Carlow Sugar Factory
Sugar factory nearing completion with the first crop of beet.
[ photo: Irish Sugar Ltd. ]
After the establishment of the Irish Free State, following the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1922, one of the first major economic developments undertaken was the development of a Sugar Beet Industry. Ireland was still very much an agriculture based society and therefore the development of industry based around agriculture was important.
Carlow is located in an agricultural rich area and with cooperation between different counties and farmers ample acres to supply, the establishment of the factory could be arranged. Carlow is also strategically located with a good rail network ( at the time there were three railways in the county ), good road access to surrounding counties and also to Dublin. The Barrow was able to supply water and a method of transportation via the Grand Canal Company. Located near by was the Leinster Coal Fields, which could provide a fuel source.
Nevertheless, the locating of a Sugar Industry in Carlow wasn’t guaranteed. During the Summer of 1925 it became know that the factory would be located somewhere along the Barrow Valley but where was still to be decided. What made the difference for Carlow was the importance of the relationship between private enterprise, the State and the key role of the Church.
The first contract signed by farmers was for three years.
[ photo: County Museum, ccm 02-175. ]
As Ireland had no expertise in the growing and processing of sugar beet the Irish Governemnt entrusted the development to Belgian company Lippens. During the second half of 1925 there was plenty of activity in the Southeast and Midlands area to impress upon Mr. Lippens, the head of the Belgian firm and his advisors, on their many site visits, as to the best site to locate the factory. Obviously the location of the factory was important but so to was the supply of beet, of which 5,000 acres was required and the company needed a guaranteed supply. As farming was still very much in its pre mechanised days most farmers were willing to grow between one and three acres of beet. This would mean that between 1,500 to 2,000 farmers were required to grow the crop and there was only one or two months in which to arrange this.
How and where could this be done.
At the time the Chairman of the County Agriculture Committee was Dr. Patrick Foley, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and in an open letter in the Nationalist and Leinster Times of July 18th 1925 he outlined the plan.
Sugar factory for Carlow.
[ photo: Nationalist and Leinster Times, July 18th 1925. ]
15th July 1925.
After having a long interview today with Mr. Lippens the head of the Belgian Firm,.. Mr. Schrumann, his adviser and two representatives of Czecho-Slovakian sugar factories who are interested in the project, and have discussed the neighbourhood of Carlow as their most favoured spot, I think it is advisable since there is no time to loose to state through you for the information of the public that as a result of the interview I am fairly confident that if reliable undertakings to furnish 5,000 statute acres for the production of sugar beet in the coming year be forthcoming from the farmers of Carlow and the adjacent counties before the end of the current month, the prospects of success will be very promising.
How are these undertakings to be got within this limited time? In the first place I would suggest that meetings of landholders be held in every parish in the district next Sunday after last mass, or other suitable hours, and that as many undertakings as possible be got there and then, and that as many canvassers as may be necessary be appointed to call on all who have not attended the meetings of their districts and induce them to do their part; all the undertakings should be in writing specify the number of acres, and signed by the party concerned.
In the second place there should be a public meeting in Carlow,.. it is expected that at the meeting all the undertakings giving up to date should be collected and if necessary, steps taking to supplement them so as to bring the acreage up to the required figure within the time prescribed. The acreage, and it only is the absolutely necessary condition, the non-fulfilment of which within the specified time will sound the death knell of all our hopes.
With best wishes believe me,
Yours faithfully in Christ,
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin
Messrs. Duggan and Brougham
The Bishop’s letter is backed up by a letter from E.J. Brougham that was sent to the various committees established for the purpose of securing the necessary acreage.
15th July 1925.
Please arrange to have a good Canvassing Committee outside the chapel on Sunday, 19th inst., with a table with guarantee forms before and after each mass.
Let no landowner pass without his or her permission to grow beet in years 1926, 1927 and 1928. Immediately-appoint a good Canvassing Committee to call on every landowner in your chapel area that you cannot or don’t get on Sunday and get his guarantee before leaving. Call on everyone who has up to one acre of land and up. I have got half an acre from agricultural labourers that have only a cottage plot. The least that will be accepted from each chapel area is 100 to 200 acres; in most cases this area can be doubled and trebled. Let no landholder be afraid to promise a fair amount of land. He stands to loose nothing and has everything to gain.
This in my last effort and your last chance to do the greatest good for your County that was possible for the last century or will be possible in our generation. Leave nothing undone to get all the workers possible. Loose no time. A promise after July 31st is useless.
[ excerpts: Nationalist and Leinster Times, July 25th 1925. ]