Track 1: Ray Muldowney began work at the paper mills in July 1954. His grandfather, Bill, was a beater man in the old mills and was made redundant when it closed in the 1920s. He joined the new mills when it reopened about a decade later. Bill married a Clondalkin woman and they had a family of nine children. Some of Ray’s uncles worked at the mills also, while his father, Jim, worked in the paper transport section of CIÉ, delivering newspapers overnight to all parts of the country by lorry. Initially, Ray worked with a firm of car upholsterers in Islandbridge and then with Superior Waxing (later Superior Packaging) when the firm was located at St Loman’s. This latter job involved waxing paper made at Clondalkin, but he was sacked for taking time off to do an interview at the paper mills. He started off in the laboratory at the mills testing the paper quality, working with Eamon Tully, Gerry Reid, Mrs McGrath, Fanny Carroll and Oliver McGovern, with Dr Sherry in charge. Then he moved to the machine room with Gerry Reid, and he recalls the various jobs he had to do on a machine, going from the wet to the dry end. He explains that the men working on a machine had to be on their guard continuously, watching the paper. There was a back tender, assistant back tender and a machine man. Ray was promoted to foreman in about 1970, and during the night shift he was responsible for the whole factory. He recalls that the equipment was continuously changing, and he discusses a new wet end cylinder being installed on one occasion and the demolition of the factory wall to insert it into the machine. He tells the story relating to his team which started the new machine after the day shift had failed, and the trouble that this caused. He recalls some of the so-called experts he met in his time, though in his opinion they did not have the practical paper-making experience of the men in the factory. On the night shift as foreman, he had responsibility from the beating loft down. He describes the complete process of making the paper from imported pulp, and explains that in his grandfather’s time, the paper was made from jute and rags, with straw added in during WWI. The noisy working environment is remembered, as Ray talks about the hand signals used by the men and how his own hearing was affected. The lack of environmental regulation in relation to the River Camac is recalled. He and some others visited various sites where Clondalkin paper was being used, and he tells an anecdote about visiting the Irish Independent and a problem being addressed there, owing to the visiting men’s skill and experience.
Track 2: The size of the factory is recalled, and Ray remarks what when he began, over 900 people worked there with another 100 people in the bag-making factory. He talks about the two chimneys on the paper mills when it was fully operational, and the layout of various parts of the factory is described. The First Aid section run by Miss Ryan and a doctor was accessible only during the day with no provision for night time. After 5 p.m. he was responsible for about 100 people during the night, he says. He explains that the mills’ own pulp would be used for making wallpaper and envelopes as these were softer papers, but imported pulp came from such places as Africa and Sweden for printed papers. He recalls the yard and the ‘groundwood’, where the telegraph-pole style logs were stacked up high. He says that Clondalkin paper was known worldwide and had a good reputation. The paper travelled through the machines at about 1,000 feet per minute, and industrial accidents did occur, particularly when the paper was fed by hand, though he explains that most accidents occurred when the machine was going slowly. His own brother had a very serious accident on the No. 3 machine and was lucky to survive, though left with severe injuries. Ray tells a story about a fire in the No. 3 machine and he also considers the factors which contributed to the downturn at the paper mills. The relationship with the ESB is recalled, as are the difficulties caused by power being cut. He explains that starting up the machine cost thousands of pounds, but the running of the machines generated electricity back to the grid. This expense meant that management wanted to run the machines on a 24-hour basis. Track 3: Ray talks about the closure of the paper mills and the difficulties experienced by him, as foreman on the night shift, by people attending union meetings. In his opinion, the shop stewards did not consider the work, and some men seemed to be continually at union meetings and not turning up to work. He remembers Dr Cusack and his visits to examine the machines, but his successor, Mr Lund, was not seen on the factory floor. Ray recalls a man who worked a treble shift and was half-way through the fourth shift before he could go home, and explains that at that time there were no maximum working hours. Another example of the hard work is provided when he describes the broken paper being taken by the men, over their shoulders, up to the beating loft to be recycled. In the later years, a new generation came in who would not do the work in the same way as before, which caused problems. After the paper mills closed in 1981, Ray worked at ACT in Citywest for a period, and when that business closed down, he ran a petrol station in Inchicore for many years until that was closed by Maxol. He had been asked to go back to the paper mills as Production Manager but as he did not want to go back on shift work, he did not take up the offer. He recalls what he heard about the paper being made by the new company and that it ended up as waste. He considers that the new people did not know how to make paper in the correct way.