History of Clonaslee Co-op

Last load of pigs from Clonaslee Pig Farm

History of Clonaslee Co-op

In 1943 during world war two a discussion group met in Clonaslee Vocational School. Mr P.D. Brickley was the headmaster of the school. The reason they had the discussion group was to organise lectures, debates and other activities in order to raise standards in farming, improve educational opportunities and promote a good community sprit in the area. The group met often during the winter, and it soon had a lot of members. They brought speakers from universities and other places. These people gave them ideas about Clonaslee a better place. In 1947 the group joined the Young Farmers Club, which later became Macra Na Feirme.

In 1961 Mr Matt Hyland in Clonaslee gave a talk about farming opportunities. Shortly after this the manager of the National Bank in Mountmellick wrote to Mr P D Brickley and asked him did he think there was any chance of starting a Co-operative pig-fattening society in Clonaslee. He thought it might work well there. A lot of farmers were already rearing pigs but the market was not good for them.
The young farmers decided that it was a great idea, so they formed a co-operative society in 1962 and began to look for land for their business.

The primary aim of the Co-operative Society was large-scale pig fattening "not for the purpose accumulating profits for the Society, but to secure a guaranteed market for pigs on a large scale at a fixed price"(A triumph of Co-operation over Adversity). They wanted to work for the good of the community, not to make a large profit. On the 27th of February 1962 the Davis farm at Corbally, Clonaslee, consisting of 130 acres was purchased for £10,000 on the 13th of April 1962. Mr Fred Matthews wrote the cheque because he was the first manager.
Clonaslee Co-op registered under the industrial and provident societies acts (1893- 1936). There were 40 shareholders, including members of the organising committee, two clergymen, twenty-four farmers, eight business firms and six professional people, all living within a ten-mile radius of Clonaslee. The National Bank in Mountmellick helped with the finance

In April 1962, the Donaghmore committee discussed a letter for Clonaslee Pig fattening Co-op looking for support. They decided to invest a £1,000 in shares in the Clonaslee Co-op if they were allowed to be on the committee. On the 30th of July 1963 Roscrea Bacon Factory invested £3,600 in the Co-op.

Local man, Fred Matthews, of "Bellair" of Clonaslee was appointed manager in the spring 1963. He had been associated with the project from the start and his farm was adjacent to the Co-op owned land. He was also the executor of the Davis Farm.

Other co-op's to invest were Rath, North Offaly, Mountrath livestock sales and Westmeath Dairy Society.

The manager's report for 1964 stated that 1962 was a year for planning, 1963 was a year for building and stocking and 1964 was a year for business.
Ned Smith was employed to plough and till the land and clean it up. Barley was sown for the first two years. It was the only profitable enterprise for a long time!!!! Mr Tom Flynn was employed as the first stockman. He came before the pigs.
An architect from Plunkett House in Dublin was employed to build the pig houses. They built accommodation for a thousand pigs. The Co-op had to get a loan of £17,000 to pay for them. The first pigs arrived on the 8th of October 1963.
Clonaslee bought meal from Donaghmore in the beginning, and then they decided to build their own mill in 1965. Mr Jack Conway was the first miller. They made their own rations of barley, wheat, Soya bean and minerals. This was much better for Clonaslee Co-op they even sold some of their meal to the local farmers.
It was very hard for the Co-op to survive in the first few years. They nearly went broke three times. Some locals were very loyal to the Co-op and stayed with it even though they were losing money in the beginning. They also needed help from Donaghmore Co-op and Roscrea bacon factory.
Mr Matthews resigned in 1968 and Mr Tom Hennessey became manager after him came Mr Mick O' Neill
The turn over for 1969 was £101,089 and there was a profit of £ 5,226. In this year they got a twenty-year loan of £48,000 from the A.C.C. to extend the fattening unit.
In 1970 a Jordan unit was built for 2,000 extra pigs and a new pipe line feeding system was installed so now the work was much easier and a lot less had to be done by hand. In 1972-1973 the fattening unit was extended again by 2,200 pig places and covered accommodation for 250 cattle with the silage pit was built. So in 1974 the society had 5,200 pig places, a well laid out cattle yard and a milling and compounding unit. They then decided to apply for money for a 300-sow unit, which would supply 6,000 weaners each year. They got the money and built the unit. The Co-op continued to make a profit for the next few years.
In 1978 Clonaslee joined with Avonmore and east Galway Co-op and bought a lot of shares in Roscrea Bacon Factory.
Avonmore bought Rearymore pig farm near Clonaslee in 1978.
In 1988 Clonaslee merged with Avonmore Co-op.
By 2002 Clonaslee was supplying 30,500 pigs to the Roscrea bacon factory and Rearymore was supplying 18,500. Between the two farms they had 2,200 sows. Clonaslee also supplied 100,000 gallons of milk from its dairy farm.

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