Opening of Drinagh Co-Op Creamery, 1933, Durrus by Father Crowley, Drinagh assisted by Canon McManaway
Father Crowley was the founder of the Drinagh Creamery group and Roscommon, Canon McManaway, was the driver behind getting the Durrus Branch opened. Canon McManaway was an inspiring figure, he had the first Church of Ireland school, in the Free State, St. James built at Ahagouuna. He was also involved in having the mountain road from Coomkeen to Bantry built as a relief measure in the 1930s. He was the subject of a poem of praise of local poet Charlie Dennis.
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.