The Creamery – Newtownsandes Co-op

by Michael Liston (Manager)

Newtownsandes Co-op. was registered on the 11th March 1895 by the Assistant Registrar for Ireland Daniel O’C. Miley. The committee of management who signed the first Book of Rules were: M. Dillon P.P., Michael J. Nolan, Myles Kearney, John Nolan, James Walsh, Michael O’Brien, William Stack, Cor. Lehane, Secretary. There are no minutes available for the first seventeen years, but John R. Walsh, Ballyhahill, appears to have been the first manager.

In December 1912 a new committee was elected and the first real effort was made to organise the farmers of the area and to encourage them to support their own Co-op. There was strong opposition to the Co-op. from some quarters at this stage and in fact the committee had to ask the County Inspector of Police what authority the local Sergeant had to try to force the local traders to take notices advertising Newtownsandes Co-op. off their windows, notwithstanding the fact they they were legally entitled to exhibit these notices, the committee also decided that if a satisfactory answer was not given they would get a question asked in the House of Commons.

In 1913 the Co-op’s price for milk was 37/8 old pence per gallon and it was in a very serious financial position, in fact a Special General Meeting was called in January 1914 to consider putting the creamery up for sale but it was decided by thirty-five votes to six not to sell it. With help from the Provincial Bank the Co-op. struggled on for the next couple of years but hit a crisis point again in the Spring of 1916, when the Bank refused a further loan but the local farmers decided to put up some of their own badly needed money to keep the creamery.

In March 1917 Newtownsandes Co-op. affiliated with the I.A.O.S., later renamed I.C.O.S. (Irish Agricultural Co-operative Society) This organisation gave great support to the Co-op. at that stage, organising farmers, negotiating with the Bank and general back-up services. In 1918 at the end of World War I the Co-op. enjoyed a brief period of prosperity and milk prices increased to 8 7/8 old pence per gallon but this increase was short lived and milk prices dropped again through the Great Depression of the late 1920’s, the Economic War of the 1930’s and World War 2, hitting a rock bottom price of 3 3/4 old pence in 1933 and in fact it was 1943 before the price was back up to 9 old pence per gallon.

In 1925 the Co-op. got its first telephone connection at a cost of £12.00 per annum. In October 1949 an application was made to the E.S.B. for Rural Electrification in the area and the pot-hole saga commenced, a complaint was lodged with the Deputy Surveyor re. the condition of the road near the creamery.

The 1950’s saw a general rise in prosperity triggered by Government action and Marshall Aid. The recent- ly established Agricultural Institute showed farmers that farming was a business venture not a hit and miss operation. In 1950 the suppliers’ average was 3,300 gallons per annum and milk prices were around 15 old pence per gallon. These increases in price and quantity continued through the sixties and seventies and in 1980 the Co-op. was paying 55p. per gallon for milk {decimalisation had started in 1971) and suppliers’ average had now reached 16,000 gallons.

This rapid increase in production was exceeding consumption and as stocks of dairy products increased alarm bells began to ring in the corridors of power in Europe and the concept of the Super-Ievy was born which limited production to 1983 levels. With milk production static, milk prices doubled in the 1980’s and Newtownsandes Co-op. finished the decade paying 108p per gallon.

The early nineties saw a sharp reduction in milk prices and in June 1990 the Co-op. was down to 93p. per gallon and bottomed out in 1991 at 88p, however, by the mid nineties milk prices were strong: stable reaching 110p per gallon in April ’95.

In September 1988 the Co-op. moved away somewhat from the traditional butter-fat basis of paying for milk and went over to a protein and butter-fat system in response to the consumer demands of a more affluent society.

The farmers of this area had a disastrous year in 1998 due to the exceptionally high levels of rainfall in the latter half of the year but the Co-op. responded with the provision of quality feed at reduced prices and substantial bonus payments to secure the survival of a somewhat shaky farming base. The Co-op. finished the century with a mild price of 103p. per gallon plus bonus payments in excess of 5p per gallon.

While the number of suppliers has halved in the past twenty years, milk supply remains static at 1983 levels and the number of customers has actually increased with annual sales of nearly seven million pounds. Newtownsandes Co-op. is conscious of its pivotal role in the community, which is probably more import now than it was 105 years ago when the Co-op. was established. It is confident but by no means complacent that it can meet the demands of a new Millennium.

By any standards Newtownsandes Co-op. boasts of a very strong Balance Sheet while at the same time paying top prices for milk, competitively priced inputs and providing a high quality personalised service. It’s aim is to continue to service the needs of its milk suppliers and customers and to be the focal point for development, enterprise and expansion in the parish.