Industrialization of Tubbercurry in the mid 20th century. Padraic Neary 26/10/2017.
In the late 1930’s the first of 6 Gallagher brothers from Cashel, a village just south of Tubbercurry, departed for England seeking work and within a short time, as other brothers joined them, set up their own construction company in the city of London. They became involved in clearing bomb sites during the blitz and in rebuilding that great city after the war. By the late 1940’s they has expanded their building activities to Dublin and decided to source some essential building requirements from their home place where jobs were badly needed. Their first venture in the early 1950’s was a joint arrangement with Gowna Wood Industries to produce doors and windows for the building industry.
Very shortly afterwards they made an arrangement with a Danish Company, Basta, to commence manufacture of locks together with door and window fittings in their home town of Tubbercurry and complemented the project by including foundry facilities for production of cast iron, brass and zinc. This was one of the very first modern type industries to be established in Ireland. It soon became apparent that for Basta to operate successfully there was requirement for an engineering facility to service, repair and manufacture new tooling for production of the various parts involved. As no such expertise was available in the country at the time it was decided to set up their own facility and so The Tool and Gauge Company of Ireland came into existence. The formation of Toolmaking or, to use its more posh title, Precision engineering, was the introduction of the Smart Economy to Ireland.
Most people have little knowledge of Precision Engineering or even know of its existence. Known to some as Tool-making, it is not production of implements to facilitate tradesmen or gardeners or DIY enthusiasts but rather the core essential around which all mass production is based. Precision Engineering involves the design and manufacture of specialize equipment which is essential in the manufacture of everything which is required in quantity. Everything mass produced for the human race is possible only because of the knowledge, skill and advancement of this key section of industry. Henry Ford attributed his enormous success at mass production to “tool-making excellence” classifying toolmakers as the aristocrats of industry. Almost a century later Steve Jobs who hailed himself as a toolmaker, acknowledged that his ideas for a smart-phone would have remained ideas without the expertise of master toolmakers.
Precision Engineering is essential to and often the source from which product development springs as well as the impetus behind automation and robotics which when allied with the genius of computerization and digital control achieves extraordinary results.
Tubbercurry, as well as retaining the successor of the original Tool and Gauge Company and Basta has given rise to a proliferation of similar operations; some retained locally, such as Avenue Precision and Laurence Engineering with many others spread throughout the whole country. It can truly be claimed that Tubbercurry as the birthplace of new Industrialization and of Precision Engineering in Ireland, has proved itself the cradle of highly Technical Industry and the original midwife of Smart Economics in this country.
When founded in Tubbercurry just over 60 years ago the “thou” was the universal unit of precision; A “thou” in Imperial measurement was one thousandth’s part of an inch; the unit of precision sought after and expected. One thousandth’s part of a millimetre is the present unit of perfection. A 25 times reduction of precision to about one fiftieth the diameter of the finest human hair is what the three industries located locally deliver, enabling them keep pace with and achieve skill and accuracy to match that of any place in the world. Each is master of modern precision and carves a niche for themselves in a multi-demanding industry which is what the smart economy is all about. It is because of such precision that many top technology companies locate in Ireland and although having just about half a centuries industrial tradition Irish Precision Engineers can match and even surpass many who have been involved in industry for three or four times as long. The Irish have an aptitude for precise technology as evidenced by the success of Precision engineering in this country. We are proud that for this country, it all started with the formation of The Tool and Gauge Company of Ireland Limited in Tubbercurry just about 60 years ago.
Industry proved phenomenally successful in Tubbercurry and at its peak employed in excess of 600 people in this small town. Many people have trained in manufacturing over the years having very successful careers and indeed founding many industries at home and abroad. In fact two most recent Precision Toolmaking Apprentices trained in Tool and Gauge represented Ireland with distinction in International Competition. Donald Logan in 2015 competed in Brazil while Michael Flynn just returned from Abu Dhabi. The two mainstays of employment still trade successfully but at a reduced level of employment as technological advance and globalization of trade reduced and relocated many of the great manufacturing powerhouses of the world. The basic industries of Basta and Tool and Gauge coupled with several smaller highly technical and very skilled establishments bear witness to the successful industrialization of Tubbercurry in the mid 20th century and still play a significant role in the commercial fabric of the town and surrounding area. It is hoped in the near future to raise a monument in Wolf Tone Square to the beginning of Smart Irish Economics so that all may realize and remember the importance to the whole country the Industrialization of this small town in the mid 20th century.