6 Jul 2012
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 5 July 2012
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 5 July 2012
Technical Memories (Part 23)
Calls to Arms
By the time the Crawford Municipal Technical Institute perhaps settled down in its educational programmes, its goals shifted again not just for the Cork institute but for other institutes across Ireland. The advent of World War I or the Great War again changed the focus of the country’s needs.
During World War I (1914–1918), Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which entered the war in August 1914 as one of the Entente Powers, along with France and Russia, when it declared war to halt the military expansion of the Central Powers. The central powers consisted of the German Empire, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. At the outbreak of the war, most Irish people, regardless of political affiliation, supported the war in much the same way as their British counterparts and both nationalist and unionist leaders initially backed the British war effort. Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war, in several sites and just under 30,000 died.
Arising from the blockade of imports and exports to and from Ireland George Fletcher, the assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, reflected in a paper delivered to the Insurance Institute of Ireland in April 1915 on new opportunities for the country’s existing resources. He was one of the first gentlemen to be recruited by Sir Horace Plunkett, the first vice president in the Department, following its establishment in 1899. In Fletcher’s paper (published afterwards), he reflected on the Department’s work to that point in time and also outlined the uses of technical instruction in the crisis that lay before it.
Commenting of the introduction of machinery and steam power, the change in the nature of apprenticeships through the new conditions of manufacture, and by the application of science to industry Fletcher deemed technical schools as essential to industrial progress. Yet he noted that the vast majority of Ireland’s youths never received any school education after the age of thirteen or fourteen; they never entered either an evening continuation school or a technical school. Hence to Fletcher, “they receive little direct education for their business in life; such a state of things constitutes a grave national danger and calls for immediate remedy”. Technical education should be provided to the army of workers in the country but also the economic leaders, what he described as “captains of industry”. He argued that technical institutes should be more generally availed of and in connection with this some lessons should be taken from the educational organisation of Germany. A great leap in industrial progress could also be affected if employers fully realised the advantages to be derived from providing technical education to their apprentices.
Scientific research was an important aspect to George Fletcher who noted that there should be “a more intelligent appreciation of the importance of and a greater readiness to apply the teachings of science to industrial uses”. He further related that to protect the interests of trades as a whole and to promote their development, the cultivation of a community of interests amongst manufacturers should be encouraged. Those ideas could be greatly assisted by the formation of manufacturers’ associations.
George Fletcher also spoke of the feasibility of small but well-organised industries in Ireland, and called for a great extension of their kind in Ireland’s smaller towns. Backing up his statements, he critiqued the state of imports and exports in Ireland and the opportunities available arising from Germany going to war. In 1912, the imports into the United Kingdom of manufactures from Germany amounted to some 40 million pounds. The corresponding exports from the United Kingdom to Germany were about 30 million pounds- a difference of 19 million pounds. The export of German manufacturers to the Overseas Dominions and Foreign Countries outside Europe amounted to over 80 million pounds. Fletcher on Germany’s industries and international connection noted of the country’s choice to disconnect from the market: “it is certain that Germany has suffered in enormously great degrees owing to the removal from the seas of Germany’s shipping and the cutting-off of supplies by neutrals. Some 40 per cent of Germany’s total port trade was to countries now at war with her and other sources of supply are now being developed. She is suffering acutely by the stoppage of supplies of raw materials. Germany’s woollen trade depends largely, therefore, on imported wool, two thirds of which came from countries now hostile-most of it from Australia and the Cape.”
Under the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction strong and successful efforts had been made, to encourage home and cottage industries. The production of Irish woollen goods had nearly doubled since 1904. Another example, the lace industry, yielded a valuable supplement to the family income in many an Irish rural home. The number of persons employed in this industry increased from 2,099 in 1901 to 3,004 in 1911. To Fletcher, effort needed be made to conserve and develop such industries “that the tendency is for work to pass, sooner or later, into the factory”.
To be continued…
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648a. World War I propaganda poster (source: ebay)