Fred Matthews

We interviewed Mr Fred Matthews, about the starting of Clonaslee Co-op. Mr Matthews was born in Killoughey. He has one brother, and went to school at Bono's old school Mount Temple in Dublin. He wanted to be an architect but had to become a farmer. He was the first manger of the committee and wrote the first cheque, which paid Mr Dick Davis for the farm to start the Co-op. He told us the names of the first Clonaslee Co-op committee. They were, P.D. Brickley (Chairman), Fred Matthews (Secretary). Paddy Corbet, Willie Flynn, Donnie Conroy, and Michael Dunne. There were also two representatives from Donaghmore co-op and one from Roscrea bacon factory because they paid for some shares. Ned Smith was the first pig man at the Co-op and he did a good job. Jack Conway was the first miller. Tom Flynn and Fred Matthews came to the pig farm on the 8th of October in 1963. Fred said " It was a mistake to take the job when he really had no idea of it". It was a very hard job, and you had to fight with the ACC and the bank man to help you but in the end it helped Clonaslee. There was not a lot of staff, they were all under pressure. They had no girl in the office and some people were cross when the Manager was away buying pigs or on other business as there was no one to answer the phone. Every-one had to help in every job not just one, now they have so much staff it is a lot easier because they can afford to get people to work for them.
Mr Fred Matthews had to travel from Lough Neagh to the south of Ireland looking at Piggery's. He also had to buy pigs at the fairs in the towns. This brought disease into the pig farm. He also had to go to Rath to be trained, but he said that he didn't learn much there. Donaghmore and Roscrea had a major say in what had to be done. So they employed an architect from Plunkett House (Horace Plunkett the first Co-op founder). The architect knew more about doing big houses in Dublin than Piggery's. Mr Jim Joyce had helped to design the pig houses as well as the proper architect Colin Dickson. The pig houses were cold and pigs have to have heat. There wasn't enough space either. It was a bad design.
Mr. Matthews also told us about the shares, it was £25 for a share. Donaghmore bought 1,000 shares. Paddy Brickley bought a few hundred shares, and Fred Matthews bought 200 shares. A lot of local farmers and business people bought shares so they all became shareholders.

The first pigs came on the 8th of October in 1963. They were buying pigs from three different places at the same time so they were all bringing in different diseases to the pigs, it was dangerous. Pigs fought a lot because of the way they were all put together, They were put that way because there was not a lot of room for them. The bills that were costing them the most were for vets and drugs. The first pig houses that were built were very expensive and didn't hold many pigs, approximately 1100 of them but they thought they might have to cut down but they did not have enough any way. There was not enough profit being made because of the high bills and not enough staff as there was no money to pay them. At this stage there was no milling plant and Donaghmore supply was unsatisfactory, sometimes wet and late. Then Henry Dunne built our own milling plant and this worked very well with Jack Conway (a former past pupil) being the miller. In 1968 Mr Matthews had a disagreement with the with the manager of Roscrea bacon factory and decided to resign.

When Mr Matthews started working as manager he was earning £720 per year and 5 years later when he finished he was earning £999. Compared to now the wages were very bad. Now people get that in a week. The finances made the work very hard for the people that were working there and the bank man. There were some generous people around the town that bought shares of the Co-op to help out but had no intention of working there.

The Coop was very good for the area as people had a market for their pigs and they were sure of their money. Clonaslee would be very different now if the Coop had never started. People helped each other out and everyone was the better for it. It took a lot of work but it was worth it.

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