Tommy Keogh
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Tommy Keogh


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Track 1: Tommy Keogh describes his family background and explains that his grandfather, John, came from Wicklow to Clondalkin, where Tommy’s father Joe was born in 1901. In the mid-1880s his grandfather was injured in a paper mills building and lived the remainder of his life confined to a wheelchair. Tommy recalls his father’s family home which was situated directly opposite the gates to the paper mills. When the mills was re-opened in 1937, his father worked as a labourer and he then became the mills lagger, working to maintain the pipe lagging throughout the mills, along with his helper Dan Kelly from Tallaght. Tommy mentions the asbestos construction of the lagging but says that his father was unaffected and survived until the age of 96. Tommy’s mother was Ann Cummins from Terenure. His sister, Marie, worked in the shipping office with Mr Casey for about 15 years, and his brother, Kevin, was stores assistant. Following his retirement, Joe returned to work at the mills as a nightwatchman for a further seven years, and Tommy remarks that the cumulative length of service by his family was not unusual among millworkers. After leaving school in June 1956, he began work as a clerk on £2 a week, progressing to full employment in the accounts department. He remembers the more formal nature of work in those days, which involved manual systems and filing. He later moved to the wages office after some years working for Paddy Johnson, and later still he was promoted to Payroll Manager. He tells an anecdote about the robbery of the cash wages one Friday in the 1970s by a gang wearing balaclavas, and as a result, payments by cheque were introduced soon afterwards. Tommy’s job at this time was to deliver the salaries to the administrative offices every Friday. He recalls the different grades, the effect of shiftwork on the mills employees’ income and the happy atmosphere which prevailed in all sections. He discusses the introduction of trade unions to the paper mills and explains that in 1966, he and the other office staff passed the picket line as they were not unionised at that stage. His father was on strike during this period. Tommy further explains that the four-shift system would affect only the paper makers, but all the mills workers were affected by the strike. The pleasant working environment and co-operative nature of the workers is recalled as are the social outings, including the annual dinner dance and the golf society outings. The acquisition of Bailey Gibson, Dublin Print and Paper, Cahills and Guys of Cork meant an increase in payroll work in his department, he says. He mentions the fact that many couples met through their work at the paper mills. Tommy’s wife, Bridget, is from Clondalkin and she worked in Molly Reilly’s shop in Main Street in the 1950s and 1960s. The paper mills provided a social hub and employment for areas around Clondalkin such as Saggart, Rathcoole, Drimnagh, Lucan, Palmerstown and Newcastle, and a building project in the 1960s employed another 100 men in construction, some of whom remained in the village. Tommy talks about knowing every corner of the mills because of his job, and he remarks that the scale of the operation was huge. The computerisation of the payroll at the mills in the mid-1960s was a great leap forward in terms of technology, and he recalls that due to the newness of the computer to Ireland, staff were given training in its use. His job was to create the pay packet envelopes and put in the exact amount required, and he says that he was the decimalisation officer on the introduction of decimal currency in 1970. Track 2: The innovative nature of Dr Cusack with regard to technology is recalled, as Tommy remembers a large roller brought in from England and the work involved in its installation. He remarks that there was always something happening which made the work interesting. The papermakers went on holidays for the August fortnight and the maintenance group worked overtime on the paper machines during this time. Tommy remembers many foreigners working on and upgrading the equipment during these weeks. He recalls the ‘sooting’ of the boilers by the boilermen who were on double time for a week cleaning out the boilers, and he remarks that his father-in-law, Joe Brown, was a boilerman. The social club and the pitch-and-putt course which survived the existence of the paper mills are mentioned. From 1972 until 1979 Tommy was the Office Manager with responsibility for the office staff, and Mr O’Farrell, the accountant, was his boss he explains. After Dr Cusack’s retirement, Brian Molloy became General Manager in the paper mills and Tommy applied for the position of Credit Manager. This position held a lot of responsibility as it involved the collection of money from debtors. After the paper mills closed, he received a redundancy payment but was kept on by liquidator Bernard Somers until in May1982, when he left to take up a new position elsewhere. He says that of the £3.5m owing to the mills, only £10,000 remained unpaid at the end of the liquidation process. His new job was as a Credit Controller with Traynor Farm Machinery in Finglas, and he went on to work with an Aer Lingus company – CARA the Computer People, becoming Company Secretary. He took early retirement in 2001 after Aer Lingus sold CARA, which had had its origins in the CPM through the hiring of the computer after hours. He remarks that the loss of salaries from the paper mills must have hit local businesses very hard. He talks about the efforts to revive the paper mills and the general belief that the only paper mills in Ireland to produce such a quality product would never be allowed to close. He considers the effect of the trade unions, the various strikes in the 1970s and the consequences of wage demands and inequalities which arose over time. The intransigence of the workers over work practices and the poor reflection this had on the unions is discussed. He recalls Eamon Tully’s visit to Sweden to study paper production there in 1966. Tommy explains that he is now involved with the Round Tower Heritage Group in creating an exhibition space, coffee shop and monastic garden at the round tower site in Clondalkin, which it is hoped will be a great attraction for tourists.

Additional information



Audio series:

Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

15.12 MB, 10.89 MB, 15.02 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Payroll at the Paper Mill

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe