Blarney, that most interesting centre of Irish romance, with its magnificent groves and lake and castle and Stone, unquestionably possesses associations of the proudest character – associations which for countless generations have afforded themes to the poet, the artist, and the descriptive writer, and which even to-day command the notice of the rich and poor, peer and peasant, the most erudite, as well as he who is most susceptible to the influence of superstition and romanticism. But the sylvan glories of Blarney’s charming groves and the romance of its castle, Stone, and lake would have little or no claim to recognition in these historical annals of Industrial Hibernia had they not been in juxtaposition to a mighty factor in Irish commerce which, in its own unpretentious way, is teaching to Irishmen the magnificent lesson that ‘ capital’ can find – in capable hands – a profitable employment within the sea-walls of the ‘Emerald Isle,’ and that ‘labour need not seek an advantageous market on foreign shores and among alien peoples, while industrial activities at home claim the enriching services of the artisan and labourer.’
This line of thought was strongly suggested to us on the occasion of a recent visit of inspection to the magnificent woollen manufacturing mills of Messrs. Martin Mahony and Brothers, of Blarney, a firm whose influence has been a thousand times more beneficial to the district in particular, and the kingdom at large, than the entire accumulation of romance and beauty with which the name of the locality is associated. The firm of Martin Mahony and Brothers is of considerable antiquity. It dates back to the year 1751, since which date, in an unbroken sequence, the concern has passed down from father to son to the present day. Not that Messrs. Mahony’s mills were always located at Blarney. They were originally founded at Rochestown, and were from that place transferred to Blackpool, thence to Glanmire, and, in 1824, to Blarney.
By an unfortunate accident the Blarney Mills were, in 1869, totally destroyed by fire. But, phoenix-like, they speedily arose once more from amid the ashes a grander, more substantial, and more thoroughly equipped establishment than before. We are assured that, to rebuild the factory and to fit up all the new and expensive machinery, were gigantic under-takings; nevertheless, they were carried out with conspicuous success. In 1862 the manufacture of tweeds was enterprised by the firm, and the high and world-wide reputation which the firm has earned is a sufficient testimonial to the value and excellence of the goods manufactured. The Blarney tweeds are unsurpassed by the choicest productions of the Western Highlands of Scotland, and they find equal acceptance in the leading markets of the world, including London, Paris and New York.
A peculiar feature of the Blarney Mills is the complete character of its manufacturing operations. In the great woollen districts of Yorkshire, it is almost, if not quite, impossible to find a firm that manufactures the cloth, through all its various stages, from the raw wool as imported to the finished tweed as sold to the tailor and merchant. But that is just what Messrs. Martin and Brothers most successfully accomplish. The wool is received from the home and colonial markets, three large machines are employed in washing it, two large steam-heated machined dry it, twelve sets of carding machines comb it, twenty-six ‘mules’ – that is to say, nine thousand spindles – convert the wool into yarn, nineteen twisting frames, twist the various colours of yarn, and two hundred looms weave the variegated threads or yarn into the elegant fabrics which subsequently grace the window of the fashionable sartorial establishments in New Bond Street (London) or Broadway (New York).
The weaving shed alone covers half an acre, a small portion, however, of the entire space occupied by the firm. In continuation of the weaving shed is a large wing known as the ‘Aberdeen Shed,’ it having been opened when Lord and Lady Aberdeen paid the factory a visit during the Vice-Royalty of the former. Here the picking and darning is done. Here also the tweeds are dried in a machine capable of holding 250 yards of cloth at a time, and are put through the four finishing machines and pressed by hydraulic machinery.
Had space permitted, it would have been interesting to offer a more detailed account of the processes of dyeing, cleaning, and other essential operations; it must suffice, however, to state that every section of the factory is equipped with a view to the most perfect results, and the vast organisation moves in a methodical style that even clockwork cannot excel. The firm employs about 750 hands (male and female), and about £20,000 per annum is disbursed by the Messrs. Martin Mahony and Brothers in wages alone.
The factory is surrounded by the neat homes of the workers, and for the comfort and convenience of the latter, a dining-hall, a reading-room, and a school have been provided by the generous bounty and consideration of the firm. The workers, too, have established co-operative stores in their midst, the very successful operations of which abundantly demonstrate the intelligence and administrative capacity of the Irish working man. Of the splendid warehouse and offices, situate at No. 3, Camden Quay, Cork, little need be said; they are in every respect thoroughly adapted to the requirements of the business, and themselves constitute an important and valuable addition to the commerce and industry of Cork City.
The showrooms are noble, their space exceptional, and their arrangement remarkable for completeness, even is such headquarters of order, system, and organization. The stock is large and comprehensive and embraces the best examples of the firm’s manufacture. The forgoing enumeration, brief as it obviously and necessarily is, and quite inadequate as a resumé of one of the largest manufactories in this portion of the British Empire, may nevertheless convey some slight indication of the magnitude and thoroughly representative character of the operations of the firm, whose market extends over the entire face of the civilized world. The directorate of this private limited firm at the present is composed of Nicholas Mahony, Esq., Timothy Mahony, Esq., and Edmund Roynane Mahony, Esq. In public and private life, and both as manufacturers and Irish citizens, these gentlemen have earned by their deeds the respect of their fellow countrymen.
The status of the house of Messrs. Mahony and Brothers offers Ireland’s most striking illustrations of the good fruit borne by private entertprise and business capacity that can and ought to flourish as well in Erin’s mercantile system as in the systems of neighbouring nations; and the substantial success achieved by the firm is crediable alike to the honourable spirit governing its operations and to the great arm of the national commerce in which it is unquestionably a most potent and influential factor.
The above article is part of a literary, commercial and social review describing the leading mercantile and commercial enterprises in Cork City and County which was undertaken by Stratten and Stratten of London in 1892.