John Clarke
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John Clarke


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Track 1: John Clarke worked for 29 years at the paper mills, joining in 1953. Prior to this, he had served for six years with the Irish Army during the Emergency and had also worked in various employments. His house is a labourer’s cottage, built in 1911. He recalls his foster parents and his working life since the age of 13. His birth mother’s family is also recalled. He has a great interest in the GAA and he talks about following the “Dubs”. Following his time milking cows at Baldonnell, he describes his job with Andy Egan, a cattle dealer in Kingwood, and walking the cattle into Dublin city centre for the fair. The village, including the various houses and families of Clondalkin at that time is described. John also worked as a waiter and as a golf caddy at the golf course. He joined the Irish Army at Rathmines when he was 18, and recalls the training at the Curragh over eighteen months. He was posted to Templemore and then on to Clonmel, and he remarks that he was a member of the last platoon to serve in Templemore before the barracks were handed over to the Garda Siochána. He had also served in the Local Defence Force during the Emergency. Track 2: Following his service with the army, John worked in construction with a local builder before starting as a forklift truck driver, moving pallets of china clay and waste paper. The pulp was moved with a clamper, he explains, adding that his bosses were Michael Delaney and Harry O’Brien, and his co-workers were Joe Kelly, Paddy Cooke, Vinny Maguire and Billy Maguire. The good camaraderie of the yard is recalled. He describes how the pulp was handled and how careful the men needed to be before the introduction of mechanical equipment. The men also moved china clay and asbestos, and John discusses this work. At this juncture, Tommy Keogh talks about the formula, or ‘furnish’, for each type of paper, and how John and his colleagues would fulfil the list of items ready to be used. John recalls that pulp was made from cloth rags and he remembers the women who worked in that department. The St. Joseph Pipe Band was formed in 1937 and Tommy explains that it won Division 2 in the world championship in 1990. Unfortunately, it is now disbanded owing to a lack of numbers, and he remarks that two of the founding members died just recently. Track 3: John recalls that he worked initially at the mills in the salt department in the loading bay, and was then asked to move to the yard. He was happy with this arrangement as the wages were very good. He explains that extra money could be earned on double shifts and treble time on Sundays, and he remarks on the jealousy felt between men on the matter of earnings. He was a member of the ITGWU, and in his opinion, the workers were too greedy and there was a lack of co-operation which closed the paper mills. He considers that the union also had too many demands. By the time of the closure of the mills he was suffering from illness, and so did not return to work there. He examines and remarks upon some photographs, and talks about the recycling of waste paper. Track 4: When the mills were closed on December 5 1981, John was out sick and he was sent his redundancy. Brian Molloy had been Managing Director, but then the liquidator, Bernard Somers, was brought in. At this time, John was suffering from migraines and arthritis but he does not put the cause down to his work environment. He recalls that Michael Honan, the personnel manager, asked him what he intended to do, but when the mills finally closed, John was on an invalidity pension and never worked again. He considers that the paper mills gave him and his family a good living from which the children were reared and educated. The bitterness of some people in the area is remembered, and John discusses the hurt this bitterness caused him. The attitude towards fostered children in the village in earlier days is recalled, as is his foster brother, John O’Toole from Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow. John tells an anecdote about the time when he made his First Holy Communion. Track 5: The eighteen-week strike and the financial hardship of the time are remembered, and a story is told about paying his bills during the strike, and he expresses his pride in having no debts to this day.

Additional information



Audio series:

Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

12.87 MB, 10.04 MB, 7.77 MB, 11.60 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



29 years at the paper mills

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe