Celebrating half a century of co-operative spirit

Fifty years of co-operative history marked with Kilconnell gathering

Attending the celebrations of the opening of Kilconnell co-operative (now part of Arrabawn) fifty years ago
Attending the celebrations of the opening of Kilconnell co-operative (now part of Arrabawn) fifty years ago

The 50th anniversary of a game-changing moment for the dairy industry in the county – which saw the development of co-operative milk processing facilities in Kilconnell – was marked with a gathering of founding members and others associated with the plant and the former Midwest Farmers Co-op last week.

Held in Kilconnell Hall, Friday night’s event was one of deep nostalgia as the establishment of the plant in Kilconnell was recalled but also one with a strong sense of positivity for the future as the plant’s as one of Ireland’s finest was equally celebrated.

The journey commenced over 50 years ago with the decision to develop a central creamery in Kilconnell and three separating stations in Athenry, Athlone and Clonberne, which were to be operated by Kilinaleck Co-op.

The Co Cavan co-op had won the tender to develop the facilities but such was the transformative effect it would have on dairying in East Galway that supply would quickly outgrow the Cavan co-op’s capacity and lead ultimately to the establishment of Midwest Farmers Co-op.

According to Brendan Lynskey, a retired dairy farmer synonymous with Kilconnell and Midwest Farmers Co-Op, the existence of a state-of-the-art facility today at the East Galway plant is testament to the foresight and hard work 50 years ago and more of those involved in the then fledgling dairying community.

“As one farmer put it to me all those years ago, not long after the co-op was up and running, we would never be short of a pound after this. It was a different time. A big dairy herd back then was 30 cows and some people were happy to milk five or six cows and leave the can out on the side of the road for collection.

“The start at Kilconnell was a great time and I worked there for a number of years.  There was an awful lot of farmer involvement to get that up and running and the key moment probably was a meeting in Athenry at which it was decided that Kilconell would be the central location and that we would have three separation stations.

“The projected cost of the creamery at the time was €120,000 for Kilconnell and €60,000 to install the additional equipment. That might not do much today but it was an awful lot of money back then and we were up and running in ’66.  The building of it was mostly manual work. I don’t think there was any ready-mix at the time, it was all done manually. There was very heavy concrete work because there was an old time churn with a big base so it needed a lot of concrete,” he recalled.

But it wasn’t long, he continued, before Kilinaleck Co-op would no longer have the capacity to handle growth at Kilconnell.

For more of the history and background of the co-op see this week’s Tribune here