Dairy processing not ‘exclusively cooperative’ after 1927

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2018), Letters, Volume 26

A chara,—The article by Eoin McLaughlin and Paul Sharp concerning the 1919 dispute between Richard McEllistrim and the Ballymacelligott Co-operative Dairy Society (HI 26.4, July/August 2018) is rather wide of the mark in its suggestion that dairy processing in Ireland was made ‘exclusively cooperative’ following the purchase of all private creamery interests by the Dairy Disposal Company (DDC), established in 1927. A state company initially set up to purchase the extensive creamery network of the Limerick-based Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, the DDC subsequently acquired all other privately owned creameries in Ireland, a process that was completed in 1945.

The original idea was that the DDC would dispose of the acquired creameries (and/or their milk supplies) to co-operative creamery societies (hence the name of the company). And, indeed, it did this to a considerable extent: all told, the DDC transferred 54 creameries that it acquired to co-operatives, along with the milk supplies of a further 70 creameries, which it acquired and then closed down (usually where there was a co-operative creamery close by).

At the same time the DDC acquired 71 private creameries, which it continued to operate itself. This was mainly because of the absence of suitable co-operatives in the areas where these creameries were located, although nineteen auxiliary creameries were retained to supply milk to the company’s condenseries in Tipperary Town and Knocklong, despite the presence of a number of co-operatives in these areas. The DDC also acquired 26 co-operative creameries that were in financial difficulty and continued to operate them itself.

Thus, while 124 of the creameries acquired by the DDC were transferred (or their milk supplies were transferred) to co-operatives, the DDC also acquired 97 creameries, which it continued to operate itself. On top of this, the DDC started up a further 67 creameries of its own in Clare, Kerry and West Cork, mainly to extend the creamery system into areas that were not previously served by a creamery.

All in all, therefore, at one stage or another the DDC operated 164 creameries (not counting those that were held temporarily while transfer to co-operatives was being arranged). While some of these were later transferred to co-operatives or closed down, entering the 1970s there were still 146 creameries in the DDC network. Following a government decision to disband the company, between 1972 and 1975 all of these were transferred to the large co-operative concerns that had emerged from the amalgamation phase, which began in the 1960s.

The above data were largely put together from information contained in Micheál Ó Fathartaigh’s detailed study of the DDC, Irish agriculture nationalised: the Dairy Disposal Company and the making of the modern Irish dairy industry (Dublin, 2014).—Is mise le meas,

PROINNSIAS BREATHNACH
Maynooth University

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