Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 21 June 2018
Stories from 1918: The Ambitious Region
Building on last week’s article, the annual report of the Cork Industrial Development Association (IDA) was unveiled to the public on 19 June 1918 to meet their fifteenth annual public meeting. Many insights into Cork’s commercial life and regional challenges are given in the document, which was published for the most part in the Cork Examiner.
Ambition was the name of the game in 1918 Cork for the Cork IDA. They neglected no opportunity to promote industrial development in the South of Ireland. Important conferences were held in the Association’s offices with investors attracted by the advent of Henry Ford and Son Ltd. Plans were prepared for the establishment after the war for additional manufacturing enterprises on the harbour, which could host large and continuous employment. Special reference was given to the advantages, which the Cork district offered for the manufacture of agricultural implements portland cement, solid rubber tyres and for the establishment of additional flour and margarine factories, oil and cake mills, leather tanneries, and a dressed meat industry. One development highlighted was the establishment by local businessmen of the Mahon Shipbuilding and Concrete Construction Company. They built concrete barges (built of steel and reinforced concrete instead of steel or wood), which was deemed a step in keeping with the times in that the materials were cheap and readily available.
The challenge of being open to international investment whilst protecting local trade was a constant debate. For example, the Cork IDA, on behalf of a firm eminent in the English floor and milling industry, made an application to Cork Corporation for the purchase of a block of land with river frontage for the construction thereon of a modern port mill. However, local rival trade interests prevailed upon the Corporation of Cork not to entertain the application, which they did.
On the protection of older industries, the Cork IDA praised the acquisition by Richard Beamish of the old-established leather tanning industry of Messrs Dunn Brothers, Watercourse Road, Cork. They publicly congratulated the gentleman on his enterprise and on his plans for the development, of the leather industry in Cork (for which in previous years, the city possessed a good reputation in the leather world).
Watching the importation and impact of non-Irish products was also a core activity and deemed of considerable importance to Irish producers. The supplies to public southern institutions were regularly examined by the Cork IDA’s expert, with a view to ascertaining the origin of such goods. Numerous samples of woollens, linens, handkerchiefs, collars, and writing papers were submitted to the Association by correspondents in various parts of the country for examination as to their place of manufacture.
On occasion, the Cork IDA took action in respect to unnecessary importations in the shape of foreign-made joinery, office furniture, cardboard boxes, etc. The Association drew the attention of the Irish Industrial Development Association (Incorporated) to a trade announcement in The Times of India, in which a Cawnpore (a former British garrison, now named Kanpur) firm of woollen manufacturers offered “Donegal” tweeds for winter suiting. The Cork IDA was asked to take action in respect to on English-made baking powder, the label of which bore a representation of the shamrock printed in green. In addition, an application of an English bottling firm to register a whiskey label with the words “Ould Paddy No 1” was brought by the Association to the notice of a local whiskey distilling company, who controlled a whiskey label bearing the word “Paddy”.
The Cork IDA participated in many public conferences on Irish economic affairs. Mr Andrew O’Shaughnessy of Dripsey Woollen Mills and the Secretary represented the Association at the Fourteenth Congress of the Irish Technical Instruction Association, held in the Royal College of Science, Dublin. The association were also represented on the Conference convened by the Cork Borough Technical Instruction Committee to consider the industrial training of apprentices, with special reference to the needs of Cork. Major G B O’Connor, MP, represented the Association at the All-Ireland Protest Meeting held in Dublin with respect to the demand for the establishment of a receiving depot in Dublin for the convenience and encouragement of Irish manufacturers catering for Government supplies. The Cork IDA also participated in local conferences convened in Cork City Hall by the Lord Mayor to deal with such matters as food supplies, milk supply for the poor, currency fluctuations and the shipping requirements of the port.
The Cork IDA were hopeful for Cork’s future after the war had ended and the need for business and trade to stand together to resolve challenging issues; they noted in their report; “The after-war period will witness greatly increased commercial competition between the nations of the world; it will also, we firmly believe, witness an awakening of industrial development in our city, and district that cannot, fail to influence appreciably the industrial status of our entire community…It is, therefore, a matter of more than ordinary importance that associations and organisations such as ours, especially interested in the economic affairs of the country, should be not only amply endowed with finances, but actively supported by individual and collective action of this character the industrial condition of our country will be improved and the general prosperity of our people be stimulated to that decree which will eradicate for all time the evil of emigration from our national life”.
951a. Marina Mills, Cork Docks, from Cork, Its Chamber and Commerce, 1919 (source: Cork City Library)
Kieran’s June Historical Walking Tours:
Saturday 23 June 2018, The Cork City Workhouse; learn about the workhouse created for 2,000 impoverished people in 1841; meet at the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 12noon (free, duration: two hours, on site tour), in association with the Friends of St Finbarr’s Hospital Garden Fete.
Saturday 30 June 2018, The Lough & its Curiosities; explore the local history from the Legend of the Lough to suburban development; meet at green area at northern end of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough; 12noon (free, duration: two hours, on site tour)