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NEWBRIDGE - THE HOME OF TINTAWN - A 1950'S INDUSTRIAL SUCCESS STORY

Leinster Leader January 15 2009
 
 
Newbridge - the home of Tintawn – a 1950s industrial success story
By
LIAM KENNY
 
 
 
While farming was the backbone of the Irish economy for decades the late 1950s saw a surge in the contribution of manufacturing to the country’s economic output. One of the brightest stars in the Kildare manufacturing sector was the firm of Irish Ropes Ltd. in Droichead Nua.
A Leader feature in January 1959 traced the rise of Irish Ropes from very humble beginnings twenty-five years earlier. It opened with the ringing endorsement ‘ Few industrial concerns, in any country, can rival the management achievements of Irish Ropes Ltd. which in the comparatively short space of twenty-five years has climbed steadily upwards to reach the topmost rungs of the fiercely competitive ladder of Irish industry.’
In the quarter-century of its existence, this ever-growing concern which began in a single small building has developed to cover eight acres of ground and in doing so has pushed the sales of its products to serve all five Continents of the world. The record of its progress is one of the brightest chapters of Irish industrial history; an Irish success story which makes heartening reading in what was described as the ‘unsettled, tense world of to-day.’
The great strides made by the town of Droichead Nua over the past twenty-five has been one of the outstanding features of Irish industrial development. Irish Ropes Ltd. had played a major role in the development and the factory was inseparably linked with the onward march of the town.
The now world-renowned concern came into being in July,1933. There were no paens of praise and good wishes to herald the birth of the new industry: the country – and Newbridge in particular – lapsed deep in a coma of recession in the 1930s.
It was with great determination that the late Mr. Rigby-Jones (founder of the firm and father of the present Managing Director) set to work to lay the foundation which he was quietly confident would one day bear a business dealing with the markets of the world. The initial staff consisted of six men, four of whom were still with the firm. The six were the late John Doran, the late James Luker, Pat Geraghty, James Coogan, Joseph Whitely and George Halford.
First home of the new industry was the school of equitation in the old Newbridge military barracks formerly occupied by British troops pre 1922. Here the first employees of Irish Ropes Ltd. did their initial job for the firm – clearing the floor and rubbish which had accumulated there since the departure of the troops. Machinery was then installed and gradually Irish Ropes began in business. The new industry forged slowly ahead and by 1939 prospects for the ‘factory in the barracks’ were considerably brighter.
Then came disaster in the form of the second world war or ‘the Emergency’ as it was known in Ireland. There was acute shortage of raw materials, shipping machinery and in fact the scarcity of almost everything necessary for the progress of industry brought production virtually to a standstill.
The end of the war infused new hope into Irish Ropes . From 1946 to 1948 there was a period of reconstruction and renovation and an increasing search for new products. Back in 1933 six men had begun work at the ‘factory in the barracks’; by 1959 Irish Ropes were employing 550 workers and the factory had expanded to three acres of roofed structures on a total site of eight acres.
In spite of fierce post-war competition Irish Ropes captured markets all over the world and by 1959 more than half of their total production was exported. And that production means many thousands of tons of ropes, twines, and floor coverings coming from scores of machines and other equipment the total investment in which amounted to almost one million pounds. The international range of the Irish Ropes export catalogue was apparent from the big packages of floor coverings and rope with shipping addresses for Finland, Denmark, South Africa, the West Indies, South Africa, West Indies, South America, New York, Chicago, Ottawa, Sydney and many other destinations on every continent.
The big success in the Irish Ropes inventory had been the development of sisal floor covering with the iconic brand name of ‘Tintawn’. The Leader article reports that this durable covering, woven in many attractive designs, has found a ready market in Ireland and abroad – one large section of the Newbridge factory being devoted solely to the making the product and turns out some 20 tons of Tintawn annually.
The industrial strength of Newbridge powered by ‘the Ropes’ and ‘the Cutlery’ was to be the backbone of employment in mid-Kildare for many years to come.
 
 Series No. 103.  
 
 

In his regular feature 'Nothing new Under the Sun,' Liam Kenny  recounts how by 1959, Irish Ropes had  progressed from humble beginnings to becoming one of the leading lights of Irish industry.


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