Friday, May 13, 2011

Athenry Western Sack and Bag Factory by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2018)

On Tuesday 28 May 1935 the Athenry Western Sack & Bag Factory was officially opened by Mr Gerald Boland TD who was Minister for Post and Telegraphs. The road that led to the building was decorated with bunting anda large crowd had come to see him with the GardaĆ­ giving him a guard of honour under Chief Superintendent Clenton, Ballinasloe, and Garda Kelly, Athenry.
The Big Launch 
On the platform were Mr Weir, MD of the factory, TD’s Stephen Jordan and Sean Broderick; JJ Ruane; Haley B Murtagh and C.Taylor; directors of the company, Dr C Foley; RM Burke; Tohermore, Tuam; R Collins Superintendent of the Agricultural College
Athenry; Rev Mr North Bombfard, M Hession, Mayor F Carr, Newtown; Mr Bowes Daly of Dunsandle, and Dr Tom Powell
Mr Weir said he was proud and happy to see the fruits of their labour of the past eighteen months realised in the shape of  hand some factory and he expressed the hope that the undertaking, though small, would help in the promotion and growth of other industries. On behalf of the directors and shareholders of the company he welcomed the Minister. Larry Lardner then read a public address of welcome from the AIDPC (Athenry Industrial Development Promotional Committee).
The sugar beet factories had required one million sacks for pulp and another million for sugar, and the Government could induce the companies to give orders for the sacks to the Athenry Western Sack & Bag Factory. Indeed Minister Boland was happy that the
Minister for Industry and Commerce would do all he could to induce the directors of the sugar company to place their orders with the Athenry factory.
Political Unity
Both Mr RM Burke and Mr Broderick stated that they were glad to see support given by all political parties joined together and supporting industrial revival. Mr Jordan, said it was through Mr Weir’s technical knowledge, expert advice, and sound judgement
that the factory had been established. They also had to thank the Government for helping them with the loan and the promptitude with which local capital was subscribed.
Mr Ruane was confident that if the people of Athenry stood together, as they did in promoting the factory, and forget politics;they would have everything as a centre of distribution that a small town wants to make a success of any industry.
After the public address the Minister and visitors were then shown inside the factory and saw about forty girls at work at different sewing machines it cutting, make-up and stitching of bags. The factory had a capacity of turning out a million bags each year and there was a genuine
feeling that Athenry was finally getting some much needed and much deserved industry.
Sthe Irish Times on 18 October 1952 included a photograph of these women which was included in an article ‘Energy and enthusiasm to one man are helping to revive a forgotten town’. The names of those women, pictured below left, were N Higgins, Peggy Hanley, W Holian (forewoman), Annie Hanley and Kathleen O’Toole.

Above photo sources Connacht Tribune 1st June 1935 and Irish Times 21 July 1962 clipping courtesy of the South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Society

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