Thanks to Joe Healy for sending us this lovely piece and photos about the Carrigaline Creamery. This article was first published in the
Carrigaline Community Newsletter – December 1987 The old Creamery on Carrigaline’s Main Street was erected in 1929, on a site leased from Mr. H. W. Roberts of Mount Rivers House.
The lessors were a group of small local dairy farmers whose chairman and organising exemplar was Fr. Jeremiah Coakley, then C.C. Carrigaline. Denis Canty whose family owned and managed the licensed premises now known as The Stables was Hon. Secretary to the farmers committee, a position he held until 1946. The original building was erected to plans drawn by Con O'Shea, Engineer on the staff of I.A.O.S Ltd, the Co-op. organising agency. Mr. Roberts the leasing landlord, was 'paid' 150 x £1 shares to secure the 215 year lease of the site. Mr. E. J. Clark of Aghamarta Estate. who had a large herd, purchased 200 shares. The Co-Operative's bankers, The Provincial Bank Ltd., 97 South Mall provided operating finance, following an initial flirtation with the Munster and Leinster Bank.
(Rural residents, in particular, may recall that Sir Horace Plunkett and the poet A. E. Russell were the leaders in developing the Irish co-operative industry).
The finance needed to purchase building materials and pay wages was raised through a farmers share allotment system related to cow numbers, generally a £1 share per milch cow. Herds in 1929 were small (ten to twenty hand-milked cows on average). From an overall of not more than six hundred shorthorn cows at summer peak, approximately 1500 gallons was produced. On delivery to the creamery this was cream-separated and the skim milk returned to the producers, who used it to rear calves and pigs.
Due to the limited number of farmers in the Carrigaline area - encompassing Cork city to the north, Crosshaven and the sea estuary to the east - the fledgling Co-operative was under-financed and indeed under-supplied with milk and careful management was required to stay operational. Macroom-born John Kelleher who had a diploma in dairy science was engaged to manage the Co-operative Creamery.
Mr. Kelleher and his management committee, which included Edward Cogan (Barry Cogan's father), Patrick Sullivan, Fahalea: A. Daunt, Chas. McDonald, Harry French, Ballinrea; Edmond Barry, Raffeen; and C. A. Love, worked successfully in the early years. However unexpected difficulties were encountered. The economic war which followed on the Irish Government's decision to discontinue paying land annuities to Great Britain totally depressed Irish farm produce prices on the Irish and British markets. At its worst, butter was less than three pence per pound and prime cattle ten to twenty shillings per head. In this economic situation creamery profits could not be achieved and new societies without reserves were failing. Carrigaline survived but was seriously weakened.
In the later thirties, following the end of the economic war, business improved and stability returned, but only for a brief period. In 1939 the Second World War began and industrial supplies slowly dwindled. Coal for the boiler, petrol for the lorry milk collection system, were no longer to be had. Fertilisers to grow grass and farm crops were unavailable, milk supplies declined and the Co-operative was facing bankruptcy.
The farming community was forced to reorganise. The assistance of the U.C.C. dairy department was invoked and a recent graduate of the faculty - Donegal-born Patrick Silke - was invited to attempt a reconstruction. An easing of the bank loan was effected and the new management committee, now chaired by Mr. Cogan, put in limited loan capital to permit the installation of an ESB power supply in 1948, plus the purchase of a lorry etc.
At the end of the decade the Co-Operative was out of the wood. Milk supplies were increasing, farm supplies were increasing and farm goods were being traded commercially. Mr. Cogan, a committed Co-op man had died at an early age and John Stanley of Raffeen began a twenty-one year stint as Chairman.
By 1955, grain growing had become important in the area. The Co-operative established a granary and traders centre at Minane Bridge. In 1960, a livestock mart was opened in Carrigaline to bring order and indeed hygiene to livestock marketing. By now, milk supplies had increased tenfold (1500 gallons daily); the produce of five thousand Friesian cows. The Co-operative combined with its west Cork neighbours south of the Lee to found the Ballineen Cheese Factory and the Bandon A.I. cattle breeding station. Mr. Stanley and Mr. Silke were directors. The Co-operative did fail in one development area. Creamery premises are licensed courtesy and inspection of the Department of Agriculture. The Society, faced with ever-increasing milk supplies, needed a new licensed processing centre. However, the Department stonewalled and the proposal died.
In 1971, the Co-operative formally amalgamated with the large Ballyclough Co-operative Creamery which operates giant modern milk plants at Mallow, Macroom and Rathduff. A safe assured market for the total milk production of the dairy farmers of the area was secured.
Modern refrigeration tanks ensure that milk is collected on the farm and taken to the processing plant. Local Co-op stores continue to supply farmers and gardeners. The Creamery Co-operative had a major influence on farming as practiced in Carrigaline, Tracton, Ballymartle and Belgooly parishes. Traditionally these parishes reared cattle for sale to the Irish stall feeders of the midlands and/or export to Great Britain.
However, in the period 1950/60, the bullock gave way to the lightly productive milch cow. Farming prospered in a labour-intensive system that rewarded effort with regular income. The milk stool gave way to the milking parlour and modern dairy farming became the norm with farms measured, not by acres, but cow numbers. The Creamery premises, no longer suitable, was sold off. Regrettably, the purchasers (L&N) were unable to acquire the extra space needed for their proposed marketing complex and they recently sold on to a local developer, who plans to breathe new life into the Main Street of Carrigaline.