Kells Archaeological & Historical Society
Grew up at Kilmainham outside Kells. Worked for Pickups Shoes c1959-61. Then worked as a butcher in Dublin and Navan for about 20 years, followed by over 20 years in Wellmans. Married Cepta Tighe of Kells in 1970 and has lived in Fr McCullen Park since 1971. Tom and Peter Moran (Dundalk) married two sisters.
Kells 23rd September 2010
DC: This is Danny Cusack on Thursday 23 September 2010 here at 25 Fr McCullen Crescent Kells taking to Tom Lynch. Tom, I believe you worked in Pickups rather than Tara Shoes. Do you want to say how you came to be working in Pickups; when and how old you were ?
TL: I was thirteen years of age. I left school in 1959. I was born in 1946. I wanted no more school so thats how the Brothers agreed, I got a job. They agreed to let me go to work in Pickups provided Mr Pickup would let me off to play school football. I was supposed to be good at football. They came to that agreement and every time there was a game of football in the evenings Id be let off and Id be brought up to the Brothers and given the OK for to play the football. So I was in Pickups for about a year and a half. When I was going to school I was doing part-time work with a butcher in the town called Paddy Reilly. I used to do messages, and deliveries. So he asked me if a job ever came up would I be interested in going to work with him, to serve my time as a butcher. So after a year and a half in Pickups a job did come up in Paddy Reillys and he sent for me. So when I went into Pickups I was on £1/17/6- per week. And I went to Paddy Reillys to serve my time as a butcher for £1/10/- per week.
DC: So you went backward
TL: I went backward but I knew I was getting a trade. So I went home and handed in the £1/10/- and was handed back 5/- for me self.
DC: Thats the way it was done in those days
Thats the way it was done. So I went on to serve my time in
Paddy Reillys and when Id served my time it
took four years he looked out for someone who would want a
qualified butcher. So he did get me a job in
DC: You sure have.
TL: Times were good and bad in the 60s. They werent great in the 80s. Even when I
was going to school would go home and into a potato field and pick potatoes until it gets dark just to help out at home with money. And go home then and maybe get the football boots and go training. That was our hobby. No drink, no money for drink. We didnt know what the inside of a pub was like. We didnt want to really know. We enjoyed life playing football. There were two girls in our family and four brothers. So we have one sister left and one brother. Unfortunately one brother was killed in 1964 on the road. He was walking home from the pictures one night. And the sister died suddenly at 50 years of age. And the mother and father died the one year - 1974. They died from a broken heart really. Times were good even though wed no money. The games we played on people were petty games, they wouldnt be vicious. Going in and progging apples and progging orchards and this type of thing. Working in the factory I enjoyed every minute of it. I worked with some good characters: George McGovern, the late Freddie Lawless, Kathleen Campbell (deceased), Maura Tormay, and Jimmy McManus. Now in Pickups there might only be about 14 or 15 of us working there. I was putting soles on the shoes; you did them by hand whereas beyond in Tara Shoes there was a machine. I was always interested in sport. This house is interested in sport. Two grandchildren now coming up and theyre playing football on Saturday. A boy and a girl; shes playing football and soccer as well. I worked with some good characters, some great characters. Youd never know whether they were telling you lies or the truth.
DC: There were a lot of tricks played
TL: Oh yeah when you started work youd be sent some place to get a bucket of steam, so youd go off looking for a bucket of steam. In Wellmans this went on. Youd send someone for the bucket of steam and they come back with the cardboard over it thinking they had a bucket of steam.
DC: Perhaps you could just say a bit more about your family background at Kilmainham. Were you farming ?
No, we were ordinary labourers. My father was a county council
worker sweeping and cleaning the roads. My eldest brother
he only died last year he went to
DC: Not much saved....
TL: Well, my Mother used to go out to pick potatoes as well, do a bit of housework, for people out here-Farmers etc, and we did the same coming from school. Wed go in and pick potatoes and dick out to earn the extra few pounds. Things were hard: Things werent easy because even though we have a recession, its a lot better now.
DC: People have food in their stomachs, the basic necessities.
TL: Thats right. I have two sons of my own. One of them is in Wellmans these ten or eleven years. And I said to him, if I was boy now in Wellmans youd never get into it. I have another son; he has his outfit at the back. He does sport injuries. He did his exams and passed the whole lot and seems to be doing well at it.
DC: A big number of men from Kells went to Wellmans, particularly when Tara Shoes closed
Yes they did and they were lucky enough that it closed down when
it did because Wellmans was only opening and they were
taking on plenty of people. It was unfortunate for Tara Shoes to
close down but at that time the shoe factories were dying. Now
Pickups, he sold most of his shoes n
DC: What was Pickups like to work for? A happy experience?
TL: Very happy. Very happy. Theyd never bother you once you did your work. Well, sure we did our work and at break time wed do little things. I remember one day the late Freddie Lawless he died a very young man and we were out having our tea break and that was the canteen, a little shed off the factory, and of course youd throw a cup of water at someone after the break. And Freddie threw a cup of water at George McGovern one day and he was left with the handle on his finger. The rest of the cup was gone. And he went in with the handle on his finger: Mrs. Pickup, the cup broke. And she stopped 2/6- out of his wages for the cup.
DC: It was down near where Oliver Usher is now
Exactly, now you go into Oliver Ushers ... to the right of
him, then the building to the left. I dont know whats
in there now. Well, the bakery was there. Fitzsimons, then
Spicers. Then Arat Shoes opened when
DC: Were they based down near the railway station?
TL: Near Kells Stores, the laneway leading up by Kells Stores.
DC: They produced Scholls.
TL: Yes, theyd be kind of like a slipper. And mostly women would be wearing them
DC: During your time in Pickups were you a member of a trade union?
TL: No, there was no trade union at that time. But there was in Tara Shoes.
DC: Were there any industrial disputes?
TL: No, there was never any dispute. Pickups were like a factory, you know what I mean Nobody had bad words with anybody. Like, as the fellow says, when youre working together you have to do your work and have a bit of a laugh at the same time. Nobody fell out with one another. We all got on well together. George McGovern was a great man to work for now. I worked beside George. He was a great man; he used to be in the pantomimes. He could make up a song like that about anybody. He was great so he was. A lot of those McGoverns worked in Pickups before I went there. Maybe five or six of them. When I went in there was only one in it George.
DC: Obviously if you were working in Pickups you had a fair bit to do with the workers in Tara and Norvic as well.
But they were good enough if Pickups ran short of a
clicker they could ring Tara and
DC: But there would have been a fair bit of socializing together, all living in the one town
TL: No, the most socializing wed do that time as I said, thered be no pubs would be going to football or playing football together. Or wed go over the park and wed run, wed do a few laps of the park after work, Jimmy McManus and myself. We might have a bet of a shilling. Tara Shoes used to have dinner dances every year but Pickups, we never had one. Tara Shoes always had a dinner dance and they used to have a childrens party at Christmas.
DC: And a few marriages were made through Tara Shoes because there were men and women in the same place.
DC: And they had a football team too, Tara Royals.
DC: From the people Ive already spoken to Ive got a sense that in the shoe factory there was a great camaraderie, it was like one big happy family, they were all from the same town so they knew one another, they socialized together thats your impression too ?
Yeah. Now in Wellmans we had a mix of Cavan and Meath.
Wed have great bantering. Nothing bad about it, all
harmless. Especially if a game of football would be coming up.
Theyd be putting up
DC: Obviously your time there was a very good experience
TL: Brilliant experience, brilliant experience. A partnership, But when youre there for years when it goes into 20 years and your stomach starts playing up and everything because youre not having the proper food because it would save time
DC: And youre not getting any younger of course. Would you ever say a little bit more about your years in the butchery trade?
When I started off
In the mornings Id have a bicycle
with a basket in front. I enjoyed delivering the meat, which
would be part of your training. Let it be raining or anything you
might have to go two miles up the road with a half pound of steak
to someone. And according as time goes on there was a qualified
butcher along with me. And the boss. What would happen is
hed kill maybe Tuesdays and Thursdays and Id be
standing just watching the other fellow killing and taking in
all. I wouldnt be let near it; Id keep the floor
washed and the area tidy and clean. Then as time went on I was
let cut a couple of chops. When there was nobody in the shop the
boss would take out a lion of lamb and say: Now cut those
chops till I see you. Id make plenty of mistakes but
by mistakes I learned. Now I kept on at that until he started me
in serving people. So I remember a woman asking me for a pound of
steak one day and I was giving her a pound of mince. I thought it
was steak, but thats how you learn by mistakes.
Still after about two years I was let kill and skin a lamb but I
was being supervised when I was doing it. I got on well at that;
then after another couple of months I was back killing a beast, a
heifer. And shoot them and draw the blood and skin them. And that
time you had to saw them down the centre just with a saw,
it wasnt easy going. The inspector and the vet come every
Thursday and Friday and he examined the meat and put a stamp on
it that it was OK for selling in the shop. It was Paddy Reilly I
worked for, a good man to work for. He was over there in
DC: That probably encouraged you to get out of the butchering trade.
TL: It didnt help now, it didnt help. But I seen there was good money in Wellmans and I seen this opportunity and I filled in an application form and didnt I meet the personnel manager up the road. He came in for meat one day. I gave him a chop or 2 and I knew him from the other job.. and when I did that I asked him about any jobs going in Wellmans. He says: Come down and see me on Monday. And I went down and got a job just like that.
DC: Would you just say a word or two about your time in Wellmans, the kind of work you did?
TL: There was approx. 30 men in each shift. There was a place called the sorting department. There was the spinning department. And then there was finishing. And I started off in the sorting department. Now I supervised about 20 fellows under me. And we used to sort all the raw material coming in and run it through a granulator and wed blow it through a shoot out into a bale press. The fellows baling it would take out the bales and strap it and put wrappers on them. And theyd be all tested. And then they would go to a conveyor belt and be fed on. Thered be a mixture of bales; they wouldnt be all the one lot. Thered be different lots and theyd all put on this long belt with a spiked apron. And it would be blown into a dryer and it would be so long and the dryer would be full all the time and it would drying the material. And it would go from there way up to the tower all done by air, blown up into the tower into the extruders. The extruders would be a very hot place in the tower to work. And it would be melted down. And thered be a place on the next floor called Quench and thered be spinnerets. And there might be about 500 small holes in each spinneret. Now it would be like a hair out of your head in that spinneret. And there would be 24 positions with 24 spinnerets. And the material would be coming down through all those spinnerets. It would be very interesting to get into Wellmans to see what they do. And then that would come down to `Take up` and it would go from there to the Finishing line department and that would be run through the finishing line to the bale presses to get ready for shipping. That was all exported. Now what they do with that fibre did you ever see anoraks with white wool on the inside of them? It was man-made fibre polyester and nylon. But its a very interesting case if you ever got into it just to have a look to see what they do, very interesting. Now on the Finishing line department thered be another supervisor. Hed have in around 20 fellows as well on the tower. Now thered be roughly 60 fellows working at night. During the day there could be anything up to 300 or 400 between the warehouses and the offices. Thered be at least 250 during the day. You have all the warehouses and forklift drivers. But it was interesting. There was a tragedy down there one night when I was on. There was a chap working at the bale press when the ram came down and squeezed his head. Now the ram would be a few tons weight. His brains was, God bless us, all over the place. We dreamed that happened about 3 oclock in the morning so we rang the hospital and said dont send anyone with a bad stomach because, God bless us, touch wood, theres no head nearly there. Gone, it wasnt cut off or anything, just squeezed through clean, it was very sad. We closed for a couple of days that time. He was from Oldcastle this chap, a lovely fellow.
DC: You dont get over that in a hurry
TL: No. It takes a while, you have nightmares. Even when you were sleeping during the day after working nights youd have nightmares. No, you dont get over those things.
DC: I suppose on the law of averages even with the best of health and safety something like that is going to happen. But that doesnt make it any easier when it does.
TL: Yes. But I know for a number of years before I left, Wellmans they went crazy about health and safety. Even if you were caught out of place with something youd get the door once it involved health and safety. There was people there before, different managers would come, different production managers. Some of them, all they were interested in, was production and quality. Then another production manager came and he was more interested in health and safety, which, I suppose, he was right.
DC: No harm.
TL: No, no harm. Like its very important, very important. They had health and safety committees, they had first aid fellows on every shift, which is great. They all did training; they got in people from the first aid in Navan to train them. They bought their own ambulance. I dont know do they still have it. I must ask my son, hes first aid in it below now. So hes enjoying working in it. Hed come home and tell you about some little bit of craic that happened in it. Such a fellow was asking for you It still goes on, still goes on.
DC: So overall it was a very good firm to work for
TL: Very good. An absolutely brilliant company Like Ive yet to look back and say that Ive worked for a bad one. I didnt. I find that if you go on and do your work and mind your own business that youd get on with anybody. Thats my opinion. Like Id say that if I had to pick stones off the road to earn money Id do it, simple as that. I like working. Im not getting any younger. Im retiring next year, so I will. So thats it.
DC: Retirement to look forward to
TL: Ah well, I think Id still do the odd bit of work
DC: I think youll still be active for a long time.
TL: Please God.
DC: Just going back to Pickups and Wellmans and the butchery trade, you mentioned a few of the characters that struck you. Are there any other characters or personalities or particular incidents over the years which struck you?
Sure, look it, there was that many tales
you could play
act on fellows... it was all harmless you know nothing malicious
in it. Sometimes you could write a book on them if you sat down
and thought about it. Of course I was no angel myself. Id
play games with fellows like take off somebody on the phone. I
used to ring my sister-in-law she worked in the squash
court and I used to change my voice into a womans
voce and Id say: Hello,
DC: When did you come here to live in Fr McCullen Park?
TL: We are here since - I got married in 1970 about late 71. Well be 40 years shortly.
DC: You would have seen some fairly big changes in Kells in that time.
Oh, yeah. Big changes in Kells
Big changes, theres
even a lot of people gone dead out of this place since we moved
into it. Good friends of ours. Like there are fellows when I came
in of an evening like Michael Arkins down there, Tommy
Grimes and Joe Kellett and wed all go off for a game
of pitch and putt in Monaghans down at the end of Ard Na Gréine.
Wed go down just a pack of lads and play a
few rounds of pitch and putt for a 1s or 2s. Wed do that
couple of times a week. Out in Ballinlough they have a grand
pitch and putt course now. Then Monaghan sold theirs, for houses.
He used get great societies, down from
DC: So sport was obviously very central to your life then.
TL: When I was playing sport when I was young you would go to the club and there were no dressing-rooms. Thered be no showers. You togged out behind a ditch or in car. And you waited until you went home If you were lucky enough to have a bath at home. We had no running water out in the house. We had to dig a pump hole so many feet down.
DC: So I guess that in terms of living standards, lifestyles and incomes things have improved within your lifetime.
Oh yeah thereve improved a sight, yeah. When I was growing
up youd never see a woman in a pub. Now theyre in
most nights of the week. And if your father went in it would be
only for a couple of bottles of Guinness. I dont know was
here pints that time, maybe there was. People used to bottle
their own Guinness. Where the Arches is now that was Cartys
and they always bottled their own Guinness. There was a man by
the name of Paddy Tormey from
DC: Its a world epidemic, its not peculiar to Kells
TL: Yeah. When I was growing up Tommy Grimes would probably tell you the same you needed no Guards.. Nobody gave trouble. You could go to bed where I lived it at Kilmainham and leave the door open at night; you didnt have to lock it. Now youd need to barricade all the windows. Its true, you wouldnt need a Guard. We were afraid of Guards We respected them, we really respected a Guard. But none of that now None of it, unfortunately. Theyre there to protect us. You have to have a bit of respect for them.
DC: So there are plusses and minuses in terms of the changes that have happened. Most of those old trades have gone, like the shoe factories, the bakeries, the breweries
Oh yeah, its all computers now. Its the same in
Wellmans. Where the finishing line bale presses are, you
had eight fellows; all you need now is two. The bales are taken
out of the machine, baled, strapped the whole lot of it.
Where you had to do it manually
its all finished
(automation) comes down, straps the bale,
puts the wrapper on it
its like two big arms putting on
putting the strap on it and throwing the bale
out on to the Trolley. Where you were doing it manually,
now you dont have to do it, its all done for them.
Fellows came over from
DC: Is there anything else before we wrap up, any little memories?
TL: Well the only memory I have is that I met a Kells woman and I married a Kells woman. And I lived in Kilmainham, then we moved into Kells, then we had two little boys. And Im very happy living in Kells. This little estate here, Id never move out of it not if I won a million in the lotto tomorrow night Id stay here. The neighbours are good and everyone helps one another. This park is like a small community where everyone pulls well together. We have great neighbours and Id like to say we are good neighbours to our neighbours. If anyone needs help were all there to help them. I remember before I got married I was given a site at Kilmainham by my father. I had the foundation dug and the money was there, no problem, and I was building a four bedroom bungalow on two-and-a-half thousand and I got cold feet and I pulled out of it. I thought I wouldnt be able to pay for it. When we got married we moved in with Ceptas mother for about six months then we got one of these houses. It was the best thing we did. Were very happy here. And we wouldnt change it.
DC: What was Ceptas maiden name?
Cepta lived in