History of Drinagh Co-Op, West Cork poem 1924, Eulogy to fonder Father John Crowley, Photo Mr. A J F O’Reilly (Tony O’Reilly BCL, General Manager Bord Báinne, at opening of Drinagh New Piggery 1962, Drinagh Creamery in Durrus, Canon McManaway.

Courtesy Rosscarbery Past dn Present, Mr. and Mrs, Camier, Gortnagrough Folk Museum, Ballydehob.

Durrus Creamery

In Gaelic Ireland a person’s wealth was reckoned by the number of cattle he had, a wealthy man was reckoned to be ‘fear mile bo’ a man of a thousand cows. The Brehon laws devoted a large part of the legal code to affairs relating to cattle ownership. The diet before the introduction of the potato had a major dairy component. Around 1630 the practice of packing butter for export in wooden firkins (56lb.) was introduced into Ireland. By 1730 Cork Merchants were distributing firkins to small farmers in Munster, ensuring that the butter would be returned in good quality containers. By the mid-18th.century there was a thriving trade in butter to the Cork Market, but the round trip by horse drawn cart from Skibbereen could take eight days. Butter did not always go directly to Cork. In the 1730s a group of Cork merchants came to Bantry every summer, primarily in connection with the pilchard trade but also directly bought and exported butter from Bantry. In addition farmers and car men faced the hazards of highwaymen seeking their cash on the return journey. Many of those going to Cork did not use carts, as evidenced by the comments of Sir John Carr in 1805, ‘peasants with horses carrying barrels of butter to Cork secured as usual with ropes of hay’ and Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1806, who said ”numerous troops of pack horses conveying casks of salt butter from the interior to Cork”. Patrick and Andrew Gallwey of Bantry wrote in 1737 that the butter output of the small cows in the district would have ranged from half to two thirds of a hundredweight of butter per annum. Ledgers of the White Estate in 1755-76 testified to the importance of butter. In 1840 Mrs Hall wrote of meeting a ‘Kerry Dragoon’ outside Glengariff mounted on a small active pony, sitting in front of a pair of hampers returning from the Cork Butter Market, the hampers were fastened to the horse by a rope of hay, and he spoke no English answering ‘Nein English’.
In the post famine era with the consolidation of holdings and the collapse of grain prices after the passing of the Corn Laws, dairying assumed a greater importance in the local economy. The merchants would receive butter in amounts of 20 or 30 lbs and salt and make it up to 56lb., the measure of a firkin; they would pay the same in the Cork Butter Market. The coming of the railway to Durrus Road reduced the time to take butter to market by 75%. William Warner of Bantry owned creameries at Killarney, Enniskeane and Ballinacarriga and developed a brand of butter aimed at the export market. In partnership with James Manders (son-in-law) who later left the partnership he started a factory at William Street. By 1886 its production was £6,000 in the summer and employed a hundred men including fifty coopers. In 1892 it was producing 800 tons a year.
The Southern Star reported in 1892 on the opening of the new creamery in Skibbereen and a visit by Plunkett and suggested that Durrus would be a good location for a creamery. The Munster Institute in Cork sent dairy instructresses around the county to improve dairy production and hygiene. Father Kearney P.P. Durrus prevailed to have Miss Sarsfield from the institute sent to Durrus for two weeks in April 1897; her previous posting was to Bere Island. In the Carbery show in 1896 demonstration were given by the dairy supply company of Cork of the latest equipment.
The higher land was used in the summer for ‘boolying’ and the cows were milked in situ. There are still traces of boolying huts in the Glenlough area off the Fahane road.
Before the introduction of the Land Acts, which transferred ownership to the tenants in the early 20th century, it was common for land to be worked by a combination of owner and dairyman. In one such case the Sullivan family, who had been dairymen at Moulivard and elsewhere,e agreed in 1897 to work lands at Rusheenisca (see appendix).

Butter Merchants
D. Lucy 1912 James Newman 1912 Richard Tobin 1912
Jer (the shop) Sullivan, 1912, later in his shop Tim Daly and farm Patsy Hartigan and Paddy Daly

Cattle Buyers
Timmie McCarthy, Joe Neill, Bill Ward, Thomas (Toss) Ward, John Joe Murnane, all Durrus
Mikie Attie, Connie Miah McCarthy, Bantry, Tommie How Ballineen, Mick Leary, Wilsons Bandon, Mick Lucey Dunmanway,
Paddy Spillane, Michael Daly both Kilcrohane, Pete Neill Goleen.

Pig Dealers

Seano McCarthy, Justin McCarthy, Connie Miah McCarthy, Bantry.
Joe Crowley, Colomane he bought for the factories and after collection by truck a cheque arrived from the factory.
In the 19th Century there were agents for the Bacon factories in Cork and Denny and Shaws in Limerick and delivery was to the local railway station with the risk passing to the factory on delivery.

Horse Dealers
Sonny McSweeny Dunbittern, O’Donovan Bawn family, Northside
Keohanes Durrus Cross

There were various private creameries in West Cork in the 19th century and an early Co-Op was set up in Bandon in 1903. The English Co-ops dipped their toes into Irish waters but withdrew with the advent of the troubles. The Drinagh Co-Op was set up by Canon Crowley who was a man of considerable talent. During a strike in Cork which stopped the export of pigs, he chartered boats to export from Bantry. From the 1920s on there was increasing legislation to improve dairy production standards and this assisted the development of Co-Ops such as Drinagh.
A major influence in establishing the creamery in 1933 was the Church of Ireland Canon McManaway. It was largely built by cross community voluntary labour. The contractor was Cahalanes of Drinagh who built Drinagh Church and the main creamery there. Work started in 1933 and it opened in the spring of 1934 with the formal ceremony in July. At the opening which was performed by Fr Crowley from Drinagh he singled out Canon McManaway for special praise and he set the machinery in motion saying that he regarded Fr Crowley as a special friend.. Farmers gave a week at a time with horses and carts. Gravel was sourced from the strand and rock was quarried east the Ballycommane Road, the ground was soft and took a great deal of fill. It was necessary to register 1,000 cows and guarantee £1,000 over 3 years. Canon McManaway was also involved in starting the creamery at Dunmanway, and worked closely with Fr. McSweeney. He may have had some involvement in the starting of the creamery in Kilcrohane in 1938 where the prime movers were the National Teacher Mr Fitzsimons and two progressive small farmers Danny Daly of Dromnea and James Daly of Caher.
The report of the opening of the Durrus creamery stated that the most modern equipment available was utilised and its operations beat all expectations. The creamery was opened before those at Caheragh, Kealkil and Bantry and apart from Durrus farmers, others suppliers from those areas sent their milk there on floats carrying 15 or more churns of milk. Included was Eddie Hurst of Beach House, Bantry (now owned by Mrs Wagner) he was known as a very progressive farmer. Before the creamery, butter was sold to Jeremiah O’Sullivan’s (Jer the shop) stores for 4d a lb and was packed in 56lb. boxes. It went from his store by horse and cart to Durrus Road Station and thence to Cork. Apart from taking in milk, the creamery operated as a general store where farmers could make purchases against their cheques. It purchased chickens and turkeys and supplied meal and other farm supplies. The creamery was a huge benefit to the smaller farmers who were extended credit over the winter and this was paid off from the summer milk deliveries. The creamery had a mill which ceased operations during the war, due to a lack of fuel. It was an important social outlet where news was exchanged and daily contact made. When milk collection at the creamery ceased this was a major loss to the community. Improvement in 1939 included a new water supply and a milk heater. In the late 1930 and 1940s Tom Deane and J. Clarke from Durrus were on Management Committees of Drinagh Co-Op. Tom Deane’s brother Barnabas was on the Committee of Management in 1956. Creamery Managers from the 30s included M.Meigan, Jack O’Sullivan, Mr O’Mahony from 1944, and Sean Keane Dan Hurley.
In 1948 the creamery managers including the Durrus manager had a case before the Labour Court seeking a pay increase to £6 10s a week. Evidence was given that Drinagh Co-Op was generally doing very well milk had increased significantly in price, and the management countered that many of the managers has sidelines in the turf and flax industries and pointed out that they were unable to secure the services of a manager in Kilcrohane. In the end the Court awarded £5 5s.
In 1956 Drinagh Co-Op with the other West Cork Co-Ops set up the South West Cattle Breeding Society. Up to the early 1970s farmers received the skim milk back which was fed to pigs and calves. From that time on all the milk was processed at the Carbery Milk Plant in Ballineen, which the West Cork Co-Ops had set up with Express Dairies and was run by the late Bernie Cahill. In 1991 with the other West Cork Co-Ops it purchased the outstanding 80% interest in Carbery Milk Products Ballineen. In its heyday the creamery had 150 suppliers this has now dwindled to 14 and their milk is collected by bulk tanker for processing in Ballineen. Sadly both the creamery in Durrus and Kilcrohane are now closed and for sale (2007). Jim Dukelow, Coomkeen has lived to see the creamery built and closed in his lifetime.
There was an agricultural show which started in 1936 and the committee and the judges in 1937 included Canon McManaway, Tom Deane (Ballycomane), Jim Pyburn (Dunbeacon), Richard Sweetnam, Eddie Hurst (Beach Bantry), and Jack Minihane. The show was held in Philip’s yard opposite the school on the main street and in the village hall. It had a major effect in raising the educational standard of agriculture and had over 600 exhibits coming from all over west Cork and from Waterford. There were sections on Farm produce, Home Industries, Agriculture, Horticulture, Egg and Poultries and an Industries Section.