TALES FROM THE PAST OF IRELAND’S first chipboard factory located in Scariff will be shared at an upcoming exhibition.
The story of Chipboard Factory in Scariff begins in the late 1950s, when its German parent company Aicher Chipboard (Rosenheim) established a plant on the Drewsborough site. At a time of economic hardship, unemployment and mass emigration, it was to have a major impact on the lives of people in East Clare and become the first chipboard factory on the island of Ireland.
An exhibition of current photographs and stories from a representative selection of employees throughout its evolution over a 60-year period, will be open for public viewing on site from 2-5pm on Saturday and Sunday of the August Bank Holiday week-end. Chipboard People, Images & Stories of a Rural Manufacturing Industry will reflect the memories of eleven people including specially commissioned photographs by John Kelly.
When Aicher Chipboard was seeking to expand its business in Ireland in the 50s, local interests in Scariff had identified the need to bring a rural manufacturing industry to east Clare. Led by builder, Tom McInerney and JB (Barney) O’Driscoll, an industrialist associated with the Killaloe Slate Quarries, the plant was established in late 1958.
“All of us in Scariff grew up with an awareness of the factory and the strong presence it had in the community,” said Harry O’Meara, of the Harbour Festival Committee. “This exhibition acknowledges the contribution of its many employees and we are grateful to EKO Integrated Services for initiating and funding the project and including it as part of our festival programme,” he added.
Marie McInerney’s grandfather Tom was a founding Director of Aicher Chipboard (Scariff) and founder of McInerney Properties. Under the joint direction of his sons, Amby & Dan, the firm became the first ‘volume builders’ in the state. In 1971, the company went public with Amby as Chair and McInerney Holdings expanded into the Gulf States and into Spain & Portugal. Amby remained loyal to Scariff and when the factory went into receivership, he became Chair of Chipboard Products Ltd, to save it from closure. Marie joined the office workforce in 1962 and remained there until retirement. She went on to become the first lady GAA club secretary in Ireland and is the last direct surviving member of the McInerney family in Scariff.
Like many other employees of Chipboard, Paddy Fleming came to work in Scariff through word of mouth. Liam McInerney, a General Foreman who also came from O’Callaghans Mills, asked him to join the workforce. Paddy didn’t come from a farming background, he had left Scariff Vocational School and worked for a time in Shannon, before starting what was to become a life-long career as a forklift driver and foreman. Paddy was also a member of the Action Committee to protect jobs at the factory in the early 1980s. He rostered workers to man a caravan day and night at the entrance and helped raised funds for a Dublin protest on the Dáil in 1983.
Over 350 people were employed at the factory, most of whom came from the towns and villages in East Clare and many with farming backgrounds. Local shops and businesses flourished and the impact on family farms was significant with improved farm buildings, better machinery and increased stock numbers.
However, uncertainty emerged about the future viability of the plant. The company went into receivership and Chipboard Products Ltd, was formed to save it. When the Spanish-owned company Finsa Forest Products took over operations in 1984, production experienced a resurgence. Although the manufacturing of chipboard ceased at the site in 2012, a small financial and administrative Finsa team remains to complement its large warehousing base in Drogheda, Co Louth.
The Scariff site is now one of EKO Integrated Services managed investments. ELYE distribution marks the first phase of its redevelopment. Its vision is to establish a mixed-use, eco-friendly park with a strong focus on the provision of net zero energy and biodiversity protection. It plans to attract more business and enterprise to Scariff, adding production and processing facilities to the site, creating employment and positively impacting local economies.
The Exhibition is funded by EKO Integrated Services. Design is by Edmond Krasniqi and it is curated by Anne Jones.