for a new On October 10, 1926 Ernest Brown, creamery at Clonlara. President reported “We are in great trouble about the O’Brien’s There was demand from farmers in the Bridge Co-op Farmers Store. We were doing area for a corn mill to be installed. The very well up to 1919 when our manager died IAOS urged the co-op to install a mill. The and we were owed on the books £760. At operation of the co-op remained difficult. that time our overdraft with the bank was By 1933 the corn mill which had been about £1,300 but we had machinery and installed for some time, had not been used. a 99 year lease and the stores We borrowed £1,000 from Munster and Leinster Bank Bartholomew Skehan who had been Ltd to start to buy machinery and goods and chairman since 1913, signed the minutes build the stores and we would have been in for the last time on August 14, 1937, a very good position if our debts were paid the last meeting of the society which but the Crown Forces burned our books and he attended. A special meeting of the accounts and did other damage so that we committee was held on Monday October were unable to collect our debts and with 4, 1937 “in sad circumstances and labouring compound interest to the bank we are nearly under a deep sense of loss caused by the death £2,000 in debt and no business since 1919. of our chairman, B. Skehan” whose sudden “We now have to sell out and thought and unexpected passing a few days earlier that with the Shannon Scheme at the marked the end of an era. very spot that we might make good. But I understand now that the new Canal will Expressing sympathy to his wife and not run past our store, but about 200 yards family, John Woulfe, vice-chairman paid to the rear of it”. tribute to his contribution to the society. 280


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“Ever since the establishment of the society he occupied the position with distinction and impartiality. In the early years during times of stress and difficulty when competition with a powerful competitive organisation existed it fell to his lot to bear the brunt of the battle and unflinchingly he faced many unpleasant tasks because the interests of the creamery were at stake. He sacrificed his time readily and his mind was ever devoted to securing the success of the undertaking. His passing leaves a void it will be hard to fill. His fine person and ability rendered him dear to all. We individually and collectively wish to express our sorrow at the parting in death of one we all held so dear”, he said.

Several farmers withdrew milk supply from the co-op and engaged in home buttermaking and selling the produce at markets at Limerick and Killaloe for 2/6d to 4/- per lb. Butter manufactured at the co-op sold at a controlled price of 1/11d per lb but was restricted to ration allowances. The farmers action was reported to the Department of Agriculture, but there appeared to have been little power in their hands to force the farmers to supply the co-op. In 1944 it emerged that the title on the site for the creamery purchased from Mr O’Sullivan had never been registered and getting affairs in order occupied some time and correspondence for the co-op.

John Woulfe, vice-chairman took over temporarily. William Walsh, Lackereigh, O’Brien’s Bridge was subsequently elected to the office.

In 1947, the Skehan family was to provide another leader for the society when Patrick Skehan, who was better known as ‘Brud’ son of their former and late chairman, B. Skehan was elected chairman.

Edward Larkin, Manager died in late 1941 and was replaced by his brother Michael Larkin, but his tenure was short lived and D. Gleeson was appointed Manager in November 1943.

In 1948 the society entered into a contract with Newport Co-op for the churning of the cream.

With World War II raging, rationing of butter was introduced and enforced on farmers as on the rest of the community with strict control on co-op sales of butter to the suppliers as to all members of the community.

The following year, Drombanna Creamery in East Limerick was approached by a number of farmers in the area to provide a travelling creamery for the area and the society was also concerned that a travelling creamery was to be operated in the Scariff area. There was a travelling creamery operating nearby at Broadford and a number of travelling creameries operating in Co Clare under the state controlled Dairy Disposal Co. 281


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of the debt himself - that is the kind of man he was. “In those days he was the only one around here with a car and when people in the area had to go to hospital he always sent the car to take them. He was very good to the people and he finished a poor man when he died in Ennis and his funeral came back to Killaloe Cathedral”, he said. In 1974 discussions were opened with Nenagh Co-op on amalgamation. Brud Skehan was directly involved in the negotiations.

Patrick ‘Brud’ Skehan, the last Chairman of the Society.

Within a few weeks of his 97th birthday, which he celebrated in 2012, Brud Skehan recalled the memories of his late father and his own recollections on the history of the co-op.

“We were only struggling at that time. The machinery at the creamery was becoming obsolete and in need of being replaced. The store trade was only struggling. I felt that amalgamation was the right way to go at that time. “Not all of the committee were in favour but there was a majority and I was very pleased” said Brud Skehan who had the honour of being the last chairman of a society which his father played a leading role in establishing.

“Ernst Browne, who was involved from the start was a very generous and helpful man who did a lot for the co-op and the people around here. He was a great man and a real old gentleman”, he recalled.

The amalgamation was approved by the Nenagh Committee on March 28, 1974.

“When the money was owed on the store and farmers were going to be levied to pay off the debt, he took it upon himself to pay a quarter

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were P J Kennedy and John Skeehan.

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NEWPORT to the Limerick-Tipperary boundary near Murroe, before the farmers in the Newport area set about forming their own co-op in 1903. At the height of the proliferation of creameries in the area there were also creameries at Knockfune, Killoscully village, Rossaguile, two in Ballinahinch and two at Birdhill, all located within a few miles of the North Tipperary town. R A Anderson, who had been to the fore with Sir Horace Plunkett in founding the co-operative movement, and was secretary of IAOS, attended a meeting with the local farmers at Newport on April 19, 1903. He reported that there was a large attendance and the farmers showed enthusiasm to have their own co-op in the town. He added that 305 shares were applied for at the meeting.

B

ecause of its proximity to County Limerick, and the establishment of several creameries in the surrounding area during the previous decade, it was not unexpected that Newport would become a hub for a farmer owned co-op creamery early in the twentieth century. The first creameries in the area were all privately owned. There were two such creameries operating in the town of Newport, a third at Bunkey Bridge, on the Limerick-Tipperary border two miles on the Limerick side of the town, as well as a creamery at Puckane close

A week later he recorded that good progress was being made and a proposed offer of a creamery to the farmers was discussed, but it was noted that property around Newport was heavily mortgaged and it would be difficult to secure a title. 283


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On May 12, 1903 Richard Tarrant, IAOS organiser visited Newport. He inspected a dairy being offered to the farmers which was formerly owned by Mr Cullen, and had not been used for years. The proposal was made to purchase the premises from Mrs Cullen. The building measured 40’ x 25’ and was located up a lane leading from the Square. He estimated the equipment value as nil and building was in poor condition. He felt that a deal for the creamery was inadvisable and advised the farmers not to purchase the plant, because they could build a better one for £150. He described the building situated between Jail Street and Cork Road as “an outhouse in a shop keepers yard converted into a creamery The passage to it is very narrow so that milk should be received and delivered from one platform”.

The annual statement of accounts of the co-op for 1922 which recorded the receipt of compensation for the loss incurred by the burning of the creamery two years earlier.

It was operated by George Bassett who was one of five main landlords who owned the town in the decade between 1901 and 1911. Records indicate that George Bassett did not live locally. Census returns for the period recorded him as a lodger at a Limerick lodging house at the time.

Known as Newport Mills and Butter Factory, it was owned by George Cullen, understood not to be related the owner of the other private creamery in the town, and was being operated by a tenant, Daniel Vestigarde working under a yearly tenancy and anxious to retire. He encouraged the farmers to enter into negotiations on the purchase of the creamery.

Richard Tarrant also inspected a working creamery, described as an impressive building situated on the bank of the Mulcair river, near St John’s RC Church in the town. The creamery was being worked by water power and it was estimated that a moderate outlay would bring it into good condition.

TM Russell IAOS visited the town on October 7 and reported that Fr Willie Ryan was intent on bringing forward Newport and leading to the closure of the creameries at Ballinahinch, Killoscully, Bunkey Bridge (CWS) and Puckane, a 284


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Farmers delivering milk to the creamery in the 1950’s.

new creamery that opened earlier that year if the Newport creamery was successful in attracting the milk supply from these areas. He urged them to work with the Limerick Federation for the churning of the cream.

commercial company and by Cleeves, who had a major processing plant at Limerick. There was no indication that milk supplies from these areas had transferred to Newport or appeared likely to do so at that point. The new society would faced a lot of competition for milk.

The new farmer society was registered on December 7, 1903. The application was signed by Timothy Ryan, Secretary, High Street, Newport and committee members Lancelot McGrath, James Lacy and Matt Humphries.

The farmers however remained focused on having their own creamery. A proposal to build a creamery on C. Coffey’s field across the road from the court house was discussed. It was pointed out that they could use the nearby river and a well for water supply.

The following February, IAOS recorded that on a visit to the society it was found to be in a weak position. Only 500 shares had been purchased in the new society and there was increasing concern that Newport was surrounded by creameries operated by the Co-Op Wholesale Society, an English

In February 1904, IAOS advised the farmers that it would be highly dangerous to build a new creamery with 500 shareholders and the CWS creameries at Bunkey Bridge, 285


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Ballinahinch, Rossaguile, Puckane, Cleeves creameries at Annagh, Birdhill and Newport, with a small private creamery at the opposite side of the river. It was also recorded that the principal milk producing farmers in the area had not joined the co-op but they had indicated that they intended to if price was as good as that being paid by CWS. In January 1906 a lease was taken on George Cullen’s Creamery at a rent of £5 month for twelve months. The Creamery was opened by the farmers co-op in March 1906. J Comerford was appointed Manager. The rules of the society were drafted and signed by Lancelot McGrath, James Lacy, Matthew Humphreys, Jeremiah Elliot, John Gleeson, Thomas Ryan, James Clifford, Timothy Ryan was elected Secretary and Rev Fr Willie Ryan, became the first chairman.

Denis K Ryan former manager of the society.

By 1910 it is reported that the society had established two auxiliaries to Newport when they registered creameries at Knockfune and Lackamore with IAOS.

The first year was successful. Profit for the year was £202.4s.10d Wages and salaries were £111. 11s.7d. After less than a year in the position, J Comerford resigned at the end of 1906. G. de Barri was appointed.

Denis K Ryan was manger of the society by 1915. A native of Kilcommon, he became the first manager of a new co-op creajmery at Croughmorka which was established in 1903. T. Kennedy was manager at Knockfune and M Kennedy, Manager at Lakamore.

The farmers own creamery, on the originally preferred choice on Coffey’s land, opposite the Courthouse, appears to have been build between 1907 and 1909 but no records can be traced on the building or opening of this creamery. It would appear that the farmers, who acted against the advice from IAOS, had very little contact with the co-operative body in regard to the planning and building of the premises.

Tragedy struck for the creamery on the morning of July 23, 1920 when the building was burned by the British Troops (auxiliaries and Black and Tans). D.K. Ryan, Manager, wrote to IAOS reporting the fire at the creamery. “I am afraid they made a complete job of it and would not allow us save anything. It is 286


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a horrible case. To make matters worse the military broke into my own house and took everything of any use to them though I never took any part in anything”.

of the premises at Newport and the Black and Tans. A case for compensation for malicious damage was pursued against the British Crown in the courts.

A few days later, IAOS official, J Fant, who was on holidays in Donegal wrote “It was with feeling of the deepest regret that I have learned up here in Donegal of the destruction of your fine creamery and cheese factory by blackguards of the lowest type”.

The society lodged a claim for £20,000 against the British Crown. Sir Horace Plunkett pursued the case for Newport vigorously in the courts because the military had called upon him to substantiate statements which he had made in the press in relation to the burning.

The burning of the creamery was personally investigated by co-op founder, Sir Horace Plunkett, President, IAOS, who was concerned about the spate of burnings of creameries which had escalated around the North Munster area from April of that year.

As the case was coming to court he called on the Military Authorities to be represented to produce their own evidence in the case and cross examine the witnesses for the society, but they declined to do so.

He felt that there was sufficient ‘prima facia’ evidence to directly link the burning

Meantime they faced the challenge of trying to rebuild the premises. IAOS

Members of the committee at the opening of the branch creamery at Rossaguile (Killoscully) in 1958, are (seated) Paddy Meehan, Rev Fr. Edmund Cahill, P.P. (Ballinahinch), John Spillane, Branch Manager, Sean Ryan, Rev Fr. T O’Brien, C.C. (Killoscully), John Lacy, Manager. Also included are John Flynn, Timmy Ryan, Dan Kennedy, Michael Lynch, and Paddy Lynch. 287


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D.K. Ryan served the society dutifully until his retirement in the late 1940’s during which time he earned high regard among the farmers for his role in management of the society and equally as a “very considerate and understanding” man towards farmers experiencing difficulties at that time. His son, Tom Ryan was later to become the third manager at Nenagh Co-op where he filled the position between 1947 and his retirement in 1985.

Thomas Kennedy, Buttermaker, being presented with a medal awarded with the Read Cup for buttermaking in 1946 by D Twomey, Secretary,

D. K. Ryan lived a few doors away from the creamery and in his spare time cultivated a vegetable garden at the creamery.

Department of Agriculture.

assisted in negotiations on loan facilities for the society secured against the pending compensation claim.

Most of the milk was delivered to the creamery every day by horse or ass and cart. There was very little mechanisation of transport for milk to the co-op before the late fifties when a few of the better off farmers purchased small tractors, mostly the popular Ferguson 20 which operated on vaporising oil. Some of the suppliers close to the creamery adopted other means of delivery. One local farmer closeby brought the milk in two buckets across two fields each day and another supplier delivered by hand cart.

The judge, who was an appointee of the Crown and not a jury, awarded damages against the Crown, establishing the first successful case for such compensation in the country.

Creamery financial records show that compensation of £9,565.00 was received by the society.

The milk delivered to the branch creameries was separated and the cream transported to Newport for churning into butter.

The creamery was out of operation from July 24, 1920 until it was rebuilt and re opened at the end of 1922. In the meantime, D.K. Ryan took temporary positions at creameries at Bruree and Kilcommon.

In the thirties and forties Newport Creamery was one of the few in the area with adequate facilities for churning in excess of the intake of milk at the creamery. 288


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Cream was also brought from Rearcross Creamery for churning. Other creameries in the surrounding areas also sought the service.

blocks wrapped in greaseproof paper for immediate supply to farmer customers or local shops for sale. At the time Newport Creamery was one of the largest manufacturing centres for butter in the region and the expertise of the staff and facilities contributed to the high quality of butter produced.

The dairy occupied a large area within the creamery and was a hub of activity from before noon until well into the afternoon with two churns manufacturing butter. The churns were powered by steam, generated at the creamery by a coal burning furnace. One produced one tonne of butter per churn and the other a half tonne, each taking approximately one hour to complete the churn .

Several awards were achieved for butter produced at the centre. None were more prestigious than the ‘Blue Riband’ of butter manufacturing at that time, the Read Cup, which was awarded to the society in 1946.

Most of the butter was packed in 56 lb wooden boxes, which were manufactured at the co-op before being placed in the cold store. Some was made into 1lb and 2lb

The presentation of the award took place at the Department of Agriculture in Dublin on May 9, 1946 when the trophy was presented to Patrick Ryan, Chairman, Newport Co-op by D Twomey, Secretary, Department of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture. He complimented Newport Creamery on their success and noted that the society had become one of the leaders in the country for the quality of butter being produced. During the previous forty-one years they had won over sixty prizes for butter at the leading dairy shows. The Read Cup, which was introduced in 1929, was awarded each year to the creamery with the highest quality of butter based on four unannounced inspections by inspectors from the Department of Agriculture during the preceding year.

An advertisement for one of the early creameries in the town, which was subsequently purchased by the farmers to be used as the first co-op creamery in the town. 289

Newport had been awarded 288.6 points out of a possible 300 points for butter produced during 1945. There were 166


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He later became Manager of Bridgetown Co-op. He was replaced at Newport by J. J. O’Mara, a native of Murroe, Co Limerick who subsequently became manager of Ballywilliam Co-op. At its peak in the 1950’s the central creamery at Newport had 270 milk producers in the area delivering supplies daily for eight months of the year. There were 76 suppliers to the branch at Killoscully which was located at Rossaguile and 33 farmers supplying milk to the branch at Knockfune.

A milk supplier on his way home from the creamery through Main Street during the early 1950’s.

competing societies for the award and such was the standard of competition that the winners margin was less than one point.

The society amalgamated with Nenagh in 1974. At the time of amalgamation there were over 300 shareholders in the creamery. Many were no longer milk suppliers. There was 210 milk suppliers to Newport and branch creameries. The milk intake at Newport was 1.2m gallons with 0.2m gallons at Knockfune and Killoscully.

Thomas Kennedy, Buttermaker, was presented with a medal in recognition of the success by D. Twomey, Department of Agriculture, and a medal was also presented to D K Ryan, Manager. During the 1930’s the provision of farm inputs was developed in store trading by the co-op. Initially meal for animal feeding and flour was sold. Later the society engaged in milling to provide animal feed mixes and a regular service provided for farmers was the crushing of oats for feeding to horses and cattle on the farms.

From the sixties forward the number of milk producers in the area was in decline. By the end of the 20th century production was concentrated on 50 farms in the Newport creamery area, 12 in the former Knockfune Branch area and only four remaining as milk producers in the former Killoscully Branch area.

D. K. Ryan, Manager was replaced on retirement in the late 1940’s by John Lacey. Maurice Barry, a native of Co Kerry was appointed assistant manager.

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were Pat Walsh and John Coffey.

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UPPERCHURCH the premises on lease for 61 years at ÂŁ1. 5s.0d per year. On April 17, 1899, William Cahill, Ballyboy, Upperchurch wrote to IAOS advising that the farmers had purchased the creamery, formed their own co-op society and requesting the registration of their new society with 400 shareholders. They were anxious to start operating the new acquisition as soon as possible. An inspection carried out on April 13, 1899 reported the creamery to be in good condition, with the exception of a few minor pieces missing.

S

imilar to other parts of the mid west region, the earliest dairy processing centre at Upperchurch was owned by a private company and was probably established in the area around the same time as the founding of the first co-op creamery in 1889 or very soon after.

In a letter to IAOS of April 26, 1899, William Cahill stated that it was the unanimous choice of the committee that he should become manager of the creamery. He was seeking advice on the qualifications required and how long he would he required to serve under a manager to qualify.

Within less than a decade the local farmers were showing interest in establishing their own society. Early in 1899 they seized an opportunity to purchase as a going operation the Provincial Creameries Company creamery at Upperchurch which was being privately operated. The purchase price was ÂŁ750 for the creamery plant and machinery with

R A Anderson replied that it would probably take a full six months and suggested familiarising himself with the business at Drombane which was regarded as a very well run creamery in the locality. 291


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John McCormack, founder member and first President of Upperchurch Co-Op and his wife, Mary.

The training requirement appeared to derail the committee plan for William Cahill to become manager and in May 1899 John J Mulcahy, was appointed Manager. He had spent 5 months at the Munster Dairy School and 12 months experience at Clonpet Dairy, Tipperary.

The following officers of the society were elected President, John McCormack, Granera , Upperchurch. Secretary, William Cahill. Treasurer, John Ryan, Ruan, Upperchurch. The society was registered on August 13, 1899. 292


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Records show that the intake of milk for the month of March 1899 was 250 gallons per day with milk being supplied two days each week. The creamery was serving a radius of three miles.

The IAOS wrote to Rev Fr Wm McCormack P.P., Upperchurch urging support for the farmers against the CWS. The response from Fr McCormack was positive in favour of the farmers co-op.

The initial salaries scale at the creamery was - Manager 20/- pw; Buttermaker 16/- pw; Engine man 12/- pw; and General hand 10/- pw.

There was a change of management in 1902 when William Dwyer was appointed manager at Upperchurch. He had trained at Lombardstown Co-op, Co Cork and the Munster Dairy School, Cork. John Carroll who had spent three months at Upperchurch was appointed Manager at Rieska at a salary of 15/- pw.

Privately owned CWS creameries were in operation at Glastrigan, Hollyford, and Kilcommon. The following March the committee were interested in building an auxiliary creamery at Rieska to be operated in competition with the CWS creameries. A site for the creamery was acquired on the land of John Hanly, at Knockmaroe, Kilcommon.

It was not long after he had settled in at the co-op that William Dwyer wanted to set up his own private business in farm supplies at a premises beside the creamery while continuing to manage the society.

At the end of the first year the paid up share capital of the co-op was ÂŁ98.6s.8d. and the society had borrowings of ÂŁ508. 17s. 3d. Milk intake for the first year was 138,453 gallons for which they paid an average price of 3.73d Regular milk tests carried out by IAOS raised concern at the low production of butter from the supply which had an average butterfat test of less than 3% and required 2.75 gallons to produce a pound of butter. Another concern for the society was raised in February 1891 when it was learned that CWS were planning to build a creamery at Foileen. The society was also experiencing competition from the CWS creamery at Kilcommon.

John Hanley on whose land the branch creamery at Rieska was built. 293


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Relations with IAOS deteriorated. The annual affiliation fee to IAOS was withheld from 1910. In 1915 when a visit from an IAOS representative was sought by the society, to provide assistance on resolving some difficulties which were being experienced, they were advised that payment of the outstanding affiliation fee for five years was required before attendance of the representative could be approved. Farmers delivering milk supplies to the creamery at Upperchurch and some members of the staff in 1957, brothers, Paddy and Michael Ryan, James Moynihan, (fire man), Paddy Purcell, Moher, Jim Shortt, a life long employee at the co-op, Patrick Ryan, The Line, Pakie Ryan, Newtown, Tom Fay, son of former manager at the co-op, Bill Buckley, Streenaun, and Jerry Ryan, Glown.

The IAOS disapproved in the strongest manner to approval by the committee for the farm supply business in private ownership. They advised that any such venture should be run by the co-op and not the private business of the manager.

There was some mending of the breach and C C Riddall visited the co-op in August 1916 although the retrospective affiliation fees remained outstanding.

He reported that the society was being sued by P Burke, Shevry. Mr Dwyer, Manager had purchased a house beside the creamery as his private residence and was running a business in his own right beside the creamery which was in breach of IAOS principles. Committee Secretary, William Cahill was also acting as an agent for manure which was against the IAOS guidelines and he as also conducting an auctioneering business of which they disapproved.

The Committee ignored the advice of IAOS and gave approval to their manager to set up and run the business. IAOS insisted that they totally disagreed and stressed that “the interest of the farmers for whom you are working would be better served by jointly buying their seeds and every other agricultural input required�.

The society renewed its affiliation in 1917. By the end of 1920, Mr Dwyer had ceased to be manager. 294


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The establishment of a farmer’s creamery at Kilcommon led to difficulties for the society when some suppliers transferred their milk supply. The farmers also purchased shareholding in Kilcommon Co-op, but, when challenged on the matter, argued that it was on the understanding that they would not be required to supply milk to the society.

The differences led to disruption in the operation of the creamery and issues being dealt with at the Nenagh Quarterly Sessions. The loss of milk supply and the differences among the farmers in the area, contributed to financial pressure on the society. While efforts to resolve their difficulties were continuing in 1920 there was a killer blow to the society when the auxiliary creamery at Rieska was attacked by British troops on April 10. On July 31 the creamery at Upperchuch suffered a more serious fate when it was completely destroyed by fire in an attack by the troops, who made another attack on Rieska on August 10 causing further extensive damage to the premises which had just undergone repairs costing £600.

The IAOS insisted in May 1917 that the farmers were in breach of the rules of the society by holding shareholding in competitor co-op societies. At that point it was claimed by Upperchurch that there were 11 farmers with 120 cows suppliers to Kilcommon, while holding shares in Upperchurch. Some of them claimed that they were suppliers to Kilcommon creamery when it was operated by CWS.

In May 1921, the support of parish Priest, Very Rev Fr. Hourigan was sought in an effort by the farmers to restart operations at the creameries at both Upperchurch and Rieska.

However IAOS investigations indicated that none of the 11 suppliers were shareholders in Upperchurch, the society which was proposing to take an action against the farmers.

Fr Hourigan chaired a meeting on May 20 at which there was an attendance of twenty including Rev Fr Hennessy, CC. The society was in debt to £1,900 and owed the bank £1,500 which was secured by 27 guarantors. IAOS supported the society in securing a loan from the White Cross Association, an association which advanced loans to societies which had been the subject of attacks by the Crown Forces. Upperchurch

The former branch creamery at Rieska which was converted to store trading for farm supplies. 295


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a farmer, from Drumwood, Co Tipperary. James C. Doherty, who had filled positions of management at co-ops at Annacarty, Kilcommon and Rossmore, married Bridget O’Dwyer, NT., Donohill and they had a family of seven children. The creamery at Upperchurch in the 1970’s

Work commenced on repair of the damage to Rieska creamery and the creamery was re-opened on May 1, 1922.

was one of seven societies in the country to be approved for loans totalling £15,500 from the Association.

A claim against the British Treasury for malicious damage to both buildings was lodged. Some plant and equipment was destroyed at Rieska. Upperchurch creamery was completely destroyed.

They had also obtained a decree for £12,000 in court. The creamery at Rieska had been reconstructed at a cost of £600. Rev Fr Hourigan, presided at the AGM on November 11, 1921. Twelve members were added to the original committee. They included both Fr M. Hourigan, P.P. and Fr J. Hennessy, C.C., both of whom had purchased shares in the society, and Thomas Ryan, Cooga, Martin Ryan, Ballyboy, Michael Ryan, Shevry, Denis Scanlan, Rieska, Patrick Doherty, Rieska, Patrick Ryan, Granera, John Ryan, Knockmeahill, James Larkin, Ballyboy, Michael Ryan, Carhue, and John Bourke, Glenfincha.

A decree was secured by the society on October 5, 1920 for £8,749 and £70. 11. 4 for plant etc. The award included £800 for the damage caused to Rieska Creamery on April 10, 1920. A further decree was secured for £729 and £29. 10s. 9d for plant and machinery at Rieska burned on august 10, 1920.

William O’Dwyer, was replaced at the beginning of 1922 by J. C. Doherty as manager. Mr Doherty was born in May 1874, the son of Richard Doherty,

A claim for £100 for employee wages was also successful. 296


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At the time up to 300 claims were being lodged each week. The Shaw Commission was dealing with the claims and the process was experiencing considerable delays in making payments.

The society considered that pig production in the area could provide sufficient for shipping of supplies once or twice weekly. They also entered into negotiations on the export of pigs to Trafford Park Bacon Factory at Manchester, but the live export trade was short lived.

A test case was also taken against the British Treasury by a local farmer, James Hanly, Reiska, Kilcommon who complained that as a result of the malicious burning of the creamery he had to cart his milk five miles away each day. He received compensation of £50.

Milk production in the area was failing to meet expectations in 1927 leaving excess processing capacity at the creamery. The society sought supplies from Hollyford, Clonoulty, Drombane and Pallas

IAOS contributed a pivotal role in plans for the new creamery and dealing with the contract services for the construction, which experienced considerable delays. The new creamery opened at the end of 1923.

The rent of the site of Rieska Creamery at Knockmaroe, which was owned by Mr Sanders, which was costing £1 per annum was bought out for £15 plus costs of £3. 3s. 0d.

Several of the milk suppliers used the separated milk being returned to the farms for feeding pigs. During the Autumn of 1923 the society saw an opportunity to become involved in the live export of pigs when British based factories sought supplies from this country.

In Nov 1930 the amalgamation of Croughmorka with Upperchurch was considered by the members at a Special General Meeting on December 12. Michael Ryan, Foilacleara, Doon was secretary

The first consignment was a shipment of 26 pigs sent to A. Jones, who operated a bacon factory at St Marget Street, Birmingham. The farmers were pleased at the prices received but thought that a deduction of 2/- per pig for feeding at Hollyhead was expensive.

Upperchurch creamery in the 1980’s. 297


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(Front) Tom Walshe, Drom; Brian Phelan, Shevry; Jim Moynihan, staff; Michael Ryan, The Line; Willie O’Dwyer, Manager, Jack Dwyer, Knockmehill; Paul Kinnane; Frank Shortt, staff. (Middle) Pakie Ryan, Willie Ryan, Ballyboy; James Larkin; Din Shanahan, Croughnatine, Assistant Manager; Dick Buckley, Ballyboy; Martin Purcell; Tom Murray, Ballyboy; Tommy Phelan, Corraduff; Pakie Ryan, Shevry. (Back) Owen Darmody, Moher; John Kinnane, buttermaker; Jack Ryan, Knockmehill; Mick Ryan, Curraduff; Pakie Cahill, Ballyboy; Will Ryan, Atshanboy.

of Croughmorka Co-op supporting the merger. The amalgamation was opposed by some farmers in the Toher area. A further meeting was held on December 29.

Toher Co-op had been churning cream for Croughmorka. Differences arose between the co-ops after a manager at Toher transferred to Croughmorka and at the same time local farmers were campaigning for the re-opening of the creamery at Reenavanna, claiming that it should never have been closed.

On Dec 29, 1930 a Special General Meeting was held for the purpose of confirming the merger resolution of Croughgmorka with Upperchurch. Of the attendance of forty farmers only 23 were declared as members entitled to vote.

The registration of the merger of Croughmorka and Upperchurch was put on hold pending the resolution of the whole situation of Toher, Reenavanna and Croughmorka, which had become quite complex and a matter of much contention among the farmers.

The farmers voted 16 for to 7 against. Several of the suppliers present, who did not have a vote in the decision were described as having transferred from Reenavanna Co-op. which had closed. 298


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It was claimed that the daily milk supply to Reenavanna Co-op in 1926 was 655 gallons, of which 421 gallons transferred to Croughmorka, 108 to Carnahalla Co-op and 88 gallons to Toher Co-op. There was 38 gallons untraceable.

Towards the end of 1934 the society considered oat meal milling and also flour milling. Neither projects were advanced beyond discussion stage. 1935 was a successful year for the society under President/Chairman, Rev Fr M. Hourigan, P.P. Milk intake reached 705,377 gallons for which the suppliers were paid 4.19d/gallon leaving a net profit for the year of £337. 15s. 1d. an improvement on the previous year. Milk supply slipped back to 616,647 gallons in 1938. Milk price for 1938 was 5.21d/gallon.

Reenevanna closed on June 13, 1927 and the farmers who had been almost four years without a creamery were still maintaining that the creamery closure was a mistake that should be reversed. Official sources counterclaimed that if Reenevanna was to be re-opened it would be difficult to secure a viable supply.

J. J. Doherty served the society as manager up to his death on March 19,1939, following a period of illness.

The Dairy Disposal Company formally objected to the completion of the Croughmorka-Upperchurch merger, claiming that Upperchurch should amalgamate with Toher and that Reenavanna should be re-opened as part of the Toher Society.

His obituary in the ‘Tipperary Star’ read “A thoroughly capable and energetic official, he gave ever satisfaction to all with whom he had business dealings whilst in social life his kindly manner and hospitable disposition made for him a host of friends”.

While differences continued the merger resolution of December 1930 was not registered by the Department of Industry and Commerce until July 2, 1931. The Dairy Disposal Co continued to insist on the re-opening of Reenevanna, but it was pointed out that it would result in a substantial loss of milk to the Croughmorka auxiliary of Upperchurch.

At the beginning of 1970, a deputation comprising of Messrs Hanly, Joyce, (Manager), Ryan, Treacy, Moloney, Ryan and McGrath met with Nenagh Co-op to discuss the merger of the central creamery at Upperchurch and branches at Rieska and Croughmorka with Nenagh Co-op. There was a peak daily milk intake at Upperchurch and Rieska of 2,900 gallons each and 1,400 gallons at Croughmorka. They sought assurances on terms for shareholding and the future of the creameries.

Less than a month after the merger approval, Reenevanna Creamery was re-opened on August 1, 1931, which resulted in a drop of 350 gallons per day in milk supply to Croughmorka. At the same time overall milk supply was being effected by a difficult season for milk production.

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Jim Shortt, Pat Corcoran, and Mattie Stapleton enjoying a ‘cuppa’ at the creamery.

for April 16, 1970 to vote on the merger. There was some opposition to the merger in the area and progress was stalled.

stores at Upperchurch and Rieska, within a few miles of each other with similar turnover. It was felt that Rieska was more central and should be developed. The development of Rieska met with some opposition from farmers in Upperchurch who felt Upperchurch was a better site.

In March 1972 another request for a meeting to discuss amalgamation was considered by the Nenagh Committee who advised that if they re applied twelve months later it would be considered.

The premises of Upperchurch was sold in December 2010.

Discussions were re-opened in 1974 and shareholders in both societies voted in favour of a merger in June 1974.

Staff when intake of milk at the branch ceased were Tom Joyce, Paddy Carey, Billy Duggan, Pakie Shortt and Jim Shortt.

In November 2009 discussions took place on the viability of maintaining

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Some of the newspaper headlines which recorded the story of the Mid West creameries over the years. 302


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DIFFICULT EARLY DAYS FOR THE CO-OP SPIRIT TO GROW IN THE WEST

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ivestock and tillage were the dominant enterprises on farms in East Galway when the co-operative dairy movement started in the south of Ireland in 1889.

When the founding of a co-operative at Kilconnell was first mooted, in the later years of the nineteenth century, there were some community leaders in the area who openly expressed concern and advised that putting money into shareholding in a farmer run co-operative would be akin to “throwing it away”.

West of the Shannon the co-operative spirit was gaining some interest within a decade of the founding of the first co-operative creamery in the south, but the principal interest for farmers was in the supply of farm inputs at the most competitive price through the co-operative structure for bulk purchase and service to their farmer members.

However there were many others in the area who thought differently. Their challenge was to convince a majority of the benefits that could accrue from establishing their own co-op. A meeting to form Kilconnell Co-operative Agricultural Society on March 6, 1898 ended in conflict and disarray. There was open opposition both to the formation of a farmers co-op and to some of those who were being promoted as the potential leaders of the movement in the area. The meeting had an acrimonious ending and no progress was made.

The region had a strong tradition of the ‘meithal’ among farmers within their own communities, more commonly known as ‘neighbourly co-operation’. However developing that culture to a larger scale presented challenges. Many obstacles and set backs had to be endured before the co-operative movement recorded any lasting success in the region. Some of the early attempts either failed to get off the ground or survived for a relatively short period of time, finding it difficult to serve the membership and operate at a viable level.

Documented records of the meeting indicate any prospect of forming a co-op had suffered a major set back. The climate towards achieving the objective of uniting farmers in the establishment and running 303


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of their own co-op looked very bleak following the outcome of this meeting. However those who believed in the movement were not prepared to give up hope and several weeks later, a further meeting was convened. R. A. Andersen, Secretary IAOS, a farmer’s son from North Cork and co-founder of the co-operative dairy movement with Sir Horace Plunkett sought the support of Rev Fr. Daniel Coughlan, P.P. in trying to bring the farmers together to establish the co-op. Because of how the project was being perceived in the area he was not very enthusiastic about becoming involved. The archived records indicate that a further attempt was made in the early years of the 1900’s. The support of Rev Fr Daniel Coughlan, P.P. was again sought. But there is no evidence that this attempt at establishing a local co-op was any more successful than the former and the Kilconnell area was set to remain without its own co-op for another sixty years.

Trading co-operatives were formed at Clonbern and Athlone during the early years of the century. Neither were engaged in the intake of milk. The first meeting of the farmers to discuss the formation of a co-op society at Clonbern was held on December 30, 1919. John F. Donnellan, Shantalla House, Clonbern was elected secretary. There was a large attendance of local farmers at a meeting on January 8, 1920 at which Rev Fr. Waldron presided. It was described as “very successful” and a further meeting was planned for a month later.

The village of Clonbern where farmers met in 1919 to discfuss the formation of a co-operative society. 304

The district to be served comprised of the areas of Larkin and Mahannagh. One of the early


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Tillage was one of the dominant farm enterprises in the region where traditionally there were many skilled horse ploughmen.

challenges was to unite the two areas behind the venture which was being planned to provide farm inputs at a competitive price.

The first Annual General Meeting was held on May 7, 1920. There was an attendance of 60 people. The meeting was told that 157 members had been admitted to the society. It was reported that share capital had increased to £454. 7s. 9d. Eighteen members were elected to the committee at the meeting.

The next meeting was held on February 9, 1920. Some divisions emerged among the farmers at this meeting. A shortage of Potash on farms in the area was raised with the suggestion that the new society engage in the bulk purchase of the nutrient for the soil on farms in the area.

By the end of the year it was reported that the society was going very well under F Donnellan, Glenesk as manager.

There was good support for the new society among the community of 330 houses in the parish. It was reported that 151 members had purchased shares investing £373. 19s. 0d at 5/3d per share.

The first nine months trading to the end of 1920 was a successful period for the society. A profit of £170. 16s. 10d was reported which was considered substantial for the scale of the business at it initial stages.

They set a minimum of 20 shares for each member. One member, Charles O’Rourke, Birmingham, Tuam applied for 100 shares. Clonbern Agricultural Society Ltd was registered on March 1, 1920.

The following year fortunes took a turn. The store was broken into by the Crown Forces on May 5, 1921. Although the 305


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building was not action to close attacked some cash down the society was stolen. Accounts was influenced by for the period to May the fear among 5, 1921 show that the the shareholders society had incurred a that they would loss of £97. 15s. 1d for be called upon to the first four months of invest further in the year. It was proving shareholding to very difficult to carry sustain operations on, An application was and may be made to IAOS for a held personally James Moloney, IAOS, who attended the early loan of £250 which was responsible for any meetings on farmer plans to establish co-op not granted adding to a indebtedness of creameries in Co Galway. state of uncertainty about the society. the future which was developing among the members. By September 1925, the amount owing to the society was down to £152. 2s. 2d. from Mr Donnellan’s term as manager ended in £1,156. 9s. 1d two years earlier, but the 1923 and there was renewed optimism that future of the society remained in doubt. the society fortunes would do well under new management. There followed court The earliest record of farmers in the action by Mr Donnellan against the society Athlone area becoming involved in the for monies which he claimed were owing organising of their own co-operative society to him and a counter claim by the society dates to early in 1917. against Mr Donnellan for “cash shortages”. The matter was not concluded until early There was a small attendance at the first 1926 when the court awarded both sides as reported meeting which was held at the claimed. Schoolhouse, Coosan on May 3, 1917. The AGM for 1925 was deferred until the legal matters were finalised. At the AGM it was proposed and seconded that the society be wound up. Following further discussion agreement was reached to defer action for a fortnight and later that the matter be held over for a month.

Following this meeting the IAOS noted in a memo to their advisor in the area that the formation of the co-op needed very careful consideration as it was their understanding that urban residents would use the co-op in common with the farmers. For that reason they recommended that arrangements for representation on the committee should be handled very carefully and if necessary rule changes should be considered to meet the specific conditions. The IAOS was concerned that a conflict of interest could

Subsequently it was reported that many of the farmers who strongly supported the call for a winding up at the AGM on reflection regretted their action. The belief is that the 306


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develop between urban and farming interests in the running of the society, likely to lead to difficulties at committee level.

The first business meeting was held on November 17, 1917 at the Town Hall, Athlone at which H. Clarke, Presided.

A public meeting was arranged for the Town Hall, Athlone for September 17, 1917.

The number of applications for shares had increased to 176 for which £300 had been subscribed. On the proposition of Mr Hill, seconded by Mr Hanley and unanimously agreed that a committee of 16 members should be appointed.

Following the meeting it was reported that share capital amounting to £180 had been subscribed by 100 applicants. The meeting set a target of £300 in share capital to be collected before application was made to register the society.

Elected were Messrs R. Broadband, H. Clarke, Kelleher, Moore, Herney, Clynes, Oakley, Hevegin, Berry, Scallon, Malone, Mullins, Walsh, Austin, Hanly, and Tierney.

The society was registered on October 9, 1917 as Athlone Co-operative Industrial and Agricultural Society Ltd., based at High Street, Athlone.

R Broadband was elected Treasurer. The President of the society was H Clarke, Aubern Terrace, Athlone.

T. J. Kelly was appointed manager and the society initially engaged in the distribution of sugar, supplying 412 persons in the area, with the number increasing to 454 and throughput of just over 2 cwt per week.

Originally the intention of the society was to act as an importer and supplier to the members. The import of bacon, ham and lard was considered, but it was not pursued because there was already an indigenous pig industry on farms in the area and they believed that competing imports would not get approval of the community.

A typical farm scene in the area with the stone walls and Shorthorn cattle. 307

The society were granted permission by the Food Control Committee to cure 20 pigs per month although it was believed that the society would not have the capacity to handle that volume and would probably be satisfied with a throughput of half that number.


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Pigs could be purchased in Athlone on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

town for supplies, and members provided funds to keep the society trading. Payment was received from the Army Barracks later in the year and refunds were made to the members. At the end of 1923 it was decided to close the bakery and a motion for the winding up of the society was considered and deferred.

Mr Henchliff was in charge of the slaughtering and curing of the pigs. By December 1918 the society reported that the venture into bacon curing was not a success. At the Annual General Meeting on March 13, 1919, J H Martin, Secretary reported that the net profit for 1918 was £70. 4s. 8d. The committee recommended that 10% be allocated to the reserve fund, and that a small dividend be paid on shares.

Trading continued to be difficult and in 1925, the store was taken over by the IAWS for a period of three years. Records for the following years are scarce. It appears that few meetings were held and the IAOS continued to operate the store trading. In the early 1930’s it was reported that trading in Athlone was very bad with the Army Barracks nearly empty and the Woollen Mills only employing half the previous number.

It was proposed that the co-op should engage in providing of a milk supply for the town of Athlone, continue with bacon curing and also become involved in the supply of fish. Turnover increased to £7,670 in 1919. A bakery business was added to the operations and when the returns for 1921 were published the turnover was £9,837, but the society showed a trading loss of £243. 11s. 11d. which was attributed in greater part to the operation of the bakery.

In January 1935 the winding up of the society was initiated. Following the founding of the National Farmer’s Association (NFA) in 1955 a lot of effort was put into the organising of farmers in all regions of the country including the West of Ireland. There was emphasis on encouraging and assisting farmers to become involved in farm business beyond the farm gate.

At the end of the first quarter of 1922 there was a further review of the trading difficulties with a loss for the three months of £150. 5s. 7d. The pattern of losses continued through the year and by November the manager had left the society.

The small farms in the West of Ireland were well known for the production of store cattle. Street fairs at which they sold the cattle were common in most of the larger towns several times each year.

There was an improvement in the trading for the first quarter of 1923 with profits of £189. 9s. 5d. and second quarter profits of £110. 13s. 11d. It was reported that £900 was owed by the Army Barracks in the

The NFA encouraged the farmers to become directly involved in co-operatively 308


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bring about a more systematic approach to the sale of livestock for farmers. “At that time we would leave the cattle in a field near Athenry on the night before the fair, so that they would be near for the fair morning. On the fair day if the price of cattle was up the dealers would meet the farmers out the road and there was fierce opposition. You see farmers found it hard to know what the value of their cattle was because they would not be as up to date with the information on the markets as the dealers who’d be trying to buy cattle as cheaply as possible” he remembered. The establishment of the marts was very successful with thousands of farmers investing in share capital to support the change in the system from the street fairs. “We were also interested in developing the dairy industry at the same time. Once the marts were established we wanted to establish the dairy system. It was the same people who were involved in both”, he said.

J Callanan, later TD, who was one of the founding members of the NFA in the area and actively involved in the establishement of the creameries.

run livestock sale centres maintaining that open competition between cattle buyers for the stock on offer would return better prices to the producers.

Farmers in the Abbeyknockmoy area had met at the local Parochial Hall on October 28, 1960 to discuss the formation of a co-operative society.

Farmer owned livestock marts were opened at Tuam in February 1961 and Athenry in October 1961. In 1962 marts were opened at Ballinasloe in February and Gort in July.

The meeting was attended by James C. Moloney, Secretary IAOS at the request of Thomas Keane, Ballyglunnin.

Patrick Greaney, a founder member of the NFA in the county, who was directly involved in establishing both the marts and the creameries recalls that the establishment of the mart system was one of the first projects to be undertaken by the NFA to

Arising from the meeting the Abbeyknockmoy Co-operative Agricultural Society Ltd was registered on December 1, 1960. It was primarily intended for the marketing of agricultural produce from farms in the area. 309


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Mainly a tillage area the dominant cropping on the farms was potato growing, which was carried on extensively. The area was widely recognised for growing quality seed potatoes.

“The majority of the members of Athenry Mart would be in favour of some type of co-operation as many of the members of the Agricultural Society, including the chairman are members of Athenry Mart”.

Gerard Burke, Ballyglunin was secretary of the new society. Frank Burke, John Crehan, and James McWalter were also among those actively involved. Within a few years, James McWalter became secretary.

On December 1, 1965, James Moloney, ICOS informed the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that discussions were taking place between Athenry Co-op Mart Ltd and Abbeyknockmoy Agricultural Society Ltd. with a view to amalgamation of the two societies.

Records are scanty for the operations of the society during the period immediately after registration.

He advised that should the merger go ahead he was confident that it would lead to a more efficient and advantageous operation of the Agricultural Society.

At a general meeting of the society on January 14, 1963 accounts for the period January 1961 to August 18, 1962, showed sales for the period were £2,351. 2s 6d. leaving a loss of £12. 4s.4d. and after expenses were added the loss increased to £48. 14s. 7d.

At the time a grant for the erection of a store for the Agricultural Society had been approved by the Department of Agriculture. He sought confirmation from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that the grant approval would be honoured should the merger take place.

On November 25, 1965, James Moloney ICOS reported that the society was experiencing difficulties. “The society is not really capable of marketing and has no store or fixed assets as such. It cannot afford to employ some one to direct the business. A site has been acquired on which it is hoped to erect a store and in this connection a 50% Government grant has been sanctioned. The society may be able to afford the additional 50%, but would not be capable ultimately of directing the operations, especially in the face of competition from merchants.

Discussions on the amalgamation progressed and the merger was completed on November 22, 1966. The store at Abbeyknockmoy which was purchased from the mart by Mid West Co-Op was in use as a retail store by Arrabawn until it was destroyed by fire in 2011 when the business transferred to Moutbellew.

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Padraig Raftery who was destined to become a leading figure in both the NFA and the co-op sector. 312


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GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY OFFERS AN INCENTIVE TO BUILD CREAMERIES

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y the 1950’s dairy farming had become a more important regular source of income for farmers in the southern half of the country. Although the average herd size was still no more than 10-15 cows and yields were usually 400-500 gallons per cow per annum the realisation of a milk cheque for most months of the year was being well received by farmers.

Some farmers who kept cows for milk production engaged in separation of cream from the milk in the homes and used hand operated churns to produce butter for their own use and to market the surplus. There was a ready market for home made butter, which had a distinctive flavour and was keenly sought by many families.

It was a labour intensive undertaking on the farms, but the market for butter provided some additional cash income for farm families which was important.

Dairy farmers had become directly involved in the running of the dairy processing co-operatives which had replaced all the privately run creameries that had operated during the early decades of the century. Following its launch in 1955, the NFA were encouraging the farmers in the West of Ireland to become organised in bulk purchasing of farm inputs to reduce costs.

Among farmers there was a growing momentum and general discussion developing on the need for diversification into dairying and for co-operatively run milk processing facilities to be established within the region to improve the income of farm families.

With the exception of farmers who produced milk to supply the domestic market, the off-farm facilities to encourage dairy farming in the region was non existent and was reflected in the income of the farmers relative to those who farmed in other parts of the country.

In 1955, Paddy Greaney who operated a model pig farm with 30 sows and the 313


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coherent manner and provided all of the initial leaders for the NFA. Paddy Greanery was already blossoming with leadership qualities which became manifest with his immediate involvement in the formation of a branch of the new farmers organisation, NFA, at nearby Clarinbridge of which he became the first secretary. He remembers “When the NFA was set up the main ambition of the farmers involved at that time was to set up the mart system and the creamery system to bring the farmers to a stage where they were independent”.

The livestock pattern was set to change on farms in Co Galway as dairy prospects emerged.

progeny finished to bacon weight at Ballinabuckey, Kilcolgan was a founding member of Clarinbridge NFA Branch and first secretary.

He adds “We saw what was happening in the south and up in the north. They had incomes that we did not have. The only involvement in dairying which we had was the dairy at Renmore which had been established in the late forties to supply liquid milk to Galway City”.

The 22 year old was one of a new generation of young farmers in the area who had been involved in the young farmers organisation, Macra na Feirme, which had been founded ten years earlier as an educational, social and cultural movement for rural young farmers.

Within three years he was representing the county on the NFA National Executive and in 1960 became the youngest national commodity chairman in the new organisation when he was elected chairman of the NFA National Pigs Committee as the organisation became a vibrant force for progress in the county.

The activities of Macra na Feirme cultivated the enthusiasm of the young farmers towards a more progressive approach to farming, and led to the formation of the National Farmers Association for a progression of the newly trained young farmers to deal in an organised manner with the economic issues.

He was also secretary of the Gort District Milk Suppliers and recognised by his peers as a young farmer with foresight and a vision to lead his colleagues in development of agri-business to serve the industry. This was a trait that the young farmers movement became noted for developing in its membership.

Macra na Feirme played a crucial role in educating the young men - originally the organisation was not open to females - through debating and public speaking competitions to express their views in a 314


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At a meeting at Ardrahan on Saturday October 29, 1960 South Galway Regional Executive NFA adopted a resolution calling on the County NFA Executive to thoroughly explore the possibility of setting up a central creamery in the county with subsidiary creameries in the various districts.

milk for pig rearing on a large scale as well as calf rearing�, he said. He told the farmers that it was intended to make a start with separating stations, but there were possibilities of vast markets for powdered milk in underdeveloped countries, but stressed that the success of the project would depend primarily on the farmers themselves.

Paddy Greaney told farmers at a meeting of Caltra NFA in early February 1961 that the farmers of Galway, most of whom were small holders, deserved a share of the Government subsidy which accrued to dairy farmers.

Padraig Raftery was another young farmer entering the scene of farmer leadership at that time. He also became an active member of then NFA and both Paddy and Padraig became good personal friends in their mutual pursuit of organising farmers towards creating a better future for themselves and their families on the land. Padraig would later in life play a senior leadership role in the co-operative movement and the rationalisation of the industry.

“In addition to the income which would be derived from milk production there would be further advantages by the utilisation of skim

Padraig farmed at Coshla, Athenry and after emerging through Macra na Feirme in the county was elected chairman of the Galway NFA Executive. His role over the following decades was to play a very important part in the fundamental changes that were to take place as he became a driving force in the development of the dairy industry in the region. He was one of a family of ten siblings. His brother, Tom Raftery was also to make a significant contribution to the development of Agriculture. Tom became the youngest appointed full professor in the National University of Ireland (being appointed Professor of

Paddy Greaney who was actively involved in the founding of the NFA and the establishment of the first of the creameries in the Mid West area. 315


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Agriculture in UCC in 1964 at the age of 31), and served as vice-president of UCC, a member of the European Parliament and a member of Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) before he retired from academic and political life in 1998.

the NFA Hq at Dublin who regularly addressed their meetings. An outline prepared by Prof Louis Smith, Chief Economist, NFA presented at the Galway NFA Annual General Meeting at Athenry in April 1961, presented some stark statistics on farm incomes in the region.

As UCC was the educational centre for Dairy Science students many of the management in the dairy industry would have known Tom well and held him in high regard. He was the key person in UCC responsible for the purchase of Foto Island Estate now home to a zoo and championship golf course.

The farmers were informed that “The Farm Survey shows that in the West of Ireland the average return per acre on the average to good farm is £15 to £18 per annum. In the dairying areas where in some instances the land is not as good as the Galway land, and where dairying is the only system of farming being carried on, the income per acre is as high as £35. In areas where mixed farming in addition to dairying is carried on income per acre is as high as £41 per annum”.

The NFA had become a force in the county uniting the farmers who regularly met through the branch and county meetings at which development of their industry was very much to the fore. Their work was supported by officers from

Prof Smith was a highly respected economist and official of the National Farmers Association. On his passing in November 25, 2012, a few weeks before his 89th birthday the Irish Times described him as “an economist and lecturer who also played a key role in the co-operative movement, and in establishing the National Farmers’ Association, which later became the IFA”. His obituary stated “Others will remember him as a committed European and a founder member of European Movement in Ireland”.

Extract from the ‘Connacht Tribune’ on May 28, 1960. 316

The youngest of eight children, Louis Smith was born in Crossdoney, Co Cavan to Isabel and Dr Frederick Smith in December 1923. He was educated in


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A group of Mid West Co-op farmers on a visit to Europe to study the development of dairy processing.

Clongowes Wood College and studied economics and history in UCD and law in King’s Inns.

help develop policy for the National Farmers’ Association which would be set up six months later, in January, 1955. He was the third person to be employed by the NFA in Earlsfort Terrace” .

In 1950 he began working with the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society as an organiser of co-operatives. His daughter Isabel Smith recalled how he travelled the country in his black Austin car to promote the formation of co-ops to farmers who were initially suspicious of “the tall man from Dublin”. When she began working as a vet, she found that farmers remembered her father wherever she went. “He was the man from Dublin but the word was always that he had a great knack of bringing the crowd with him and of talking sound sense.” In 1954, Macra na Feirme recruited him as an economic adviser, to

Having initially combined his work with lecturing in UCD’s department of political economy before leaving the NFA, he later

Advertisement in the ‘Connacht Tribune’ on March 7, 1964 for public meetings being organised by Galway County Committee of Agriculture for the establishment of creameries. 317


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became emeritus professor of economics (international trade). He maintained an interest in farming and his support for farmers.

The County IFA were already involved as sponsors of what had become known as “The Creamery Project” for County Galway. Martin O’Donnell, Secretary of Galway County Executive NFA, who had also become involved in development of the movement as a county organiser, reported to the Co Executive that public meetings were being held in practically every centre in the county with the appointment of canvassers.

Local farmers who attended the NFA meeting at Athenry, were told that in Galway, where there were no creameries, the average income per male person working on the land was as low as £314 per annum and in the rest of Ireland it was £600 per annum. The officers of the County Executive felt it would be in the best interest of the farmers in Galway to get a fair return on their labour and a means of supplementing their income if they were to change over in a small way to dairying.

“Let us hope that the canvassers will do a good job and that the farmers themselves will make it as easy as possible for them. May 1 is the closing date for taking shares and non shareholders will have no guarantee that their milk will be taken from them when the creamery is in production” he warned.

They were advised that “The change would necessitate the erection of a creamery and the responsibility for it should rest with the farmers who would have to put up the required capital in the form of shares”.

He inspired confidence when he told the farmers “The response to co-operation here in Galway is very encouraging. With the co-operative creameries which will be owned and controlled by the farmers themselves there are also four Co-Operative Livestock Marts either in the course of erection or about to be erected in this county. These marts were sponsored by the National Farmer’s Association, and, when erected will be controlled by the farmers who are the shareholders. This response shows that the farmers are beginning to have confidence in themselves and in their organisation”. The May meeting of the Executive was planned to select the centre

Co Galway Co-operative Creamery Project notice to shareholders in February 1963. 318


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his capacity as secretary of the Galway Co-operative Creamery Project confirmed that it was the decision of 400 delegates at a recent meeting at Athenry to seek the Dairy Disposal Company to withdraw their offer on the grounds that the creameries in the county should be on a co-operative basis.

James Moloney, General Secretary, IAOS in a letter to the meeting stated that an assurance had been given by An Taoiseach, Sean Lemass that the Dairy Disposal Company would not extend into the county if the co-operative movement could serve the farmers.

On March 28, 1964 the ‘Connacht Tribune’ reported progress on the establishing of local creameries in the county.

for the erection of a creamery. The centre would probably be where the greatest response in share capital would come from. It was confirmed to the meeting that the minimum in share capital required for the launch of the project had been subscribed. It was decided to proceed with the erection of a separating station, but a decision on location was deferred pending a meeting with the Dairy Disposal Company.

The Galway shareholders had decided to accept an offer from Kilnaleck Co-op to erect a separating station at Athlone, which the society intended to have in operation the following year.

The state controlled Dairy Disposal Company operated extensively in the neighbouring Co Clare and it was believed that they had plans to extend into Co Galway and would have the support of some senior politicians in the Government in doing so.

The decision of the Co Cavan based Kilnaleck Co-Operative Society to cross the Shannon by expanding into the West of Ireland with their operations was a significant development for the future of the dairy industry in the West of Ireland.

In a letter to the November 1961 meeting of Galway County Committee of Agriculture Martin O’Donnell, in 319


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The farmers objective for the co-op route was fully supported by the IAOS. The IAOS recommended expansion by Kilnaleck Co-Op, Co Cavan into the county as a logical approach for the establishment of dairy processing in Galway. However Agriculture Minister, Patrick Smith, TD intervened to confirm that there was “never any intention of setting up the Dairy Disposal Company in competition with the co-operative effort in the West of Ireland and if the Co-operative Societies were willing to undertake the work of developing the West and prepared to accept the bad areas from the point of view of milk production with the good areas, there was nothing to prevent the societies from going ahead”.

Cutting from the ‘Connacht Tribune’ on July 7, 1962.

There had been a strong reaction from farmers against the suggestion from An Taoiseach, Sean Lemass TD that the Dairy Disposal Co would establish the creameries in the Galway area.

An Taoisech, Sean Lemass TD was advocating dairy processing in the rural areas as a means of providing local employment. He was a pioneer of industrialisation for the country to reduce the massive emigration which was taking place at the time.

Paddy Greaney recalls “The Taoiseach refused to meet us at that time. He wouldn’t meet us because it was believed that the Government were in favour of the dairy industry in the county being developed by the Dairy Disposal Company, which was a state body. But the farmers did not want the Dairy Disposal Company and that was the problem for the Government at the time. The farmers wanted to set up their own creameries and they had the backing of the NFA in favour of co-ops”. 320


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Agriculture Minister, Paddy Smith, TD was a farmers son from Cootehill, Co Cavan who served 53 years 11 months as a member of Dail Eireann establishing the record of the longest ever serving member of the Dail to which he was first elected in 1923 at the age of 22 years. He served as Minister for Agriculture under Fianna Fail Governments from January 1947 to February 1948 and again from November 1957 to October 1964, before he resigned from the government as Minister for Agriculture in 1964 in protest at the government’s response to certain farming issues. He retired from politics at the 1977 general election at the age of 76.

operated a successful dairy processing centre in the constituency of the Minister for Agriculture. The society was interested in expanding and viewed the developing dairy sector west of the Shannon as an opportunity to acquire more milk to increase throughput at their processing plant . It was made more attractive by the introduction of the Government grant aid. The scheme provided for grant aid of up to 50% of the capital investment incurred. In June 1962, Kilnaleck Co-operative Society confirmed their initial plans for the Galway area. They announced plans for branches at Athlone, Athenry and Clonbern. The central creamery would be built at Kilconnell instead of Ballinasloe which had originally been considered.

A scheme of grant aid for existing dairy co-operatives to engage in expansion in milk processing by extending their areas of operation within the West of Ireland had been announced by the Government. Kilnaleck Co-Operative Dairy Society

Patrick J. McAdams, General Manager, Kilnaleck Co-Op Society told the farmers in the county that on the basis of the area, the holdings, and the number of cattle that each holding would carry, it would not be unreasonable to expect an annual income of over £400,000 from milk in the four areas which had been chosen for the development. He said that with the goodwill of the farmers of those areas, if farmers in each of the areas raised £4,000 in share capital a central creamery at a cost of £60,000 and three branches costing £20,000 each could be in operation by mid 1963. The plan as outlined was that the separation of the

How the ‘Connacht Tribune’ reported progress on June 16, 1962. 321


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milk would be carried out at the branches, the skim milk returned to the suppliers, and the cream manufactured into butter, chocolate crumb and other products at Kilconnell. Each of the four creameries would serve a radius of at least ten miles with the annual milk intake predicted at up to 5 million gallons.

farmers. By the end of June, P. McAdams confirmed that the targets had been achieved and the society planned an immediate start to the construction of the branch creameries at Athlone, Athenry and Clonbern with the intention that production would commence in June 1963. The report of an Interdepartmental Committee on the problems of small western farms which was commissioned by the Department of Agriculture was published in 1963. It advocated the expansion of dairying in the western counties as a means of providing increased income for farmers.

The project had the backing of the IAOS and NFA and farmers were encouraged that calves could be reared on the skim milk returned from the creamery, instead of uneconomic feeding of new milk, which was the practice at the time.

The plan envisaged that existing dairy societies would establish centres in the west to service the development of dairying on the farms. There was some disquiet within the industry when it became known that An Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, TD, had invited the state owned Dairy Disposal Company to become involved.

The share capital campaign met with the desired enthusiastic support from the



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Approach road to the small village of Clonbern, Co. Galway were one of the first of the ‘separating’ stations was built in 1963. 324


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THE ‘WEST IS AWAKE’ ECHOES AS FARMERS UNITE BEHIND CO-OP PLAN The ‘West is Awake’ summarised the enthusiasm and drive of farmers in Galway in 1963 as they looked forward to the establishment of the dairy processing industry in the county in anticipation of a new dawn. Increased milk production was being planned on the farms and they were looking forward to the monthly milk cheque from the co-op. It would mark a new beginning with the change from the irregular sources of income derived from the uncertainties of livestock and tillage farming which had dominated for farm families for centuries.

Public meetings on the founding of the creameries advertised on December 8, 1962

Early in 1963, Kilnaleck and West of Ireland Co-Operative Agricultural and Dairy Society Ltd., was registered to run the creameries under construction.

provided the structure to organise the farmer co-ops. The Government commissioned ‘Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Problems of Small Western Farms’ which was published in 1963 strongly advocated the expansion of dairying in the western counties. The report envisaged that existing creameries would extend their areas of operation to embrace new dairying areas in the west. The publication of the report coincided with the announcement by the

The development was in line with overall Government thinking at the time on the necessity to develop dairy farming in the west. Although the Government had favoured the Dairy Disposal Company expanding into Co Galway, the IAOS supported the farmers developing co-ops and the commitment of the NFA 325


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of the new farm enterprise. In addition to the Committee of Agriculture advisors, the Department of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Credit Corporation, provided information and assistance for the farmers. Seminars on dairy farming were held at Kilconnell, Killimor, Athenry, Clonbern and Newbridge supplemented by practical on-farm demonstrations. There was a thirst among farmers for the information. The service was availed of by up to 700 farmers, about one-third of the total number of dairy farmers in the county.

They were advised on the facilities necessary on a dairy farm for the production of quality clean milk and encouraged to use artificial fertiliser to double production on their farms.

On November 24, 1962 it was reported that the creamery development at Clonbern would cost ÂŁ130,000

Government of grant aid of up to 50% on the cost of establishing creameries in the west. At the same time as Kilnaleck Co-op advanced work on the construction of the creameries at Athenry, Athlone and Clonbern, plans were being developed by Nenagh Co-op to cross the Shannon with the opening of a creamery at Killimor, outside Portumna in 1963

They were advised that an annual application of 3 cwt of Super Phosphate, one cwt Sulphate of Ammonia and one cwt of Potash would enable them to carry a cow on two statue acres, compared to the normal stocking level on good farms of one cow to three statue acres. The application of Ground Limestone was also promoted. Intensively stocked farms, with the use of artificial fertiliser normally achieved double the income of sparsely stocked holdings.

Nenagh was sourcing a considerable volume of milk in the Galway region south of a line from Loughrea to Ballinasloe, since the late 1950’s. The impetus behind the development of the creameries gained momentum at an accelerated pace. Galway County Committee of Agriculture engaged in an extensive advisory programme to assist the farmers on adapting to the requirements

The advisors stressed the necessity to have some facility on the farm for cooling of milk. Those with a piped water supply could purchase an in-churn cooler for 326


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£7-£8. Alternatively they would use a home made perforated pipe ring to be placed around the churn as a cooler. For farmers without a piped water supply - the majority of the farms - it was suggested that placing the milk churn in a stream or tank of water could be used or they could place a wet sack around the churn.

They decided to build separating stations at the three locations. The estimated capital cost was £130,000 which would qualify for a Government grant of £65,000. Farmers in each of the areas would collectively contribute £16,000 in shareholding. The balance would be funded by Kilnaleck Co-op.

Officers from the Department of Agriculture advised the farmers on the grant aid available for housing of dairy animals. For the construction of housing for cows the Department of Agriculture paid a grant of £12 per cow for the first eight cows, £9 per cow for the next seven and £6 per cow for additional cows. Credit facilities available to expanding farmers were also outlined by the Agricultural Credit Corporation.

At these ‘separating Stations’ the cream was separated from the new milk and the skim returned to the farmers. Athenry opened in May 1963. The intake of milk at Clonbern commenced in June and at Athlone in July. Two farmers from each of the areas were elected to the committee with the controlling balance from Kilnaleck Co-op. each of the four creamery areas holding two seats. Kilnaleck retained the controlling share. The local areas were represented by Athlone - George Allen and Patrick Moore; Clonbern - Gerry Colleran and P J

A campaign to raise share capital was launched in 1961 and by April £6,500 had been subscribed by farmers within the general area of Clonbern, Athenry and Athlone. Kilnaleck Co-op believed that building separating stations in Co Galway would serve a dual purpose. It was more economical than transporting whole milk from the area to the plant at Kilnaleck. It would also establish the co-op with a stake in the region and a direct link with the producers to deter encroachment by other societies.

Milk Quality Award winners in the Athlone area in 2002 after receiving their awards, Michael O’Dwyer, Arrabawn Co-Op, Ronan Morris (Third), Aidan Fallon (First), Patrick Colclough (Second), Pat Walsh, Arrabawn Co-Op, with Noel Flynn, Board Member, Eamon O’Connor, Board Member, Thomas Colleran, Chairman, Arrabawn Co-Op, and Kieran Egan, Board Member. 327


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Quality Milk Award winners in the Athenry area 2002, (front) Martin Callan, Board Member, Michael Moran, Board Member, Thomas Colleran, Chairman, Arrabawn Co-Op, Thomas Keenan, Board Member, Michael Casserley, Board Member. Back row - Joe Conaty (first), Francis Tuohey, Board Member, Christy O’Connor, Liquid Milk Award winner, Thomas Patrick McMahon (second), Michael O’Dwyer, Arrabawn Co-Op., Oliver O’Connell and Ollie Flanagan.

O’Connor; Athenry - Patrick Greaney and Padraig Raftery; Kilconnell - Bernard Monaghan and Lawrence Larkin.

to 100,000 gallons of milk per day. The projected cost of the creamery at Kilconnell was doubled to £120,000 with the equipment to be installed to cost an additional £60,000. The target date for the beginning of 1964 was not met.

Intake at Athenry for the first six months was 975,000 gallons. The Clonbern separating Station handled 750,000 gallons for the first half year and intake for the first six months at Athlone was 700,000 gallons.

Milk production was firmly established on the small farms in the West where it was replacing some of the more traditional enterprises on the farms. Following the opening of the separating stations farmers in the Clonbern, Athlone and Athenry districts showed more interest in becoming involved in their own dairy co-ops.

Work on the building of the central creamery at Kilconnell was delayed with a revised target opening date of January 1964. The creamery, when completed would have capacity to process up

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Reflecting on the transition in milk assembly at Kilconnell Central Creamery, from the early days when milk was delivered in churns to the modernised bulk collection at ther new liquid milk plant. 330


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RAPID EXPANSION IN PRODUCTION IS AIDED BY NEW CENTRAL CREAMERY

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ilk production was changing the economic face of County Galway as the mid 1960’s approached. There was a steady supply to the separation stations at Clonbern, Athenry and Athlone operated by Kilnaleck and West of Ireland Co-op Society. Milk production in the Athlone and Athenry creamery areas continued to increase steadily as the local co-op became well established.

Lawrence Larkin, Tom Cleary, Chairman, Irish Dairy Board and Gerard Colleran

to consider further development within the region.

The skim milk was all being returned to the farms. The skimmed milk was perceived at that time as having very little value other than for feeding to calves and pigs on the farms. The cream was transported to Kilnaleck where Kilnaleck Co-Op operated a manufacturing plant.

In July a committee headed by Patrick McAdams, General Manager, Kilnaleck was formed to consider creamery development to serve the areas of Headford, Shrule, Caherlistrane, Annaghdown, Corrandulla, Belclare and Kilconly because of the quantity of milk being supplied to the separating station at Athenry from these areas.

Plans continued to be progressed for a manufacturing plant in Co Galway. Work commenced on the construction of a central creamery at Kilconnell in May 1964. Completion was planned for the late Autumn.

The members of the committee were Seamus O’Donoghue, Chief Agricultural Officer, Co Galway, Very Rev C. Canon Heaney, P.P., Athenry, Padraig Raftery, Chairman, Galway Co Executive NFA,

The success of the move to the west by Kilnaleck Co-Op encouraged the society 331


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before the end of the year with intake of milk commencing in early 1965. The creamery which Kilnaleck Co-op built at Kilconnell, partly financed by a State grant and local shareholding, was regarded as being ahead of its time in modernisation. Installed in the creamery was one of the first Committee members and staff of Mid West Co-Op. automated milk intake facilities from the Front Row: Joseph Rabbitte, Padraig Raftery, Patrick farmers milk churns in Europe, which Greaney, Tom Joe Daly, and Eamon O’Connor. mechanically handled the churns, emptied Back row: Patrick Haverty, Michael Armstrong, Martin the milk, and washed the churns before Gilmore, Michael John Kelly, Bernard Monaghan, being returned to the farmer. Tom Dolan, and Seamus Lohan.

Martin O’Donnell, Secretary, Galway Co Executive NFA, and Jim Moloney, Assistant Secretary, IAOS.

The cream was transported from the separating stations at Athenry, Clonbern and Athlone to Kilconnell for manufacture into butter.

A lorry organised by the society commenced collection of milk in the Headford area in July 1964, transporting the milk to the separating station at Clonbern.

In many ways the new central creamery was ahead of its time and was probably geared for a larger throughput of milk than was available from the three ‘separating’ stations it served. Dairy farming was relatively Construction and equipping of the new to the region and the average supply creamery at Kilconnell was completed per farm was small, but the producers who had enthusiastically supported the establishment of the creameries, were equally enthusiastic to develop the dairy enterprises on their farms. The more regular income from dairying was a welcome change from relying on the less secure income from A notice advertising milk collectionn for Clonbern area which livestock rearing. appeared in the ‘Connacht Tribune’ on July 18, 1964.

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On the eve of his 80th birthday Paddy Greaney, recalled more than a half century of farming in the area and the establishment of the local creameries. 334


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ANOTHER MILESTONE AS MID WEST FARMERS DECIDE TO TAKEOVER CONTROL ost of the early creameries across the country were mainly operated as ‘separating stations’ for the intake of milk supplies from the local farmers, separating the cream from the milk and returning the skim to the farmers. The churning of the cream into butter was usually contracted to a larger central creamery.

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of butter from the cream of all four intake points.

The practice in East Galway was similar to the rest of the country as dairy farming increased west of the Shannon from the middle years of the 20th century.

Although the relationship between Kilnaleck and the new creameries in the west appeared on the surface to be running smoothly, the structure was not long in place before rumblings of discontent commenced emerging from beneath the surface.

There was a considerable growth in milk production in the region through the later sixties. Farmers were also realising the benefit to income from dairy farming. Farmer support for the dairy co-ops continued to strengthen.

Trading co-operatives had been established in Athlone, Athenry and Clonbern by local farmers during the early years of the century, but they never engaged in milk intake and none had survived. An attempt to start a co-operative society at Kilconnell around the same time had failed. There was a different impetus behind the farmers involved in establishing the separating stations at Athlone, Athenry and Clonbern with the assistance of Kilnaleck Co-op Society and the central creamery at Kilconnell which followed and provided facilities for the manufacture

For the first few years after the completion of the construction work in 1963, it was a new experience for the farmers in Athenry, Athlone, Clonbern and Kilconnell to have 335


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done in Lough Eglish. Later in the day we visited Killeshandra and they had a different plan altogether and believed that separating station should not be closed - they were operating up to twelve of them. “We asked him if he would do what Killeshandra was doing at that time and he told us that he had looked Mid West Co-Op Committee members on a visit to Europe to study progress at the whole situation and in the dairy industry. taken a lot of advice and his view was that closing their own creameries and a regular income the separating stations would not result in from dairy farming for most months of farmers getting a better price for milk. the year. Before the end of the decade the ‘marriage’ with KIlnaleck Co-Op had “When we looked at the milk prices being become a less amicable relationship. paid we saw that Kilnaleck was paying much better than Killeshandra and that put Kilnaleck held the controlling seats on us thinking about what was going on in the combined board. Milk producers in Kilnaleck as well and the view of a lot of our the western creamery areas felt that the farmers was that they did not want the policy arrangement was less beneficial to them that Kilnaleck appeared to be adopting. We than to Kilnaleck. They became unhappy also realised that farmers in the south of the about the structure, an unease that became country were being paid a much better price more evident in the very early 1970’s. for their milk than we were getting”, he said. Paddy Greaney recalls “Some of the farmers believed that Kilnaleck were planning to close the separating stations, claiming that they were an uneconomic way of assembling milk and that their operation was costing too much. The farmers in this area would not have wanted that. “We visited Kilnaleck and the management was all for closing of the separating stations. That had been done in the neighbouring area of Lough Eglish and it appeared to us that Kilnaleck was copying what was being

At the 1972 AGM the farmers from the west, shareholders in the co-ops turned out in strength for what is described as “a very, very tense meeting” at the Royal Hotel, Athlone. “There was a huge turnout of farmers from our area. There was a lot of farmers who want to break away from Kilnaleck, but there was also a lot of the suppliers in our area that were not in favour of any change. That was a very tense meeting and I remember that lunch 336


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was booked at the hotel, but we did not break from the business of the meeting to eat it and the meeting went on nearly all day” recalled Paddy.

The decision coincided with a management change at Kilnaleck, which ended the reign of Patrick J. McAdams as General Manager of Kilnaleck Co-op and consequently of Kilnaleck and Mid West Co-op Society which managed the creameries in East Galway. His departure led to a dispute between the society and the Irish Creamery Managers Association and led to a lot of difficulty in appointing a successor for Mr McAdams.

The IAOS was not in favour of the split and Jim Moloney, IAOS Secretary who attended the meeting advised the farmers strongly against breaking up with Kilnaleck. “He felt that we were not established long enough to run the operation of the creameries on our own and it would not be wise for us to try going it alone, but the determination of the farmers in our area who felt that they were not being fairly treated was also very strong in favour of ending the relationship with Kilnaleck. Of coarse they (Kilnaleck) did not want any change to take place and there was a share of the farmers in the west who were also in favour of continuing as we were”, he remembered.

Within a few years of having organised the creameries the farmers were faced with a challenge which was totally unexpected and for which they were ill prepared of having to take control of the day-to-day management of the operations for milk intake and separation. The leadership training which many of them had got from their involvement in Macra na Feirme, the young farmers organisation, and the NFA which had become a farmer driving force for progress within a very short time of the founding in 1955, stood them well, as the chairman of each of the branches stepped into the breach to ensure the day-today running of the creamery.

“Athlone suppliers were being led by Padraig Raftery and they were totally behind the change. There was less support from the other areas, but in the end it was put to a vote and the decision was in favour of ending the relationship with Kilnaleck”, he added.

They were advised and assisted The farmers were strongly of the by Gerry Curley, IAOS for view that greater benefits would the duration of the protracted accrue to them on milk price from dispute, during which control of the society, which they filled the demanding operated the separating roles, for which they had no stations at the formal training, very three centres and competently, ensuring manufactured that the creameries Jim Moloney, IAOS who advised the Mid West farmbutter at continued to operate ers strongly against breaking the relationship with Kilconnell. effectively. Kilknaleck Co-Op. 337


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The change over in the structure and operation of the society had coincided with Ireland’s entry into the EEC (European Economic Community). It was a period of anticipation of euphoria by farmers with the opening up on the major European market to Irish exporters without the burden of having to overcome import levies. The dairy industry in particular looked Quality Milk Award winners in the Kilconnell area 2002 (front forward to a brighter future row) Thomas Colleran, Chairman, Arrabawn Co-Op, Noel G. with milk price set to rocket over the Murphy (second), Michael Kelly (for Joseph Kenny - first), and years immediately following joining (back row) Michael O’Dwyer, Arrabawn Co-Op, Tony Larkin the EEC from the combination of (Liquid Milk Award Winner), Sean Kelly (third), Brendan transition adjustment increases and Lynsky. Vice Chairman, Arrabawn Co-Op. improved market prices. Farmers were set to get the benefit from The name of the society was changed a substantial increase in incomes. Dairy to Mid West Farmers Co-Op Ltd on farmers fared best overall with related December 15, 1972 which marked a benefit for the processing societies. further milestone, the outcome of which could hardly have been foreseen by the The increase in milk production set an committee at the time. environment for expansion of processing facilities. Amalgamations, mergers, take Tom Dolan joined the society in 1975 overs and expansion became the order of and for the following 26 years played a the day through the seventies. There was very important role in the management also a lot of development taking place on structure as financial controller. the farms and a greater emphasis being placed on all processors for more efficiency He recalls the challenge for the society in both at processing level and in the the aftermath of the decision to go it alone, assembly of milk, which at the time had after breaking with Kilnaleck. little in the way of an orderly organised approach. “The fact that we got grant aid from the EEC helped a lot at that time with the development. Many farmers delivered the milk to the It was tough as a managerial role because we branch creamery each day. Some areas were were dealing with a lot of fragmented milk served by ‘carters’ usually local people who supplies, and the branches were all nearly collected the milk cans from the farms and independent in their own right”. delivered to the branch creamery on behalf 338


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of the farmer who paid for the service, returning the churns and skim milk to the farms later in the day.

milk tanker, because the farmyards were not structured for that at the time. It was perceived by the farmers as a difficulty that they had to widen gates and enlarge their farmyards to facilitate the tanker and it took a while to convince the farmers that it was a move in the right direction and in the longer term it would prove to be more beneficial to them.

Creameries in the south were already introducing bulk milk collection systems, within bulk milk containers being installed on the farms to replace the small milk churns and 5,000 gallons bulk collection tankers collecting the milk. Tom Dolan recalls that getting farmers in the west to change was not an easy task.

“The prospect of a better milk price being paid to the producers was one of the selling points that a more efficient system of transporting milk would bring about savings which would pass on to them in the milk price. The milk price and income was the bottom line as far as they were concerned and it was very hard to convince them that it was going to be to their benefit” he recalled. There were also some local loyalties to the people who had been involved in the earlier form of milk collection and were about to lose their employment.

“One of the biggest things that we faced at that time was to get the farmers to change over to bulk collection of milk. That was a major issue in those early years of the seventies. They were reluctant to make that change because they had been used to bringing in their milk to the local creamery and coming in at different times of the day. They were also mainly small producers and having to purchase a bulk tank, they were slow to make the investment, because they had already put a considerable amount of capital into building up the structure on their farm to get into dairy farming only a few years earlier.

Tom Dolan says “There were a lot of milk carters who used to collect the milk from the farm in the small cans and they were going to lose their jobs when bulk collection was introduced. Some of the farmers were concerned about that, because they knew these people and some of them were their neighbours and in cases family members. So there were those concerns too.

“It took a big push on behalf of the committee at that time to get them to change. It was 19761977 before we got to changing over to bulk. Some of them found that they would have to bring their milk out to the top “The local farmers felt that of a road for the the carters had been collection tanker facilitating them on the and they had to collection of milk for change access to years and transporting Tom Dolan joined the society in 1973 and became an their farmyards it to the branch influential Financial Controller. to facilitate the creamery and they had a 339


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The urge by the IAOS for fewer and larger societies involved in milk processing had been gaining some ground for almost a decade and a half at that time and considerable progress was beginning to become evident. Back in the early 1960’s the Department of Agriculture had commissioned a team of experts to examine the dairy industry. The findings of the team, which were published by the Government in 1963, Patrick Mannion and his wife with Lawrence Larkin and his wife, Delia. were that they considered that there were too many small and certain amount of loyalty to them. Gradually, inefficient creameries in the country and anyway they changed but it was a major issue amalgamations, using compulsory measures at that time”. if necessary, should be pursued. Shortly after the creamery came under the management of Alfie Dodd, it was decided to install a small evaporator plant at Kilconnell.

The IAOS Annual report for 1962 showed that there were 806 creamery premises in the country, comprising of 156 central creameries and 450 other units made up of auxiliaries and milk separating stations. The Dairy Disposal Company operated a considerable number of creameries particularly in the Limerick and Clare regions of the south and overall were still involved in the handling of up to a quarter of all manufacturing milk up to 1965.

The development was encouraged by ICOS. The organisation which had nurtured the industry from its cradle days of the later years of the previous century showed a firm belief that the time had come for the next phase of scaling up for the co-ops.

In 1981, John Tyrell, Chief Executive, ICOS, had a meeting with Alfie Dodd to discuss possible options on mergers for the society.

At the Annual General Meeting of Mid West Farmers Co-op Ltd in November 1979, James Moloney, Secretary, ICOS addressing the meeting strongly urged the society to consider amalgamation, which he pointed out was taking place all over the country at the time.

Obstacles to any progress outlined included “divisions among co-operatives in Co Galway”, and the absence of “any clearly 340


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identified development programme emerging out of amalgamations”.

to benefit from the emerging market opportunities of EEC membership.

It was concluded that the most realistic first phase for the society would be a tie up between Mid West Farmer’s Co-Op and Athenry Livestock Mart to resolve around development.

Three societies combined their strengths to purchase a privately owned milk processing plant at Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon, Connacht Foods Ltd, a sister plant to McCormack Products Ltd, at Killeshandra.

Three possible developments were identified (a) the possibility of becoming involved in liquid milk, (b) the possibility of engaging in marketing of a long life flavoured milk and (c) a possible development in grain handling at Athenry, which was already being carried out on a small scale by the co-op on a site adjoining Athenry Mart. It was suggested that a delegation from the society should visit Leckpatrick Co-Op which had invested £1m in a new UHC plant and found that there was a buoyant market for flavoured milk products.

The newly named co-operative, Shannonside Milk Products Co-op Ltd was jointly owned by Kilconnell Co-op, North Connacht Farmers (NCF) Co-op and Kiltoghert Co-op. NCF Co-op held the major shareholding at 45%. Kilconnell and Kiltoghtert Co-Op shared the other 55% equally between them. It was generally seen as a move to consolidate milk supplies and the processing of the milk in the West, where development of the industrial side of the sector would have a spin off in providing much needed local employment.

Leo Larkin, a member of the co-op committee was Secretary of Ballinasloe Mart and a committee member of East Galway Co-op. The connections suggested the possibility of establishing a link with Ballinasloe Mart on the grain handling.

As milk production increased and farmers became more conscious of its potential to improve incomes, there was increasing attention to the milk price being paid by each society and comparison on milk price became an important topic with producers wherever they met.

A grain handling facility at Athenry was officially opened by T J Maher, MEP around the same time The speakers at the opening included Padraig Raftery, Chairman, Mid West Farmer’s Co-Op.

“On the milk price we were generally being compared with the creameries in our own catchment area, NCF, Killeshandra,and Kiltoghert. We were being compared more to them than to the creameries in the south. They were all larger than the Mid West Co-Op and would therefore have more benefit from the economies of scale than the Mid West” says Tom Dolan.

A joint venture involving a number of co-operatives in the region appeared to be the most logical for the next stage of development for dairying, the entry into further processing and manufacture 341


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“There was always Joe Rea’s Milk League in the Irish Farmer’s Journal which kept everyone on their toes, but the co-ops in the west were always pointing out that they had a far inferior area in which to collect milk than in the south, the supply per farm was much smaller and the farms more numerous and scattered which added to the cost of collection.

They were developing the skim milk side of the processing industry at that time and adding value to milk. “It was a change from the early days when the skim milk was returned to the farmers for feeding to calves and pigs. The fact that Shannonside started processing skim milk was an added value” he said.

“Even within the west the supply was more condensed in the Galway area than it would have been for NCF in the North West” says Tom.

However, it may also have to some extent had consequences for the development of the Mid West Co-Op.

While battle were raging between co-ops in the south over ‘poaching’ of milk suppliers, the transfer by milk suppliers of their produce from one society to another, usually to secure a higher price, the issue was not so intense in the west.

“I suppose it also meant that there was not as much development of the processing sector in the Mid West area as in NCF which branched out into a different range of products at that time. All of the development in the skim side took place in Shannonside”, recalled Tom.

“Poaching of milk suppliers to move from one society to another, which was a big issue in the south at that time, was not a major problem in our area. We had some smaller headaches on that at the time, but it was not a big issue for us. There were some farmers on the fringes who changed because it was more convenient for them” says Tom Dolan.

Joe Rabbitte spent most of his working career in a management role with the creameries in the Mid West area of County Galway. He joined Kilnaleck and West of Ireland Co-op in 1965 and continued in the employment of the society up to 2001 when Mid West Farmers Co-Op merged with Nenagh Co-Op Creamery to become Arrabawn Co-Op.

“The fact that Kiltoghert, NCF and Mid West came together at that time to purchase the milk plant at Ballaghadereen, Shannonside Co-op, meant that there was a lot of co-operation between the societies and the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ meant that there was not a lot of movement of milk between the societies. It was not a big problem and as confined to a few farmers on the fringes.

During that period he witnessed a dramatic change over by farmers from the traditional tillage and livestock rearing to commercial dairy farming. While there had been some milk production in the region prior to the building of the creameries, the milk was mainly used for home butter production, which operated on a small scale on many farms. The income from butter sales was relatively low.

“The development of Shannonside Co-Op was one of the biggest changes during those years. 342


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probably had an influence on the decision at the time to build the central at Kilconnell”, he said. John Callanan was a native of the Kilconnell area where he had grown up on a farm. He became very active in Macra na Feirme and the National Farmers Association during the early years of both organisations. He entered national politics when he was elected TD for the Clare-South Galway Constituency for Fianna Fail at the 1973 General Election. He retained his seat in the General Election in 1977 and died in office in 1982 at the age of 72 years.

Thomas Colleran, the last Chairman of Mid West Farmers Co-Op and Dick Tobin, the last Chairman of Nenagh Co-Op before the two societies amalga-

“When the creamery was built at Kilconnell, it was ahead of its time in automation. Some of the automated installations gave a lot of problems in the early stages. It was probably too advanced. There was also a big problem with the water supply and the mineral content of the water was very problematic”, Joe Rabbitte remembers.

mated in 2001.

Joe Rabbitte recalled “When I joined the society in 1965, two years after the three branch creameries were opened there was up to 30,000 gallons of milk per day at peak being supplied to Athenry branch. There was nearly as much more in the combined supply at Clonbern and Athlone. The milk supply in Co Galway was probably larger than Kilnaleck at that time and the farmers in the county were becoming very much aware of that”.

The building of the central creamery did benefit the group with facilities for buttermaking. It resulted in less reliance on the Kilnaleck side of the society, providing greater independence for the three ‘separating stations’ and the central at Kilconnell.

He remembered “There had been a lot of discussion on the building of the central creamery at Kilconnell. Different areas were suggested by farmers as being more suitable than Kilconnell. Some of the farmers wanted it to be build at Ballinasloe. The farmers in the Clonbern area felt that it should be at Glenamaddy. Farmers supplying Athenry Branch were of the view that it should be built there, because the branch had the largest milk supply. I feel that John Callanan, TD.,

“There was a lot of farming politics involved at that time. In the early days I felt that the branch creameries operated almost as independent societies. There was even competition between them and each was trying to be better than the other”, said Joe The NFA, had become very active in Galway advising the farmers on issues like 343


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the milk price. The farmers were also conscious of the pool of milk which had been created in the area, and were probably getting advise as to the return that they should be getting in milk price. Padraic Raftery was a leading member of the NFA and he was providing comparisons for the farmers on the milk price being paid in other areas of the country and was in the process of building up a very large milk production base on his own farm.

competition for the skim from the mid west. A lot of the competition came from outside of the western region. “When Padraic Raftery was chairman he visited a lot of societies with committee members looking at their operations, before it Joe Rabbitte the last General Manager was decided to send of Mid West Co-Op who was promoted milk to Nenagh and from Assistant Manager, after the sudden death of Alfie Dodd, General Manager. Tipperary” recalled Joe Rabbitte.

“From contact with the farmers I was aware of rumblings of discontent and that the farmers were not satisfied with Kilnaleck for quite a while before they decided to leave the Co Cavan Co-Op” said Joe.

“I wouldn’t agree that the farmers were against the milk leaving the west. There were very few against it when it was decided to amalgamate with Nenagh. They did not want to see the milk quota leaving the region - that was the main concern. It was very valuable”, he said.

However, he recalls that the period immediately after the severing of the link with Kilnaleck in 1972 was an extremely difficult one. Jerry Curley, IAOS, spent a lot of time helping the farmers to run the creameries, after a dispute with the Creamery Managers Association, in relation to a change in management at Kilnaleck, stalled the appointment of a manager for the new Mid West Farmers Co-Op.

Joe Rabbitte, who started his career with the group as manager of the branch creamery at Clonbern, became Assistant Manager of Mid West Farmers Co-Op, and succeeded Alfie Dodd as General Manager during a career spanning 36 years. “I enjoyed my time with the co-op. The farmers were very honest people and I liked working with them”, he concluded reflecting over the three and a half decades of his working life which he spent serving the industry in the area.

During the following years there was the formation of Shannonside Co-Op to provide processing facilities, and as skim milk increased in value for further processing, there was much more

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Deliveries of milk arriving at the modern liquid milk dairy which has been established at Kilconnell. 346


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OUTSIDE PROCESSORS VIE TO SECURE SHARE OF THE WESTERN MILK POOL s the dairy industry developed in the west, the progress of the farmers who had diversified into milk production was being observed outside of the region. Other processors became increasingly interested in having an involvement in the expanding industry in the region.

A

Mid West Farmer’s Co-Op resented the encroachment of Kerry Co-Op into County Galway. The Listowel based society had expanded rapidly from its formation, under the direction of one of the most formidable dairy Chief Executives in the country, Denis Brosnan, a farmer’s son from Kilflynn in North Kerry.

The initial outside interest appeared to be involvement in the liquid milk business for the domestic supply to Galway City and the larger towns in the West. The liquid milk market had become a lucrative sector of the dairy industry offering good potential for the future as tighter controls on the sale of raw milk were enforced on an increasingly health conscious population. The general improvement in incomes made it possible for the processors to achieve a decent margin in an expanding market.

Kerry Co-Op had acquired a liquid milk business at Limerick in 1979, which served a distribution business extending into Co Clare and any progression into Co Galway was seen as a natural course in development for a society already identified as having an aggressive approach towards expansion. The southern society was already on its way in development outside of the milk sector and was to become a world leader in food ingredients with global markets and multibillion turnover. The move by Kerry to the Galway area, followed by further interest in expansion in the region was seen by the local farmers as a threat to their control of the business within their own region.

Far from their base at Listowel, Co Kerry, the successful Kerry Co-Op had become involved in liquid milk in Co Galway through ownership of the Galway Milk Company located within relatively close proximity of the Mid West Farmer’s Co-Op base at Kilconnell.

“Some of the farmers did not mind Kerry Co-Op moving into the west when they purchased the Galway Milk Company and 347


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started supplying the liquid milk market in the area, but there were others who did not want them having any involvement in the Western area” recalled Tom Dolan, Financial Controller at Mid West Co-Op Society at that time.

“Around the same time other areas of the Kerry Co-Op business became more profitable and they did not seem to be as interested in the extra milk supply” he recalls. An approach was made to Kerry Co-op in March 1982 to purchase the operations of the Galway Milk Company. Mid West Co-op offered to pay Kerry Co-op the price which the society had paid for the business plus costs involved. The offer was rejected by Kerry Co-op.

The purchase of the privately owned dairy at Oranmore by the Mid West Co-Op was partly reaction by the western farmers to counteract the purchase by Kerry of the Galway Milk Company. At that time the Mid West Co-Op had lost a few suppliers to both Oranmore Dairies and the Galway Milk Company.

Mid West discussed becoming involved with Kerry in the milk company. This approach was not progressed very far. It is also believed that an approach was made by Kerry Co-Op to Mid West to become involved in a joint venture to develop the liquid milk business in the west. There was outright rejection by the Mid West farmers.

“Oranmore Dairies was privately owned. It took quite a while for the Mid West Co-Op to convince them to sell. Eventually the price on offer became too tempting for them to refuse” . “The purchase of the dairy placed the Mid West Co-Op in direct competition with Kerry Co-Op on the liquid milk market in the area. They were a fairly powerful force to compete with, but there were not too many battles on the retail front because both Kerry and ourselves needed a certain price for milk. We had losses in some areas and made gains in other areas. “We started to push southwards then, but while they had moved northwards to Galway they did not push any further because NCF was very strong in the North West. After taking a few suppliers in the North West Kerry halted and did not go any further.

At that time Mid West Co-Op was a supplier of milk to Shannonside Co-Op and it was believed that the latter may be interested in becoming involved financially with Mid West in the operation of a dairy for supply of liquid milk within the region.

Mid West traded successfully through the 1980’s. Expansion in milk production by farmers in the region through the 1970’s continued into the 1980’s before being frozen in 1983-84 by the imposition of milk quotas by the EEC to control a mounting surplus in stocks of Padraig Raftery who became a dairy products. Farmers were driving force in the society as restricted to marginally over the Chairman. 348


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scale of production which they had reached in the early 1980’s. In the early 1990’s, Alfie Dodd, who retired as manager was replaced by Joseph Rabbitte. Padraig Raftery continued to be re-elected Chairman each year and Secretary was G. Colleran.

The ‘Connacht Tribune’ focus on the battle for the milk in the Mid West.

By 1992, Mid West Co-op had a turnover of £23.5m. The retained profits for the year amounted to £611,335. There was general satisfaction that the society was going well. However, although the turnover for the following year increased to £27.6m the increase in operational costs reduced profits for the year to £203,000.

several of the larger societies, where there was over capacity at the modern plants and a hunger by the societies to acquire additional milk to improve the economic operation of the plants and ultimately the profits of the societies. The embargo which the EEC milk quota regime had placed on production was being felt at both farm level and within the processing sector. The total milk pool available within the country, under the EEC controls, was less than the combined capacity for processing which had been developed.

Competition between processors for milk supplies had intensified through the 1980’s leading to many bitter battles being waged. Most of the ‘milk wars’ were fought over supplies of new milk, but there was also demand for skim milk for manufacturing into SMP (Skim Milk Powder) and Casein for which valuable export markets had been developed. The protein value of skim milk had become a major contributor to the milk price being paid to producers.

The pool of milk on offer in the West sparked intense interest. It was anticipated that Kerry Co-Op would become the lead interest party in acquiring the milk, with NCF (North Connacht Farmer’s Co-Op) also expected to be in contention. Speculation that the Charleville based Golden Vale Co-Op was interested did not materialise.

This environment continued into the 1990’s. When about 18 million gallons of skim milk was offered on the market by the Mid West Co-Op in 1994 there was intense interest from processors both within the Western Region and the South of the country in securing the milk.

The ‘Connact Tribune’ reported “Kerry Co·Op are to be the strongest challengers for the volume of milk while there is also expected to be a bid from North Connacht Farmers, who have not ruled out the possibility of making an offer”.

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Some divisions on the issue existed in the west where there was less than a united support for the sale of the valuable milk pool.

and its potential effect on the development of processing facilities and provision of employment in the west. Local farmers recall “there were many very heated meetings because there was strong opposition within the area against the milk leaving the west where many of the farmers felt it should be retained and processed”.

“There were quite a lot of the farmers who wanted the milk retained in Connacht,but some of the bigger farmers in the region were of the view that when they got up in the morning they did not look north, they looked south, and they were concerned to get the best return. The higher milk prices in the south was a constant attraction to them.

Many of the producers were unhappy that independent audits on the milk prices being paid by co-ops were revealing that western farmers were being paid milk prices at the lower end of the national scale.

“In the end Golden Vale at Charleville had some interest and Kerry Co-Op because they already had a milk bottling plant at Galway and it would have suited them in that way” he remembered.

The challenge for the co-op was to market supplies in the most advantageous manner to maximise return, which would be reflected in the return to producers.

However, Nenagh Co-Op, with which Mid West was already doing some business, did emerge as a strong contender. It was confirmed by Mid West that there were also two other societies “from outside of the area” interested.

There wasn’t unanimity that the movement of milk out of the region would serve the intended purpose. Rather the concern of some farmers was that it would further weaken the position of the co-ops on milk price.

The marketing of the skim milk was not without it share of controversy. There was resentment within the western region to any milk supply moving out of the region

NCF held a 45% share in Shannonside Co-Op. The balance was shared equally between Mid West Co-Op and Kiltoghert Co-Op. The 21 member board structure was shared equally between the three societies. A meeting of the board of Mid West Co-Op on June 26, 1994 decided to accept the offer by Nenagh Co-Op to purchase some of its skim milk. Nenagh Co-Op had capacity to handle additional milk supplies after losing some milk supplies to Food Industries Ltd who purchased Westmeath Co-Op.

The ‘Farming Independent’ reveals that decision time has come for the Mid West milk. 350


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The last Board of Mid West Co-Op which served up to the merger with Nenagh Co-Op in 2001 James Coughlan, John Burke, Patrick Hannon, John J. Shaughnessy, Brendan Lynskey, Michael Ward, Seamus Finn, John Mannion, Michael Moran, Sean Kelly, Christy O’Connor, Sean Monahan, Front row left to right: Gerard Rigney, Martin Callanan, Kieran Egan, Eamonn O’Connor, Thomas Colleran, Gerard Hoade, Thomas Keenan, Francis Tuohy, Michael Casserley. Missing from the picture was Michael Flaherty, Sean Ryan and Noel Flynn

In fact the venture into casein by Nenagh to facilitate the anticipated supply of milk from Westmeath Co-Op was a blessing in disguise. Nenagh entered the casein market at least cost and had the money to pay for the investment.

and it marks the first direct sale by the society outside the Shannonside structure. “Mid-West were also hoping to sell a similar amount to Waterford Foods in Virginia, beginning last week, but it appears that potential arrangements were not fully tied down and that this deal has collapsed.

The additional capacity provided flexibility in its product range and the facility to maximise casein production in ther second half of the year at a time of optimism in return for that product. It opened up avenues of development in whey, and whey by products which have developed into very profitable lines for Arrabawn Co-Op.

“The Midwest board met on Wednesday last week and decided not to cut the May milk price but to tender out part of their 18 million gallon milk pool instead. A day earlier their NCF neighbours had decided to cut the May price by 3p per gallon, having held the price for March and April.

The Irish Farmer’s Journal reported “Mid·West Co-op is to sell some of its skim to Nenagh. The society has failed, however, to attract interest from the major players like Waterford, Kerry and Golden Vale, with whom it had been involved in talks. The amount involved in the Nenagh deal is understood to be between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons a day

“lt is understood that some members of the Mid-West board were hoping that they would be in a position to sell off much more of their milk to purchasers outside the West but it did not materialise. Tipperary Co-Op purchased skim for a period but did not have processing 351


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to suppliers of other Western co-ops since the switch of sales from Shannonside to Nenagh and Tipperary co·ops. “My only regret is that we didn’t make the move sooner to avoid losses of up to £1m a year to our suppliers in the West of Ireland”. The agreement was for Mid West Co-op to supply three loads of skim milk per day to Nenagh for the 1994 season. The following year the society supplied 10m gallons and in 1996 it increased it to 14.2m gallons.

The ‘Irish Farmer’s Journal’ confirms the destiny of the Mid West mlk.

capacity to expand in this area. Both NCF and Kiltoghert, Mid West partners in Shannonside were anxious to keep the western milk pool of 70 million gallons together”.

The relationship continued to develop between the two societies each perceiving benefit for their operations and the price paid to suppliers.

As Padraig Raftery was about to leave office as chairman on completion of three years, the Irish Farmer’s Journal reported - “Padraig has been one of the most controversial of Mid-West chairmen. It was during his stewardship that Mid West skim was moved from Shannonside to Nenagh and Tipperary and it is clear from his reports to shareholders for next Monday’s meeting that he has no regrets about that decision.

In 1998 both societies were interested in initiating more indept discussions on their future relationship. The following year an agreement was made for the supply by Mid West of all skim milk and buttermilk to Nenagh for a three year period. Closer working relationships continued to develop between the two societies and by the end of the decade merger discussions were under way. In 2000 these discussions were progressed by a Steering Committee under the chairmanship of John Tyrrell, Director John Tyrrell, Director General, ICOS. General, ICOS.

“Far from leading to the destruction of the milk industry in the West of Ireland the move has increased milk prices for everyone”. The Connacht Tribune reported “The controversial move by Mid-West Co·Op to move its skim milk sales out of Shannonside and into Tipperary has meant a significant increase in milk prices to farmers in the West and should have been made a lot sooner, it was claimed this week. “Mid-West Chairman Padraig Raftery told shareholders at their AGM that they now pay farmers 9p to 12p above the price paid 352


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The newly appointed Board of Arrabawn, following the merger of Nenagh Co-Op and Mid West Co-Op in 2001 (seated) John Donnelly, Michael Flaherty, Ger Rigney, Michael Moran, Martin Callanan, Brendan Lynsky, Sean Ryan, Patrick McLoughlin, Jimmy Murphy, Chief Executive, Liam Walsh, Eamon Butler, and Thomas Colleran. (standing) William Harty, Michael Leamy, Michael Moloney, Paddy Brennan, Jerry Hoade, Tony Doorley, Michael Kennedy, John Woods, Seamus Ryan, Michael Darcy and Paddy Meskell.

Following professional valuations a ratio for merger of 31.5% and 68.5% for Mid West Farmers Co-op Society and Nenagh Co-Operative Society Ltd respectively was mutually agreed.

Shareholder approval for the merger was confirmed at meetings of each society held on January 3, 2001. “Nenagh had started off on a small scale with getting milk from the Mid West and then it grew. With the movement of milk to Nenagh, there was some annoyance in the north side of the area and Shannonside were not happy, which eventually led to a break up of the relationship.

By the end of 2000 Special General Meetings of shareholders of both societies had voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger. The 309 shareholders who attended the Mid West meeting voted 83.8% in favour and simultaneously, 652 members who attended the Nenagh meeting voted 97.4% in favour.

“We were also selling some milk to Tipperary and there was a balancing of the price that we were getting from Nenagh. The price we were getting from Nenagh was better than we had been getting. “The fact that Nenagh Co-Op was already getting a considerable amount of milk from the Mid West and that they also operated a branch of their own in Killimor in East Galway since 1965 was to the benefit of Nenagh when it came to the merger talks.

Anna Kirby, Bernard Liston, Michael Darcy, Brendan Lynsky, and John Donnelly, at a meeting of Arrabawn Co-Op. 353


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The negotiations were described as “very tough”. It was very difficult for the negotiating team on behalf of Nenagh to concede to the demands from the Mid West farmers. Breaking point in the talks was reached a number of times before the merger agreement concluded. “They knew that they would have to leave Shannoside eventually and that helped with the negotiations with Nenagh. It was generally perceived that Padraig Raftery was not in favour of joining NCF and that was his preference was for Nenagh.

L. Gleeson, T. Young, J. Woods, P. Ryan, P. Meskell, J. Bolton, S. Ryan, M.Coffey, M. Ryan, G. Bourke, T. Ryan, T. Storan, T. Colleran, B. Lynskey, J. Burke, M. Callanan, M. Casserley, J. Coughlan, K. Egan, S. Finn, M. Flaherty, P. Hannon, G.Hoade, T. Keenan, S. Kelly, J. Mannion, M. Moran, C. O’Connor, E. O’Connor, G. Rigney, J.J. The reign ends for one of the most Shaughnessy, F. Tuohy, influential Chairmen of the Mid S. Ryan, S. Monaghan, West Co-Op as Padraig Raftery N. Flynn, M. Ward, and J. completes his term of office. Murphy, Acting Secretary.

“I am not so sure that he had anything against joining NCF, but he was a man that wanted to show the strength of the Mid West in the negotiations.”

While some of those who changed from the more traditional farm enterprises in the west to dairy farming have developed within the sector many have also exited. The belief is that the disciplines of dairy farming and an aging farm ownership as has occurred throughout the country has taken its toll of the sector and the more traditional livestock and some tillage culture probably ran deeper in the veins of the land owners in the region than elsewhere.

The first meeting of the newly formed Arrabawn Co-operative Society Ltd was held at the Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna on Thursday April 19, 2001. The attendance at the first board meeting were Messrs R. Tobin, P. McLoughlin, J. Donnelly, T. O’Brien, P. Dunlea, J. Fletcher, G, Kennedy, M. Kennedy, M. Darcy, G. Darcy, M. Moloney, L. Walsh, J. Powell, M. Quigley, F. Ryan. W. Harty, M. Egan, M. Malone, S.Dagg, P. Coffey, D. Grace, E. Butler, D. O’Meara, J. Armitage, S. Fahy, T. O’Meara, T. Doorley,

For those who remained the regular income for most months of the year and greater security of income from dairy farming has made a big contribution to the improvement in the quality of life.

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The Read Cup, the ‘Blue Riband’ of buttermaking, which was awarded to Nenagh Co-Op Creamery four times, 1979, 1983, 1989 and 1999, an unique distinction of recognition for the quality of butter produced by the society. 356


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THE MEN WHOSE LEADERSHIP GUIDED THE SOCIETY THROUGH THE DECADES

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he society has been well served by ten men who held the position of chairman from its founding in 1913 to its centenary in 2013 presiding over difficult as well as jubilant times for the co-op which continued to develop and expand both in scale of throughput and in the territory which the society served.

Ger Boland was in the chair for two decades from 1952, when Dick Tobin was elected and continued in office for the next 29 years. When he retired in 2001 the society had grown enormously with the merging of several of the smaller creameries in North Tipperary and East Clare and culminating with the merging of Nenagh Co-Op Creamery and Mid West Co-Op to form the new society, Arrabawn Co-Op in the Spring of 2001, of which he became the first chairman for a three month period before his retirement.

The founding chairman, Thomas O’Brien, served from 1913 to 1921, a period during which the society established its primary roots. He was succeeded by William Walsh who had the second longest term of office extending from 1921 to 1947 and was brother of Edward Michael Walsh who is justly credited with laying the foundation for the establishment of the creamery of which he was the first secretary.

Thomas Colleran became the first holder of the office of chairman from West of the Shannon when he was elected in 2001. In 2003 he was succeeded by Pat McLoughlin, who went on to become President of ICOS. Michael Flaherty was elected in 2008 for a three year period and succeeded by Pat Meskell, who became the first Co Clare holder of the office when he was elected in 2011.

William Gleeson served for a three year period from 1947 to 1950, when the chair passed on to Michael Walsh, son of the former holder of the office, William Walsh for the following two years.

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Thomas O’Brien (1913-1921)

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homas O’Brien, the founding chairman of the Society was an influential person in the community. He was a substantial farmer and member of the Board of Guardians for nearly forty years. Thomas was well known in the area and being a friend of Edward Michael Walsh his election as the first chairman of the society did not come as a surprise. Farming at Fawnlough, close to the town of Nenagh he would have been a positive influence in bringing urban and rural interests together in the formation of the Co-op. He was an active member of various public bodies, including the Committee of Management of the Co. Insurance Society, School Attendance Committee.

the meeting on February 24, 1913 to formalise the structure for the new society. A possible site had been discussed informally and two local banks had been contacted in advance of the meeting.

In difficult times for farmers, he was among a group of farmers in North Tipperary to take a prominent part in the work of Davitt’s Irish Land League in the struggle by farmers for the right of ownership to the land, and was also active in the United Irish League. He served on the committee of North Tipperary Agricultural Show held annually at Nenagh.

It is on record that the meeting was very businesslike and the approach positive. Twelve members were elected to the committee under Thomas O’Brien as Chairman. He continued as Chairman until 1921 and died in service in March 1921, following a period of failing health. His grandson, Dick Tobin of Bawn was later to become the longest serving chairman of Nenagh Co-Op.

Thomas was the agreed chairman for the meeting of proactive farmers who attended 359


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William Walsh (1921-1947)

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illiam Walsh, Tyone, Nenagh was co-opted to the committee in 1916, to fill the vacancy created by his brother, Edward Michael Walsh, the founding and first secretary who had retired. William was well known in the area as a farmer at Tyone, where he had purchased the farm from his brother, Ned. Like his brother, he took an active part in both the agricultural and political life of the area. He was appointed a Peace Commissioner on the foundation of the state in 1923 and served on North Tipperary County Council, Nenagh Urban Council and the Health Board.

Ryan, and J McCarthy which resulted in a tie at seven votes each. William Walsh, as chairman, was called on for his casting vote, which he gave in favour of Tom Ryan.

In 1921 he became the second holder of the chairmanship of the creamery, a position to which he was continuously re-elected until he retired in 1947. One of his last actions as chairman was a decisive role in the appointment of Tom Ryan as manager to succeed the late J J Ryan who died in early 1947.

His period of leadership of the Co-Op was a successful one in the development of the creamery. He was known as a man with a cheerful and affable manner and recognised among his peers for his sharp intellect and his ability to work with his colleagues among the many traits of character which he possessed.

The 32 applications for the position of manager which had been received narrowed down to a head to head vote of the committee members between Tom

He died on February 14, 1948 after a brief illness.

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William Gleeson (1947 -1950)

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illiam Gleeson was appointed Chairman in April 1947. He served for a period of three years. A dairy farmer at Smithfield, close to the town of Nenagh, his family were involved for many years in the supply of milk for consumption to families in the town, who collected the milk daily from the farm, which was convenient for many of them because of the location of the farm so close to the town. The family links went back to the founding of Nenagh Creamery. His father, William, was one of the farmers who attended the first meeting at the Town Hall, Nenagh to discuss the formation of the society in 1913 and he became a member of the first committee, following the founding of the society some months later.

William, who was elected chairman on April 10, 1947. A notable issue raised during his period of office was for the co-op to consider supplying milk to the public for the first time. The IAOS provided an outline of the projected costs and after consideration of the IAOS document the matter was deferred for further consideration.

He continued to serve on the committee until he was succeeded by his son,

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Michael Walsh (1950-1952)

E

lected to the committee in 1947, Michael Walsh became the third in a continuous family link to serve on the committee from the founding of the society. He was elected on the resignation of his father, William Walsh, who had just completed 31 years committee membership of which he had served as chairman for 27 years. He was the only child of William and Mary Anne Walsh. Michael, who had inherited the family farm at Tyone from his father in 1937, was elected chairman of the developing society in 1950 and served in the position for two years. His tenure marked the introduction of expenses to be paid to committee members for the first time. It was agreed by the committee in December 1951 that members be reimbursed for attendance at meetings at the rate of ÂŁ1. 10s. 0d per meeting.

During his term of office the deferred issue of providing liquid milk to the public was again considered. It was decided to proceed with the erection of a liquid milk plant which was opened in 1955 and became the foundation of the significant business for the co-op which exists to-day.

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Gerard Boland (1952-1972)

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he appointment of Gerard Boland as chairman coincided with a period of transition within the dairy industry from the old traditional creameries with engine and pulley systems to the modernised electrically powered system of operation. Gerard oversaw the installation of pasteurisation systems in all premises to heat treat skim milk prior to returning it to the milk suppliers. It also marked the change to the use of stainless steel with “in place� cleaning systems and facilitated the expansion of processing facilities on a greater scale. Ger distinguished himself during this period as a progressive chairman and leader for the society. He encouraged his committee to support the establishment of new branches at Borrisokane, Killimor,

and Birr. Establishing a liquid milk plant in 1955 to supply bottled milk to the region was a very significant development for the society.



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Richard Tobin (1972-2001)

F

rom a family background steeped in the best traditions of co-operatives, Dick Tobin, as he was well known to the farmers in the area, was a dairy farmer at Bawn, Nenagh. He was a grandson of Thomas O’Brien, a founding member of Nenagh Co-op in 1913 and first chairman of the society serving the period from its founding to 1921. He followed in the footsteps of his grand father, Thomas O’Brien who was the founding chairman of the society in 1913, and served for the first eight years. Richard Tobin was co-opted on to the committee in July 1956. Dick Tobin was largely regarded as a ‘man of his fellow farmers’, who was personally known to the majority of them. A most articulate and impartial chairman, his preparation for meetings was always thorough and his diplomacy was a valuable asset in handling difficult or controversial issues.

first chairman of the new society Arrabawn Co-op, before retiring later in 2001 having completed 29 years in the chair, to become the longest serving chairman in the history of the society. He also had the honour of being the first chairman of the enlarged society to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather who was the founding chairman of the original co-op in 1913.

A survey carried out by the Irish Farmer’s Journal in 1995 identified him as the best known co-op chairman in the country.

In 2006 he received the Plunkett Award in recognition of his contribution to the co-operative movement.

On the merger of Nenagh Co-op and Mid West Co-op in 2001 he was elected the

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Thomas Colleran (2001 - 2003)

W

hen Thomas Colleran was elected chairman of Arrabawn Co-op in June 2001 he became the first from West of the Shannon to fill the position. His involvement with the co-operative creamery industry went back to the 1960’s. He was,actively involved in the early years of Macra na Feirme and the National Farmers Association (NFA) in the county. He took part in the Farmer’s Rights Campaign in the mid sixties and was one of the farmers manning the blockade on the Bridge of Athlone. Developing dairy farming on his family holding at Williamsgrove, Moylough he welcomed the establishment of the milk separating stations in the area in the early sixties and became one of the first suppliers to the branch creamery (separating station) at Clonbern.

outside processors, in the milk supply. Although he felt that the merger with Nenagh Co-op was the best long term option for milk producers in the region, he was aware that the merger did not have the support of all the producers.

In the early 1970’s he became a member of the Advisory Committee of Clonbern Creamery. In 1989 he was elected to the board of Mid West Co-op of which his cousin, Ger Colleran was actively involved and served as secretary of for several years.

“Many of our farmers felt that the milk supply should be retained in the west. North Connaught Farmers Co-Op (NCF) were very anxious to get the supply. That was why we had to negotiate terms with Nenagh that would benefit our farmers. The negotiations were difficult, but in the end the deal was supported by a very large majority of the farmers”, he recalled.

A member of the negotiating team on the merging of Mid West Co-op and Nenagh Co-op, he recalls the immense interest which there was at that time, from both within the West of Ireland and from

A conditions of the merger was that the liquid milk plant be located at Kilconnell to provide some local employment. However the plant had been offered by Nenagh in a package discussed in 1999.

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Patrick McLoughlin (2003 - 2008)

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atrick McLoughlin from Garrykennedy, Portroe, Nenagh was elected Chairman in 2003 to succeed Thomas Colleran. Patrick succeeded his father also Patrick (but known to all as Padna) representing the Duharra Branch on the Nenagh Committee and continues to serve as a board member at the printing of this history. Patrick’s term as Chairman was a challenging period as a successor CEO for Jimmy Murphy had to be selected and together with the Vice Chairmen of the time Brendan Lynskey and Eamonn Butler they made up the selection Sub Committee.

Patrick was elected to represent Arrabawn on the ICOS Board and subsequently in 2008 was elected President of ICOS a position he held until 2012. During his time as President of ICOS he represented Ireland on COGECA where he was elected Vice President with special remit for Dairy and Livestock policy, all the while being an active dairy farmer he regularly attended meetings of this group in Brussels.

During his term as Chairman the acquisition of the Greenvale animal feed business in Thurles was completed, this was a complimentary business to the existing DOC Mill in Limerick as DOC only produced cubed ration and Greenvale produced coarse ration.

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Michael Flaherty (2008 - 2011)

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ichael Flaherty from Cloonagh near Miltown in Galway was elected Chairman in 2008 and was re-elected in 2009 and 2010 before standing down in 2011 having served three years. Michael had served on the board of Mid West prior to the merger and was involved in the merger talks. A progressive dairy farmer he was a popular Chairman and during his term oversaw the acquisition of the Dawn Galway Liquid milk business from Kerry Plc. This venture was a big step for the Society as it doubled the volume of liquid milk processed at the Kilconnell plant and gave the Society more strength in the market place. As well as buying the business and integrating it into the existing operation a large number of milk producers joined the Society with this venture. Michael continues to serve as a Board Member at the printing of this history.



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Patrick Meskell was elected Chairman in 2011

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atrick Meskell was elected Chairman in 2011 to succeed Michael Flaherty. A dairy farmer from Clonlara, Co Clare, Patrick is the first holder of the office of Chairman of the society to come from the Banner county. He took over the chair at both a historical and exciting time in its history, to preside over the reaching of the centenary of the founding in 1913, and the challenge of developing the society facilities to meet the needs of its suppliers and take advantage of the opportunities which the abolition of the EU milk quota regime on April 1, 2015 will offer for further growth.

expectations are that milk supply will increase by around 40% within a short time span after April 1, 2015, and that by that time the society will have invested up to â‚Ź20m in additional processing facilities over a short period of years to be in readiness to handle and capitalise on the increased production at farm level.

From taking up the office in 2011, he has been presiding over (a) the assessment by the society of the likely increase in milk production within the area post quotas, and (b) the planning of investment in processing capacity to match the indicated increased volume of milk.

His style of sound leadership is a continuation of the capabilities and prudent guidance which the society has been fortunate in benefiting from his predecessors over the decades.

Into his third year in the position, as the society celebrates its centenary, the

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The specially commissioned sculptor of the ‘strong’ farmer guiding the plough on the M7 within the shadow of Arrabawn Co-op epitomises the strong tradition of farming in the area where tillage has been replaced on many farms by dairy farming. 370


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THE TOBIN FAMILY LINKS

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hen Richard Tobin handed over the chairmanship of Arrabawn Co-op in June 2001 the passing on of the baton to his successor marked a distinctive milestone in the history of the society dating back to its founding in 1913 .

1913

a co-operative society and building of a creamery. On the election of a committee of twelve to proceed with their plans, he was one of the first appointed and his position as the first chairman of the newly formed Nenagh Co-Operative Creamery Ltd was ratified.

Dick, as he was affectionately known to his colleague farmers, was a successful dairy farmer at Bawn, on the outskirts of the town of Nenagh. He was steeped in the tradition of dairy co-operatives to which he unselfishly gave very generously of his time for more than four decades following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Thomas O’Brien. Thomas O’Brien, was actively involved in the establishment of the creamery at Nenagh from the beginning in 1913. He attended one of the earliest meetings which was held on February 24, 1913 and was the agreed chairman for the meeting which was attended by C.C. Riddall, Regional Organiser for the IAOS who was present to provide guidance for the farmers on the procedures to be followed on the formation of

TO

During the following months he presided over the securing of a site and the building of the original creamery. He continued to lead the fledgling society through its formative years to a successfully established

Most Rev Dr Michael Harty, Bishop of Killaloe, Dick Tobin, Chairman and Mark Clinton, TD., Minister for Agriculture at the opening of the new plant at Nenagh in 1975. 371


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dairy co-op, and continued to serve as Chairman of the society until he retired from the position in 1921.

with the shareholders of the local co-ops on amalgamations. His manner and the way in which he approached each of the merger discussions, proved a key ingredient to ensure that the process went very smoothly to completion in most areas.

His grandson, Richard Tobin was born in 1924 and from the earliest years on the family farm at Bawn he grew up in the culture of the co-operative movement.

At the beginning of the 21st century he was directly involved in one of the greatest challenges, when the society became involved in negotiations in regard to the merger of the Mid West Farmers Co-op based in Connaught with Nenagh Co-Op Creamery Ltd. Good relations had already been established between the two societies through the agreement for the purchase by Nenagh Co-op of most of the Mid West Co-op skim milk for further processing at Nenagh.

He was elected to the committee in 1956 and was elected Chairman of Nenagh Co-op in 1972. During the following years he oversaw the major expansion of the society, with the amalgamation of several of the smaller branch creameries in the region with the co-op, marking a major milestone in its development. The respect which he had established among farmers throughout the region, and the confidence which they placed in his leadership, proved fundamental to the successful negotiations

During the later years of the 1990’s, the ‘battle’ for milk by processing centres intensified with merger talks gathering momentum. Dairy co-operatives without their own processing facilities, or immediate plans to create further processing operations, became a target for the societies already involved in processing. From his long experience in the industry outside of the farm, Dick was acutely aware that rarely would a society in search of additional milk supply get a second opportunity to secure the supply of a merging co-op.

Dick Tobin at the presentation of the Read Cup to the society for butter with buttermakers, Cyril Greally and Kevin McSharry. 372

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recognised the value of the enhanced milk pool. Reconciling the aspirations of the two co-ops was a very challenging undertaking. The Mid West Co-op was west of the Shannon. There was a considerable degree of determination among some farmers that the milk supply in the West should be retained and processed in the west. The Mid West Co-op had links with North Connaught Farmers Co-op (N.C.F.). As well as N.C.F. there were other outside interests in acquiring the Mid West Co-op milk supply. Nenagh already had a significant presence in East Galway. Dick regarded the negotiations as “very tough” but he was committed to put in place an agreement that would be fair to each party. There were gains and losses for each co-op.

Dick Tobin receiving the Read Cup for buttermaking from Joe Walsh, TD., Minister for Agriculture in 1999, the fourth time that he had the honour of receiving the award on behalf of Nenagh Co-Op Creamery during his reign as chairman of the society. He had previously received it in 1979, 1983,

He recalled “The milk was important and 1989. but the total package was important also. We were also aware of some opposition to us. Nenagh Co-op was seen by some of in 2001, because it provided a new the farmers supplying the Mid West Co-op well rounded entity for the future with as outside the western fold even though it manufacturing centred at Nenagh and had been deeply embedded in much of East an enlarged liquid plant development at Galway for more than forty years. The Kilconnell. interest that there was in the Mid West Co-op supply made it all the tougher and the It involved a name change for the society committee of Mid West Co-op were is a good with the merged society to be known as position to strike a hard deal, because of the Arrabawn Co-op Society Ltd. demand which there was for the milk”. At the first meeting of the new board held He considered it as one of his finest hours at the Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna of involvement with Nenagh Co-op when on Thursday April 19, 2001 he had the the merger was successfully completed honour of being unanimously elected the 373


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first chairman of Arrabawn Co-op Society Ltd. At a meeting at the Board held at the Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna on Wednesday July 4, 2001 having completed a record 29 years as chairman - the longest serving in the history of the society - he retired.

standards for himself. While he worked at all times to achieve consensus, he was not afraid to exercise control with a sense of understanding and fair play”. He had the distinction that his grandfather, Thomas O’Brien having been the first chairman of Nenagh Co-op Creamery in 1913, he was the first chairman of a new era with the formation of Arrabawn Co-op.

In a tribute to him, James Murphy, Secretary said “His integrity came through in all his dealings and he set the highest

He was presented with the Plunkett Award in 2006 by ICOS in recognition of his enormous contribution to the development of the co-operative movement.

Dick Tobin, with his wife, Bernie, receiving the Plunkett Award for his contribution to the Co-Operative Movement from Padraig Gibbons, President, ICOS.

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His retirement brought to an end the strong link with the society which had extended over a period of 88 years from the founding of the society.


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THE FATHER AND SON SKEHAN LEADERSHIP

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father and son hold the unique record of combined service as chairmen of Bridgetown Co-op, Co Clare for most of the almost four decades for which the society was in existence as an independent society.

IAOS supplied information leaflets on the procedures for the formation of a co-op. The society was registered on November 11, 1911 Two years later he was also one of the small number who engaged in the initial house to house canvass to solicit support for the founding of a co-op creamery. The first day on the trail 11 farmers agreed to support the project and one refused.

Bartholomew Skehan and his son Patrick were also unique in that between them they shared both the position of chairman at the building and opening of the creamery and the negotiations which led to the merger with Nenagh Co-op.

But he was not deterred by the challenge and Bridgetown Co-operative Creamery Ltd was registered on February 24, 1913.

He farmed at Fahy, about a mile from the rural village of Bridgetown, on the Broadford side of the village. When the farmers in the area considered the formation of a co-op to supply farm inputs in 1911, Bartholomew Shehan was one of the four local farmers to whom the

Bartholomew Skehan who was the founding chairman of the co-op at Bridgetown. 375

After William Walsh was Chairman for a very short period as building of the creamery got under way, Bartholomew Skehan was chairman for the official opening of the creamery and continued to serve in the


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leadership role at the co-op for almost a quarter of a century.

were at stake. He sacrificed his time readily and his mind was ever devoted to securing the success of the undertaking. His passing leaves a void it will be hard to fill. His fine person and ability rendered him dear to all. We individually and collectively wish to express our sorrow at the parting in death of one we all held so dear”, he said.

He signed the minutes for the last time on August 14, 1937, and died unexpectedly a few days later. Expressing sympathy to his wife and family, John Woulfe, vice-chairman paid tribute to his contribution to the society.

John Woulfe, vice-chairman took over temporarily. William Walsh, Lackereigh, O’Brien’s Bridge was subsequently elected to the office.

“Ever since the establishment of the society he occupied the position with distinction and impartiality. In the early years during times of stress and difficulty when competition with a powerful competitive organisation existed it fell to his lot to bear the brunt of the battle and unflinchingly he faced many unpleasant tasks because the interests of the creamery

In 1947, the Skehan family was to provide another leader for the society when Patrick Skehan, who was better known as ‘Brud’ son of their former and late chairman, Bartholomew Skehan was elected chairman and served the remaining 27 years before merger with Nenagh Co-op in March 1974. “We were only struggling at that time. The machinery at the creamery was becoming obsolete and in need of being replaced. The store trade was only struggling. I felt that amalgamation was the right way to go at that time”, he said recalling the decision. Richard Tobin, Chairman, Nenagh Co-op remembered the negotiations. “We met members of the committee with the chairman in the office at Bridgetown and within a couple of hours they had agreed to merge the society. The discussions went very smoothly”, he said.

Patrick ‘Brud’ Skehan who was the last chairman



of the Bridgetown Co-Op Creamery following in the footsteps of his father.

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THE LEGACY

OF THE

M

aintaining a continuous link with the committee of Nenagh Co-Op is the unique record of the Walsh family of Tyone, Nenagh.

WALSH FAMILY committee where he served as the first Secretary of the society from 1913 until he resigned from the position in 1916. His brother, William, who had purchased the farm at Tyone from Ned for £1,325, prior to which he had lived at Barrack Street, Nenagh, was co-opted to the vacated seat on the committee of the fledging co-op and continued to be re-elected for

But the legacy of the family has truly been the foresight and leadership of Edward Michael Walsh in the founding of the creamery in 1913. Born at Tyone in 1859, Ned as he was generally known was one of three sons of Liam Walsh and his wife, Margaret. As well as his involvement in the family farm at Tyone and engaging in some agricultural contracting work, he took an active part in the social, political and agricultural life beyond the farm gate from an early age. He was a member of the North Tipperary Agricultural Advisory and Technical Committee and was appointed Executive Secretary of the Committee in 1901. His brother John was County Surveyor based at Thurles where he became involved in the founding of Semple Stadium GAA Grounds, taking a leading role in the planning of the stadium before the end of the 19th Century. Having led the inaugural meetings for the founding of the creamery at Nenagh in 1913, Ned was elected to the first

Edward Michael Walsh, the accredited ‘founder’ of Nenagh Co-Op Creamery. 377


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William Walsh (on top) who continued the family link on the committee.

the following 34 years. He was elected Chairman of the society in 1921 and served in the position for 27 years, becoming the second longest serving chairman in the first 100 years of Nenagh Co-Op.

His tenure in England was to be shortlived. He died in April 1917 at a private hospital in London aged 58 years. The Nenagh Guardian reported “The melancholy news of the death of E. M. Walsh, late of Tyone, which reached Nenagh on Thursday last, caused a feeling of poignant sorrow in the heart of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. For more than 30 years he was an outstanding figure in the social, political and agricultural life in North Tipperary.

Having sold the farm, Ned with his wife, Annie, and their seven year old son, Davitt moved to rented accommodation at Tumpane’s House beside the Gas House in Tyone. Shortly afterwards he left for England where he got employment in an ammunition factory. 378


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“A skilful and practical agriculturalist, he became a keen and enthusiastic supporter and advocate of the Co-Operative Movement for the advancement of his fellow farmers in up-to-date systems for the production and marketing of the fruits of the land. The splendid and eminently successful Co-operative Creamery in Nenagh is a monument to his untiring zeal and energy, to which the establishment of this highly important industry is chiefly due. And here we express the hope and the trust that our farmers, who are reaping the benefit of his great work for them, will not prove ungrateful to his memory”

Commissioner, member of Nenagh Urban Council and the Poor Law Commission. He was succeeded on the co-op committee by his son, Michael, only child of William and his wife, Mary Anne. Michael took over the running of the family farm at Tyone in 1939. From the end of the 1800’s the family had been involved in dairy farming for the supply of milk for consumption. William had a contract to supply the Workhouse in the town and in Michael’s time the family dairy herd also supplied milk to the County Hospital at Nenagh, as well as selling milk to customers throughout the town and also periodically supplied milk under contract to the poor of the town.

The issue of the following week recorded “the remains of the late E. M. Walsh, Tyone arrived in Nenagh from London where his death took place in a private hospital. There was an exceptionally large number of people present to pay last tributes to him and the cortege which accompanied his remains to Tyone Abbey was not only of immense proportions, but was representative of the entire rural population of North Tipperary”.

Michael served as Chairman of Nenagh Creamery 1950-1952 and continued as a member of the committee until 1969.

The Walsh family link with the committee was re-instated again in 1971 when Michael’s son, Liam, was co-opted on to the committee to which he was elected the following year and served until 2007.

His wife, Annie is recorded to have said of him as she mourned his passing “he was a good farmer . . . . was highly intelligent . . . . was generous to a fault . . . . . and spent too much time and money in establishing Nenagh Co-Operative Creamery” which had got him into debt and led to the sale of the farm to his brother, William. William, continued the work of his late brother in leading the creamery for nearly three decades. He was also actively involved in the political life of North Tipperary as a Judge, Peace

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Liam Walsh (right) who continued the link as a member of the committee with Pat McLoughlin and Jimmy Murphy.

served as vice-chairman of Nenagh Creamery on a number of occasions. He also served on the committee of Nenagh Co-op Mart which was closely linked to the creamery and was one of the National Farmers Association (NFA) members who walked to Dublin during

the farmer rights campaign in the 1960’s. He was replaced on the committee by his son, Michael who has completed the remarkable family chain of continuity to the end of the first century of the society.

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THE LONG SERVICE OF TOM CLEARY

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record maker under several headings during his life long association with Nenagh Co-op was Tom Cleary, a very progressive dairy farmer at Ballycapple outside Cloughjordan in North Tipperary.

Cloughjordan Macra na Feirme, when he campaigned for Nenagh Co-op to build a branch creamery at Cloughjordan. The family had already been involved in dairy farming for several years. “We made butter at home and sold it in Nenagh every Saturday. There was great demand in the town for ‘country butter’ as they called it”, he recalls.

His earliest contact with the creamery was around 1950, two years after he was involved as a founder member of

At home on his farm with his Friesian dairy herd, Tom Cleary. 381


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The longest serving chairman in the history of the Irish Dairy Board, Tom Cleary who served for two decades. 382


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“My mother used to go to Nenagh every Saturday and Mrs O’Kennedy - mother of former TD and ex EU Commissioner, Michael O’Kennedy - had a whole lot of people around Bank Place queuing up for it. That would go on for the whole round of the year. The older people in particular loved it and we were doing quite well at it.

farmers when it arrived at Nenagh Co-op. Back on the farm the milk was being piped from a plate cooler in the dairy through the wall into the tank. Milk quality more than met the required standard and the origin of bulk milk transport in North Tipperary had been born. When Bord Bainne became a co-op in 1974, to comply with EEC regulations, the structure provided an automatic representation on the Board to the farmer organisations. The NFA decided to nominate T J Maher for the association seat and encouraged Tom Cleary to contest election for a seat which resulted in his election.

“It was going to be a problem if we were to expand more in dairying and the emphasis at that time was on expansion and more development of the dairy industry. When we failed to get support from Nenagh for a branch creamery we employed a man with a lorry to deliver the milk to Nenagh. “There was nine or ten of us in it at the beginning and he used a small pick up truck but as other people got involved he got a bigger one and that was how it developed”, he said.

“By the next election to the board in 1978, a lot of the smaller creameries had amalgamated, resulting in a smaller electorate, and with the support of most of the co-op votes in the region, as well as Nenagh Co-op, I retained the seat and was never contested again”, he said.

As the herd increased and a greater number of milk churns was required, the washing of the multiple churns to meet increasing hygienic standards became too labour intensive. It was then that Tom got the idea of using a single large container when discussing the problem with some colleagues in Co Limerick. Initially interest in the idea at Nenagh Co-op was muted, but Assistant Manager, Jimmy Murphy thought “it is not a bad idea at all”. He introduced Tom to IAWS at Limerick, suppliers of stainless steel tanks to the dairy industry, who offered to provide a ‘bulk’ milk tank on trial for a few months. A four wheel trailer was specially made to carry the tank the first of its kind in the area, which created a lot of curiosity among

Tom Cleary with Jimmy O’Keeffe, ICMSA, who was his predecessor as chairman of the Irish Dairy Board. 383


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Tom went on to serve a record 28 years on the Irish Dairy Board, of which he was chairman for a continuous period of 20 years serving the longest ever term as chairman. He succeeded Jimmy O’Keeffe (Cork) former President of ICMSA. The Dairy Board became pivotal to the marketing of the produce of the co-ops, providing a stable market, early payment and good return.

Dr Tony O’Reilly with Tom Cleary and his wife, Beatrice.

“A lot of the smaller dairy co-ops would not have survived without the assistance of the Dairy Board, which paid the co-op’s once the product was invoiced providing ready finance

to the small societies. The whole operation went very well”, he said. Tom’s advice was frequently sought by the Board of Nenagh Co-op, who then believed that he should be a member of the board. He was co-opted on to the Board of the Co-op in June 1988, which the rules provided for, attending his first meeting as a member of the Board on June 24, and went on to serve for many years, without having to contest an election, which was unique in itself. He was the 2003 recipient of the Plunkett Award by ICOS in recognition of his service to the co-operative movement.

Tom Cleary and his wife, Beatrice, attending a social function of Nenagh Co-Op Creamery.

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The village of Toor in North Tipperary, the birthplace of Dr Henry Kennedy who served the co-operative movement for almost four decades. 386


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THE ‘MOUNTAINY MAN’ WHO HAD A DISTINCTIVE INFLUENCE HELPING FARMERS

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he tiny village of Toor lies in the shadow of Keeper Hill at the northern end of the parish of Newport in North Tipperary. A stone throw from the village, Henry Kennedy was born to John Kennedy and his wife, Julia (nee Ryan) in 1888. He was one of a family of eight children on the small family farm in the townland of Glencrow.

position in 1926. He continued in office until 1963. Throughout his successful academic and executive life he retained a particularly strong affinity to his birthplace and was described as a ‘Tipperary man true and true’ by those who knew him. In 1927 he was appointed a non executive director of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) on its formation. Planning was already in progress for the construction of the power generating station on the Shannon at Ardnacrusha (Co Clare) close to Limerick City which was completed shortly before the end of the decade.

From an early age Henry showed that he was blessed with a scholarly intellect and having distinguished himself at college he went on to become one of the most influential administrators in the co-operative movement in the country through his leadership of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS) in which he followed in the immediate footsteps of the founders of the organisation. He became the longest ever serving chief executive of IAOS after succeeding R. A. Anderson, a founder member and the first holder of the office, when he took up the

R A Anderson who was succeeded in the IAOS by Dr Henry Kennedy. 387

Work was very scarce at the time. Many people from the Newport area welcomed the opportunity to work on the


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The village of Newport in the early 1930’s show that it was one of the early locations to have electicity from the ESB network.

construction at Ardnacrusha which was about 15 miles away. Several of them walked from their homes to Ardnacrusha each morning and home again in the evening. Those who were fortunate enough to have a bicycle to make the journey were few.

Construction of the network necessary to bring the power supply to industry, business and homes across the country was slow in the early years. By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, a total of 170,000 consumers had been connected. They were mainly in the cities and larger towns. The ESB power network was not extended to rural areas until the late 1940’s and 1950’s under the Government subsidised Rural Electrification Scheme.

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was established as the country’s first statesponsored body,with the aim of operating, managing and maintaining the Shannon Scheme and distributing and selling its output on a national scale. It also got the task, which the government regarded as being of key importance, of promoting and encouraging the purchase and use of electricity and of controlling, co-ordinating and improving its supply, distribution and sale.

However, shortly after the completion of the new power generating station at Ardnacrusha, arrangements were made to link the supply to the larger areas of population in the country. The construction of a power line from Ardnacrusha to Dublin was commenced in the early days of the 1930’s and one of the 388


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first rural villages of its scale to receive the ESB power supply was Newport, which set it unique among its peers.

about what was involved in replacing the light bulb, and fearful of risks associated, they summoned the assistance of a local man, John Ryan, who was employed by the ESB as a meter reader to replace the light bulb.

The accompanying photograph circa 1932 shows the power line through the main street of the village. The supply would also have served to power Newport Co-Operative c