Don Dardis and Catherine Dardis (née Murphy)
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Don Dardis and Catherine Dardis (née Murphy)


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Track 1: Catherine Dardis is a native of Cork city who, following her graduation with a Master’s degree, applied for a position as a chemist at the Clondalkin Paper Mills in 1969. She explains that at the time there were few positions available in chemistry. Her responsibility was to check the quality of pulp and the additives coming in, both at the process stage and also in quality control. Work on the development of new papers was also carried out in the laboratory. She explains how the water quality and also the effluent and settling beds were checked. She met her husband, Don Dardis, through working at the mills. He was a production planning controller, a stage between sales and production which scheduled the paper- making according to orders received. He joined the company in 1949 when about 200 people were employed there. The situation with regard to pulp production after WWII is discussed, and Don explains that he worked as a clerk in the Irish Railwaymen’s Union office for a few years. He recalls his time at the trade union as interesting, as he had to handle many tasks in a small office. When the trade union was absorbed by the ITGWU, he applied for a position at the paper mills. Don remembers that at the time Clondalkin was still a village in the country and the paper mills was a very important employer. Track 2: Catherine discusses the materials used in the laboratory and in the paper- making. Some pollution was generated, she says, particularly by the dyes. Don remembers that he would have to warn Killeen Paper Mills downstream when dyes were being used, and he tells an anecdote about some red dye released into the river. Catherine discusses the production of cheque book paper and the particular requirements for this. The interest taken by the workers in the different papers is remembered, for example a special paper for wrapping surgical instruments ordered by the National Health Service in England. She worked at the mills for five years and she explains that the laboratory was the place where the downturn was felt initially. Although her boss wanted her to return to work after maternity leave, Catherine decided to stay at home to look after her children. She recalls the masculine culture at the paper mills and Don remembers the men playing pitch and putt on land at the back of the site. Later, Dr Cusack provided a piece of land for the construction of a course. A bar licence was granted for the ‘glue pot’ (it was difficult to get out!) The management structure is described: the board of directors and Dr Cusack as General Manager, and a production manager with a manager for each of the three paper-making machines. One of the paper-making managers was Una Cusack, a chemist and sister of Dr Cusack. Catherine’s first boss was Tom O’Neill and her later boss was Eugene McKiernan who had been in America. Track 3: Don talks about trade union membership and the dissatisfaction with pay. He recalls the strike in the 1960s and Catherine discusses the national strike in the early 1970s relating to the electrical trades. The clash between the unions and management is also discussed. Don worked at the paper mills until it closed and he remarks on the difficulties experienced by the factory in competing with the Scandinavian mills. The sale of the paper mills to a Canadian company and its renaming as Leinster Paper Mills is recalled, and the unsuccessful proposal by the workers to take over the company is discussed. Catherine explains that she went back to university to qualify as a teacher and that Don, having worked elsewhere for a period, looked after the family at home. Fortunately, her industrial experience at the paper mills gave her five year’s increments in her teaching career, she explains.

Additional information



Audio series:

Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

9.33 MB, 12.82 MB, 13.92 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Memories of a chemist and a Production Planning Controller

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe