Killasnett Co-operative Society/Creamery Co-op
The Killasnett Co-op is thriving, the days of struggle and doubt are gone. Sean McPartlan(d), native of North Leitrim and a graduate of University College, Cork, is the chief executive, and along with Patrick O'Hara and James Durneen, Vice-Chairment they are looking forward to the next 100 years. This year marks the centenary of the foundation of the Killasnett Co-operative Society, one of the oldest creamery co-ops in Ireland.
The Society traces it origins to the end of the last century when Sir Horace Plunkett began a co-operative movement based on local ownership and set up his first creamery in Drumcollogher, Co. Limerick, and by 1893, thirty such creameries had been established. Plunkett did meet with some resistance; in Newcastlewest the farmers hunted him from town saying that they would never send the milk from their Catholic farms to a creamery set up by a Protestant landlord. Plunkett, however, had worked closely with his friend, Fr. Tom Finlay in establishing cooperative creameries. The two men complimented each other in many ways. Whereas, Fr. Finlay was an excellent public speaker, Plunkett, though educated at Eton and Oxford, tended to lisp and stammer on the platform. Joining forces, they brought dedication and unity to the project. It is easy to understand why Plunkett went to the south of Ireland in order to initiate his project; there was plenty of milk produced in Munster and butter had been exported from Cork one thousand years earlier.
Although milk production tended to be small and seasonal, the building of cooperative creameries became a reality in North Sligo and Leitrim beginning in 1895, when a Protestant landlord, Sir Jocelyn Gore-Booth became actively involved in setting up the Killasnet creamery - evidently encouraged by what Plunkett had achieved earlier in Limerick. He was joined in his efforts by Fr. Stephen McTiernan, mirroring the pattern set up by Plunkett and Finlay. Although Sir. Jocelyn's home (Lissadell) was 20 miles from Killasnett, he attended monthly meetings of the committee until 1904. His interest and dedication was evident from the fact that he must have travelled on horseback or horse-drawn vehicles in the wintry months with his attendance recorded in the minute book of the society. Sir Jocelyn acted as vice-chairman of the co-op and
Fr. McTiernan acted as chairman. Even though the parish priest only traveled one mile to the meetings and was often late, (according to those same, interesting minutes), he more than made up for it by enthusiastically presiding over the co-op for the first seven years of its existence. He died in 1906, age 96. In spite of his advanced age, he had helped greatly to put the Society on a secure foundation!
The first creamery was built in Lurganboy, the center of the best land in the parish. Richard Moore was the first manager of Killasnett Co-Op and several others from the south of Ireland held the position until the appointment of a native of North Leitrim, Owen Murphy, in 1914, who continued until his death in 1960 - greatly influencing the development of the Society and having the task of building a new creamery in the 1930s at a time when money was extremely tight After obtained a long-term loan from his friend, E. C. Semple, he opened the new creamery on June 15, 1936. It was to be considered one of the finest premises in Ireland. The new central creamery was erected in Manorhamilton, still in the parish of Killasnett, to facilitate access to the railway and telephone. The Society also built or acquired five branch creameries.
Staff of the Killasnett Creamery in the 1940s included Owen Murphy (Manager), Frank Boylan, Benny Gilroy, Tom McDonald, Mae Shanly (nee Parkes), Sarah Clancy (nee Gilligan), John Drumm (later to become manager), Jimmy McMorrow, Joe McMorrow, James O'Hara, Patrick Fox, Michael Healy and others.
Running costs were made more difficult for Leitrim (as opposed to Limerick, for example) due in part to the cold drumlin soil of the northwest and the local climate.
In the early 1960s, Killasnett Co-Op began making ration for cattle in keeping with the climate. They enlisted the assistance of agricultural graduates who had an intimate knowledge of conditions on the farms of North Leitrim. Eamon Prendergast, John Doyle and Edward Hallahan helped with the formulation of a vitamin-rich food for cows to make up for the lack of sunshine during the long winter. (In North Leitrim it is common to have cows indoors from October to May while in Cork, for example, they are housed for only three months). It was also necessary to buy and transport over long distances ingredients that were needed for the formulation as none of the cereals were now indigenous to Leitrim. In the past, when labour was cheap, however, men working with loys and spades had produced fine oat crops.
In summary, due to the dedication of everyone involved over the last 100 years, the Killasnett Co-op today is thriving, per recent article in the "Leitrim Guardian."