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The leading manufacturing firms in the Irish Free State in 1929

  • Frank Barry (a1)
Abstract

The manufacturing sector of the 1920s Irish Free State was substantially more complex in structure than occasional references to a ‘beer and biscuits’ economy suggest. There were nine factories employing 500 workers or more in 1929, while the larger firms in sectors such as bacon curing, flour milling and fertilisers each operated more than a single factory. This article identifies the largest manufacturing firms and establishments of the era, as well as the largest within each industrial sector. Twenty-two firms had workforces of a minimum of around 400. Three of the five largest were foreign subsidiaries, the most significant of which – the Ford Motor Company – employed, at one stage, more than twice as many workers as Guinness. Of the larger indigenous companies, the majority were Protestant-owned, though Catholic-owned firms dominated in certain industrial segments.

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*School of Business, Trinity College Dublin, barryfg@tcd.ie
References
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1 The dataset compiled by Angus Maddison – available on the Groningen Growth and Development Centre website – allows for a comparison of countries in terms of purchasing-power-adjusted income per head (https://www.rug.nl/ggdc/historicaldevelopment/maddison/original-maddison) (5 July 2018). Measures of the extent of industrialisation are provided by Mitchell, B. R., European historical statistics, 1750–1975 (2nd ed., London, 1981), pp 161171 .

2 While beer and bakery products (including bread as well as biscuits) dominated in terms of net output – loosely the amount out of which wages and profits are paid – their combined contribution to employment was much less significant (Census of industrial production, 1926 and 1929 (Dublin, 1933), table 1, p. 2).

3 The methodology followed that of the 1907 U.K. census of production, as outlined by Bielenberg, Andy, ‘What happened to Irish industry after the British Industrial Revolution? Some evidence from the first U.K. census of production in 1907’ in Economic History Review, lxi, no. 4 (2008), pp 820841 . Appendix 8 of the 1982 census provides a summary of subsequent developments in the provision of Irish industrial statistics (Census of industrial production, 1982 (Dublin, 1986), pp 155–7).

4 Problems associated with comparing employment data across firms and time periods have been discussed in the literature. See, for example, Wardley, Peter, ‘On the ranking of firms: a response to Jeremy and Farnie’ in Business History, xliii, no. 3 (July 2001), pp 119134 .

5 The 1919 directory appears to have been quite comprehensive. All of the existing firms referred to in the reports cited in the text, in newspaper articles on major firms and in the work of Andy Bielenberg and Mary Daly are listed: Bielenberg, Andy, Ireland and the Industrial Revolution, 1801–1922 (London, 2009) ; Daly, Mary E., Dublin: the deposed capital, 1860–1914 (Cork, 1984) ; eadem, Industrial development and Irish national identity, 1922–1939 (Dublin, 1992) .

6 Barry, Frank, ‘Foreign investment and the politics of export profits tax relief, 1956’ in Irish Economic and Social History, xxxviii(2011), pp 5657 .

7 On Protestant dominance of business, see Barry, Frank, ‘The life and death of Protestant businesses in independent Ireland’ in Ida Milne and Ian d’Alton (eds), Protestant and Irish: the minority’s accommodation with independent Ireland (forthcoming) . On the difficulties of distinguishing between the effects of religion and social class, see for example, Timothy Guinnane, Carolyn Moehling and Cormac Ó Gráda, Fertility in south Dublin a century ago: a first look (Working Papers, no. 838, Economic Growth Center, Yale University, 2001).

8 Barry, ‘The life and death of Protestant businesses in independent Ireland’.

9 Daniel, T. K., ‘Griffith on his noble head: the determinants of Cumann na nGaedheal economic policy, 1922–32’ in Irish Economic and Social History, iii (1976), pp 5565 .

10 Fergus Campbell’s chapter on business in The Irish establishment analyses the religious composition of the boards of directors of the largest companies in 1893 and 1911. His study differs from the present one not only in terms of time period but also in geographic and sectoral scope. He focuses largely on publicly listed companies, in which banks, railways, shipbuilding, brewing, distilling and linen predominated, while his unit of analysis is the island of Ireland (Fergus Campbell, The Irish establishment, 1879–1914 (Oxford, 2009)).

11 ‘Factory employment’ refers to employment in transportable goods industries other than mining and quarrying. The numbers for the Free State in Table 1 differ slightly from those reported by Daly, who uses revised figures from later censuses (M. E. Daly, ‘The employment gains from industrial protection in the Irish Free State during the 1930s: a note’ in Irish Economic and Social History, xv (1988), pp 71–5). To maintain consistency with the data on the size class of establishments reported for 1929, the unrevised figures are reported here.

13 Factory employment in the Free State is recorded in the 1929 C.I.P. as having increased by around 6,000 since 1926, while a decline of over 11,000 was reported for Northern Ireland between 1924 and 1930 (Census of production of the United Kingdom, 1930 (London, 1934–5), summary volume, p. 70). There were changes in the coverage of both censuses over these periods however.

14 O’Malley, Eoin, ‘The decline of Irish industry in the nineteenth century’ in Economic and Social Review, xiii, no. 1 (Oct. 1981), pp 2142 .

15 Barry, Frank, ‘Agri-business firms and Irish agriculture in the decades to independence’ in Jean Walker (ed.), Rural Ireland in the early twentieth century (Cambridge, forthcoming) .

16 Census of production of the United Kingdom, 1930, summary volume, p. 23. As is explained on page 22 of the volume, these data are based on the number of census returns received, which can differ from the number of establishments. Data on establishment size are not available for Northern Ireland (nor are they reported for the entire U.K.), presumably for confidentiality reasons.

17 An estimate of the number of plants operated by the largest U.K. firms in 1907 is provided by Shaw, Christine, ‘The large manufacturing employers of 1907’ in Business History, xxv, no. 1 (1983), pp 4260 .

18 Ibid.

19 Bielenberg, ‘What happened to Irish industry after the British Industrial Revolution?’, pp 820–41.

20 R. M. Martin, ‘The manufacture of lace and crochet in Ireland’ in Macartney-Filgate, W. T. (ed.), Irish rural life and industry (Dublin, 1907), p. 129.

22 Irish Times, 18 Oct. 1927.

23 Ibid., 16 Feb. 1918.

24 Riordan, E. J., Modern Irish trade and industry (New York, 1920), p. 211 .

25 Evening Herald, 12 June 1919; Charles Flynn, ‘Dundalk, 1900–1960: an oral history’ (Ph.D. thesis, N.U.I., Maynooth, 2000), p. 108.

26 Irish Times, 1 Feb. 1921.

27 Report of the Irish White Cross to 31 August 1922 (Dublin, 1922), p. 47.

28 Bielenberg, Ireland and the Industrial Revolution, p. 170; Celebrating 75 years of Irish Cement, 1938–2013 (Drogheda, 2013).

29 Thomas Grimes, ‘Starting Ireland on the road to industry: Henry Ford in Cork’ (Ph.D. thesis, N.U.I., Maynooth, 2008), p. 125; Irish Times, 12 Aug. 1929.

30 Grimes, ‘Starting Ireland’, chapter 8.

31 Ó Drisceoil, Diarmuid and Ó Drisceoil, Donal, The Murphy’s story: the history of Lady’s Well Brewery, Cork (Cork, 1998), p. 97 .

32 Irish Times, 7 Mar. 1929; Grimes, ‘Starting Ireland’, p. 125.

33 Factsheet provided by the archive department of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

34 Irish Independent, 12 May 1928.

35 Irish Times, 22 May 1925.

36 Ibid., 12 May 1923; Daly, Industrial development, pp 35–6.

37 Irish Times, 13 June 1928. Tobacco was one of the sectors in which employment expanded most dramatically over the 1920s, having accounted for only 500 jobs at the foundation of the state (Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1932).

38 Irish Times, 17 Apr. 1925.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid., 3 Jan. 1925; Burg, Judith, A guide to the Rowntree and Mackintosh Company archives, 1862–1969 (York, 1997), p. 162 ; Fitzgerald, Robert, Rowntree and the marketing revolution, 1862–1969 (Cambridge, 1995), p. 594 .

41 Irish Independent, 8 Oct. 1926.

42 Cork: its trade and commerce: official handbook of the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping (Cork, 1919), p. 138; Cork Examiner, 11 July 1930; Irish Times, 2 Dec. 1940.

43 Cork: its trade and commerce, p. 171.

44 Riordan, Modern Irish trade and industry, passim.

45 Kenneally, Ian, ‘The Irish Independent and the Irish Revolution’ in Mark O’Brien and Kevin Rafter (eds), Independent Newspapers: a history (Dublin, 2012), p. 145 .

46 Irish Times, 27 Dec. 1924, 7 Feb. 1925.

47 Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 255.

48 On the discovery of the ‘mild cure’ see A. W. Shaw, ‘The Irish bacon-curing industry’ in Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, Ireland: industrial and agricultural (Dublin, 1902), p. 254.

49 Tariff Commission, Bacon, hams and other pig products (Report no. 14) (Dublin, 1932).

50 Lavelle, Patricia, James O’Mara: a staunch Sinn Féiner, 1873–1948 (Dublin, 1961) .

51 Irish Times, 25 Nov. 1882, 11 Apr. 1983; Rees, J. M., Trusts in British industry, 1914–1921: a study of recent developments in business organisation (London, 1922) .

52 Barty-King, Hugh, Making provision: a centenary history of the provision trade (London, 1986) .

53 Barry, ‘Protestant businesses’.

54 Lavelle, James O’Mara, p. 50–3.

55 Morgan McCloskey, ‘O’Maras of Limerick and their overseas businesses’ in Old Limerick Journal, no. 57 (Summer 2001), p. 12.

56 Shaun Boylan, ‘O’Mara, Stephen’, in D.I.B.

57 Irish Times, 14 Mar. 1924.

58 Cork Examiner, 12 Nov. 1959.

59 Frank Prendergast, ‘The decline of Limerick’s traditional industries’, p. 10 (http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/mi002.pdf) (16 June 2018).

60 Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 246.

61 Jenkins, William, Tipp Co-Op: origin and development of Tipperary Co-operative Creamery Ltd (Dublin, 1999), p. 22 .

62 Limerick Leader, 11 Jan. 1924, cited in Jenkins, Tipp Co-Op, p. 77.

63 Fox, P. F. and Breathnach, Proinsias, ‘Proprietary creameries in Ireland’ in Peter Foynes, Colin Rynne and Chris Synnott (eds), Butter in Ireland: from earliest times to the 21st Century (Cork, 2014), pp 9293 .

64 Fox and Breathnach, ‘Proprietary creameries’, pp 67–70; Jenkins, Tipp Co-Op, pp 25, 50; Bolger, Patrick, The Irish co-operative movement: its history and development (Dublin, 1977), pp 196198 .

65 Jenkins, Tipp Co-Op, pp 74–7; Fox and Breathnach, ‘Proprietary creameries’, pp 70, 92–3; Ó Fathartaigh, Mícheál, Irish agriculture nationalised: the Dairy Disposal Company and the making of the modern Irish dairy industry (Dublin, 2014), p. 18 .

66 Smith, Louis and Quinn, Gerard, A study of the evolution of concentration in the Irish food industry, 1968–73 (Brussels, 1973), pp 16, 34 .

67 Irish Times, 3 Aug. 1894, 19 Oct. 1915.

68 Irish Independent, 25 Feb. 1930.

69 Cork Examiner, 15 Feb. 1926.

70 Irish Independent, 25 Feb. 1930; Irish Times, 9 Mar. 1934; Irish Press, 12 Mar. 1934.

71 Odlum’s would employ around 300 in 1938 (Evening Herald, 10 Feb. 1938).

72 Bielenberg, Andy, ‘A survey of Irish flour milling, 1801–1922’ in idem (ed.), Irish flour milling: a history, 600–2000 (Dublin, 2003) , appendix D, p. 213.

73 Ibid., pp 59–87.

74 Yeats, W. B., Responsibilities and other poems (New York, 1916) ; Reveries over childhood and youth (New York, 1916).

75 Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 393.

76 Cork Examiner, 4 July 1928.

77 Irish Independent, 10 Feb. 1921.

78 See Andy Bielenberg and James S. Donnelly, ‘List of suspected civilian spies killed by the IRA, 1920–21’, p. 31 (http://theirishrevolution.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/CorkSpyFilesDatabase09.01.2017.pdf) (17 June 2018).

79 The Irish Sugar Manufacturing Company, which opened in Carlow in 1926, was classified under ‘Miscellaneous’ in the C.I.P. Though it employed many hundreds of workers in high season, it probably employed only around 100 permanent workers (Irish Times, 17 Jan. 1927; Weekly Irish Times, 9 Dec. 1933).

80 Nolan, Karen, Sweet memories: the story of Urney Chocolates (Dublin, 2010) .

81 Irish Independent, 4 July 1928.

82 Joyce, James, Ulysses (Oxford University Press edition, Oxford, 2008), p. 144 .

83 Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 394. Fitzgerald reports that Lemon’s was taken over by the Liverpool firm Barker & Dobson in the 1920s (Fitzgerald, Rowntree and the marketing revolution, p. 594). This appears to be inaccurate, however. The firm’s Drumcondra factory, which was built in 1920, was reported to have been taken over by Blackpool firm Waller & Hartley in 1965, and sold on to Barker & Dobson in 1972 (Irish Times, 6 Sept. 1983).

84 Irish Press, 1, 3 Oct. 1964; Irish Times, 17 Aug. 1929.

85 Bielenberg, Industrial Revolution, p. 97, table 5.2.

86 Townsend, Brian, The lost distilleries of Ireland (Glasgow, 1997), p. 95 .

87 Census of industrial production, 1926 and 1929, p. 24, records a total of fifteen brewing establishments for 1929. The database assembled for the present paper records seventeen. A further one had closed in 1925.

88 Riordan, Modern Irish trade and industry, p. 160; Ó Drisceoil and Ó Drisceoil, The Murphy’s story, pp 77, 79.

89 Freeman’s Journal, 11 July 1921.

90 Weekly Irish Times, 29 Oct. 1927.

91 Bielenberg, Industrial Revolution, p. 101.

92 Irish Industry: The Business Journal of Ireland (March 1934), p. 6.

93 Irish Times, 24 Jan. 1924.

94 Ibid., 25 Nov. 1931.

95 The Kerryman, 6 July 1929. Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 249, reports an employment level of 800 for 1935.

96 Leland, Mary, Dwyers of Cork: a family business and a business family (Cork, 2008), p. 60 .

97 Clarke, V. P. and Tuite, B., Wilson & McBrinn Ltd, 1926–1986 (Drogheda, 1986), p. 9 .

98 Ó Gráda, Cormac, A rocky road: the Irish economy since the 1920s (Manchester, 1997), p. 51 .

99 Slater, Sharon, A stitch in time: a history of Limerick Clothing Factory, eds Matthew Potter and Jacqui Hayes (Limerick, 2017), p. 10 .

100 Ibid., p. 127.

101 Irish Times, 4 Sept. 1899; Manchester Guardian, 1 Aug. 1911; Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 443.

102 Irish Times, 3 Feb. 1902; Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 271.

103 Irish Times, 4 Mar. 1919.

104 Ibid., 8 Oct. 1926.

105 Cork: its trade and commerce, p. 173.

106 Molloy, Margaret, Agnes Morrogh-Bernard: foundress of Foxford Woollen Mills (San Diego, 2014) ; Irish Times, 26 July 1922.

107 Dripsey employed seventy-five in 1914 (Cork Examiner, 30 Mar. 1914). Sallybrook employed sixty in 1937 (Cork Examiner, 4 Aug. 1937), while Kilkenny employed 120 in 1928 (Irish Independent, 15 May 1929).

108 Kildare Observer, 2 Mar. 1907; Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 255.

109 Riordan, Modern Irish trade and industry, p. 140; Reports of the Fiscal Inquiry Committee (Dublin, 1923), p. 16.

110 Stewart, Margaret, Goodbodys of Clara, 1865–1965 (Clara, 1965), pp 1718 .

111 Shaun Boylan, ‘Pim, Thomas (1771–1855)’, in D.I.B.

112 Clyde Binfield, ‘The shaping of a Dissenting interest?’ in Parliamentary History, xiv, no. 1 (Feb. 2005), pp 120–35.

113 Irish Independent, 16 Apr. 2004.

114 Commission, Tariff, Report on linen piece goods, union piece goods, and made-up household goods of linen and cotton (Dublin, 1932), p. 16 .

115 Irish Independent, 7 Aug. 1951.

116 Gerrard, Richard, The mill: a history of Usher’s Linen Mill, Greenhills, Drogheda and the people who worked there, 1836–1993 (Dundalk, 2013), p. 320 .

117 Cork Spinning & Weaving Company Ltd papers (Cork City and County Archives, CCCA/B530).

118 Irish Times, 8 Aug. 1929.

119 Ibid., 17 Apr. 1925.

120 Press, Jon, The footwear industry in Ireland, 1922–1973 (Dublin, 1989), p. 27 .

121 Irish Times, 11 June 1937.

122 Press, Footwear industry, p. 70.

123 Irish Times, 27 Sept. 1898.

124 Irish Independent, 28 May 2004.

125 Irish Times, 27 Sept. 1898.

126 Ibid.; Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 405. The Irish Times article noted that ‘some of the high class embroidering is done in County Donegal, as during the busy season there are not enough embroiderers in the immediate vicinity of Balbriggan to execute the orders’.

127 Irish Times, 28 Sept. 1882.

128 Irish Industrial Year Book (1934), p. 419.

129 Irish Times, 28 Aug. 1911.

130 Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), pp 248, 272.

131 Dáil Éireann deb., xvii, 270 (18 Nov. 1926).

132 Irish Times, 14 June 2008.

133 Ibid., 16 Sept. 1921.

134 Ibid., 6 Aug. 1928.

135 Ibid., 30 July 1930.

136 Ibid., 12 Oct. 1916, 9 July 1928; Weekly Irish Times, 7 Dec. 1918.

137 Irish Times, 23 Jan. 1907; Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 355.

138 Irish Independent, 23 Sept. 1913; Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 254.

139 Weekly Irish Times, 22 Dec. 1923.

140 Irish Industrial Year Book (1939), p. 395.

141 Who’s who in engineering, 1922–1923 (London, 1922) (https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/1922_Who’s_Who_In_Engineering:_Company_S) (5 July 2018).

142 ‘Grace’s guide to British industrial history’ (https://gracesguide.co.uk/William_Spence) (5 July 2018); Freeman’s Journal, 26 Sept. 1913.

143 Irish Times, 15 Jan. 1920.

144 ‘McGloughlin, Alfred Ignatius’ and ‘McGloughlin, John’ in Dictionary of Irish Architects, 1720–1840 (https://www.dia.ie) (5 July 2018); ‘1840 – Islandbridge Gate Lodge, Phoenix Park, Dublin’ (http://archiseek.com/2010/1840-islandbridge-gate-lodge-phoenix-park-dublin/) (5 July 2018).

145 ‘Grace’s guide to British industrial history’ (https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/J._and_C._McGloughlin) (5 July 2018).

146 Irish Times, 30 May 1984.

147 Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 402.

148 Dublin, Cork and south of Ireland: a literary, commercial and social review, with a description of leading mercantile houses and commercial enterprises (London, 1892), p. 163.

149 The Kerryman, 5 Sept. 1925.

150 Weekly Irish Times, 1 Oct. 1932.

151 Irish Times, 9 May 1905, 23 May 1925.

152 It employed more than 100 in 1909 (Freeman’s Journal, 4 June 1910). By 1936 the number had risen to 200 (Irish Industrial Year Book (1936), p. 402).

153 Irish Independent, 10 Oct. 1928.

154 Daly, Deposed capital, p. 46.

155 Irish Times, 8 June, 5 July 1937, 17 Sept. 1938.

156 Ibid., 8 Sept. 1921.

157 Irish Industrial Year Book (1935), p. 255; Irish Times, 18 August 1933, 2 June 1939.

158 Irish Times, 22 Dec. 1883.

159 Ibid., 12 July 1923.

160 Ibid., 26 Apr. 1924.

161 Ibid., 2 Oct. 1915.

162 Ibid., 26 Apr. 1924.

163 Armstrong employed 280 in 1915 (Irish Independent, 18 May 1915). Various issues of the Irish Industrial Year Book show these firms employing 270, 150, 250, 200 and 200 respectively in the 1930s.

164 Papers of Unilever Ireland (Holdings) Ltd and subsidiary companies (Unilever Archives, Port Sunlight, GB1752.IRE/JB); Irish Independent, 8 July 1927.

165 Irish Times, 23 Aug. 1929.

166 Papers of Unilever Ireland (Holdings) Ltd and subsidiary companies (Unilever Archives, Port Sunlight, GB1752.IRE, 7714).

167 Irish Times, 23 Jan. 1934; Joan Tighe, ‘An early Dublin candle maker’ in Dublin Historical Record, xiv, no. 3 (July 1957), pp 66–73.

168 Bernard Neary, The candle factory: five hundred years of Rathborne’s, master chandlers (Dublin, 1998), pp 68, 75; Papers of Unilever Ireland (Holdings) Ltd and subsidiary companies (Unilever Archives, Port Sunlight, GB1752.IRE/JB).

169 Maguire, Paterson & Palmer Ltd and Maguire & Paterson (N.I.) Ltd (Hackney Archives, London, D/B/BRY/2/9).

170 Weekly Irish Times, 20 Sept. 1913; Irish Independent, 26 June 1928; Irish Times, 27 Oct. 1928.

171 A short history of the firm W. & H. M. Goulding Limited from its foundation in 1856, its development to the present day and its plans for the future (Dublin, 1956), unpaginated.

172 Irish Times, 30 Sept. 1922.

173 Cooper, Mark and Davis, John, The Irish fertiliser industry: a history (Dublin, 2004), p. 73 .

174 Irish Times, 18 Oct. 1881.

175 A short history of the firm W. & H. M. Goulding, unpaginated.

176 The 1919 figure for Cork comes from Cork: its trade and commerce, p. 185.

177 Niall O’Donnellan, ‘Manufacturing industry in Galway, 1911–1979’ (M.A. thesis, N.U.I., Galway, 1979), p. 152.

178 In the case of public companies, religion refers to the religion of the families that established or controlled the firms.

12 Out-workers are excluded from these tables. The bulk of the 3,749 out-workers recorded in Northern Ireland were associated with textile production (Census of Production of Northern Ireland, 1930 (Belfast, 1932), table IV), while most of the 1,817 recorded in the Free State were associated specifically with the hosiery sector (Census of industrial production, 1926 and 1929, table Va).

21 Christine Shaw, ‘The large manufacturing employers of 1907’, pp 42–60; Bielenberg, ‘What happened to Irish industry after the British Industrial Revolution?’, pp 820–41.

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Irish Historical Studies
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