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75 Years Of Pottery In Carrigaline

Writes Leo McMahon

In conjunction with the unveiling of the commemorative sculpture on Culture Night, September 17th, Liam O’Connor, on behalf of Carrigaline Tidy Towns organising committee, compiled the following for a special free booklet distributed on the night.

Carrigaline Pottery was founded in 1928 by Hodder Walworth Blacker-Roberts of Mount Rivers, Carrigaline and L.T. Keeling, Stoke-on-Trent, England. Its products bear the mark ‘Carrigaline Pottery’ or ‘Carrig Ware’. For much of the 20th century, the pottery was the main source of employment in Carrigaline.

Production started circa May 1928 with six employees. The machinery consisted of a potter’s wheel, a lathe, a clay press and a small oven. Initially, three sizes of flowerpots were manufactured and production reached a maximum of three dozen per hour. As a result of the successful manufacture of a variety of products, a company was formed on July 24th, 1928.

An aerial view of the extensive Carrigaline Pottery site in 1955 with the 'new' County Council houses along Main Street, Cork Road and Old Waterpark in the foreground.

The First Extension

The years 1931-32 were busy and with funds available, it was decided to extend the plant, improve the machinery and build a new bottle kiln. The extension was completed in 1932, a significant year for the pottery. The Eucharistic Congress that year provided the pottery with an opportunity to manufacture commemorative souvenirs, an activity that proved to be its mainstay for many years afterwards.

The New Pottery Building

To meet the increasing demand, the board of directors decided on a large extension with the aim of building a new pottery complete with a continuous oven, new machinery and a new range of products, including tiles. By mid 1936, the new 30 metres high pottery chimney dominated the skyline. It was necessary to import china clay from England as the local clay was not suited to some aspects of the new line of products like tableware, hot water bottles, jugs, coffee sets, nursery ware and tiles.

White Clay

The importing of clay from England via Cork was not convenient due to the closure of the railway. It was decided that the most economical way would be by schooner direct to the old pier at Carrigaline. In August 1936, the schooner M.V. Two Sisters sailed from North Devon with the first cargo of 120 tons of clay. The ship sailed up the river to Carrigaline on the evening tide and received a warm welcome from a large crowd lining the waterfront.

Into the ‘Fifties

As sales continued to increase, so did the staff numbers. By 1952, 160 people were employed in the pottery. Another new kiln and additional floor space were added to the complex in order to keep up with the increasing demand. An indication as to the main production lines can be gauged from the following weekly output: Tea pots, 330 dozen; Jugs, 400 doz; Mugs, 1,000 doz; Cups, 1,200 doz; Plates, 900 doz; Tiles, 650 square yards; Pudding Bowls, 200 doz; Artware, 60 doz; Souvenirs, 300 doz; Footwarmers 30 doz; Saucers, 900 doz and Cooking ware, 76 doz.

Later years

On Monday, September 18th, 1967, a new extension was opened to manufacture tiles. As the ‘sixties drew to a close, exports from all sections of the pottery were well established and delivered worldwide. On Easter Saturday, March 28th, 1970, a fire in the complex temporarily ceased production but within four weeks, some sections were able to get back into production. In July 1979, Carrigaline Pottery closed.

Cork Art Pottery and the Brazilian Pottery Company

In 1980, the pottery complex was taken over by Lutz Kiel and the name changed to Cork Art Pottery. This company closed in February 1982. In September 1983, a workers’ co-op was formed. It was during this period that its Bosco mug for RTE became such a huge hit.

The co-op prospered for many years before it was taken over by the Brazilian Pottery Company in 1989 who continued production for a further 14 years. Shanagarry based pottery expert Stephen Pearce had a presence in the factory for a period after this. The doors of the pottery in Carrigaline closed for the last time on August 31st, 2003.

Special thanks to the O’Mahony family for allowing the committee to use references from the book ‘The History and Folklore of Carrigaline’ by the late Sean O’Mahony.

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