Tony Reynolds and Gertrude Reynolds (née Small)
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Tony Reynolds and Gertrude Reynolds (née Small)


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Track 1: Tony Reynolds is from Castleknock. His father had a shop and was also a waiter at the Wicklow Hotel on Wicklow Street in Dublin city centre. Having finished school, Tony worked at the Great Southern Railway works at Inchicore, where he qualified as a fitter. He later went to work as a fitter at Clondalkin Paper Mills in 1948, remaining there until his retirement. He explains that he was seconded for three years to Drimnagh Paper Mills. In his opinion, the sole reason for the closure of the paper mills was Ireland’s membership of the European Union. At the mills, he was responsible for anything connected to engineering and he says that there were about 20 men working on engineering works at Clondalkin. He remembers Drimnagh as having antiquated and slow-running machinery compared to that operated at Clondalkin, and recalls that there were about 250 people working at Drimnagh on much smaller paper machines. Each machine there was run by a stationary steam engine, in comparison to Clondalkin where electricity was used. A problem for Drimnagh was its situation downstream from Clondalkin paper mills, and Tony explains that he was one of those involved in the drilling of three new water wells. However, he says, not enough water was produced even from water wells. He tells an anecdote relating to the red paper produced for the Little Messenger magazine, and the pollution produced at the time. Track 2: Gertrude Reynolds joined the paper mills as a shorthand typist in about 1950, working mainly in the typing pool. Her father was from Drumcondra and worked as a painter and decorator, while her mother came from Tipperary. One of her brothers worked for a period in the paper mills. Gertrude and Tony met at a dance and married in 1957. Gertrude then gave up her position to rear their family. She considers that she should have been allowed to work after her marriage, and says it was very difficult at the time for married women to get employment. However, she feels that she was fortunate to be in a position to stay at home once the children arrived. Tony reflects on the condition of the Drimnagh Paper Mills before it was closed, and remembers that the plant had been modernised to a great extent. The history of Drimnagh Paper Mills is discussed, and Tony recalls taking out the remains of the pump relating to the paddle wheel. In his time, the paper mills was being managed by Dr Cusack who visited regularly, and Warren Pentz, an engineer, headed up the engineering section of the Drimnagh plant. The previous owners had been the Dock Milling Company, and some of their employees remained in Tony’s time there, people such as Danny Keane, Harry McGlone and Tony Browne. When Drimnagh closed, Tony returned to Clondalkin where he was shortly thereafter promoted to foreman.
Track 3: Gertrude talks about the typing pool which consisted of four women, and she explains that at first she spent some time on the switchboard. She recalls the work involved with typing up documents for shipments where accuracy was crucial, also typing letters and doing some filing. The atmosphere was very pleasant and the other workers were helpful, and she recalls the seniors being Evy Archbold, Betty O’Reilly, Kathleen O’Neill, Miriam O’Hanlon, Kitty Whelan, and the juniors included herself, Dolores Looney, Ann Bradley, Dolores Behan and Freda Ryan. She talks about these women, many of whom were local, and how they kept in touch over the years. She describes the social outings they enjoyed and their closely interrelated social lives. Track 4: Tony reflects on the effects of Ireland’s entry to the EEC. He tells an anecdote about a meeting in the boardroom in 1977, where Dr Cusack spoke to the men and announced that ‘the place was finished.’ Tony recalls the closure of all the large employers in the area, and says that he was against Ireland’s membership of the EEC from the very beginning. He feels that the decision to close had been made in 1977 because the competition from abroad was too intense. Gertrude talks about the closure of the big industries in the area, such as Lamb’s Jams, Nugget Boot Polish, Weatherwell, Clondalkin Concrete, Glen Abbey and Urneys Chocolates over a period and she says that employment for the village was gone. Track 5: Tony looking at a group photograph of his colleagues taken at the time of Bill Brant’s retirement, and talks about the men featured. He reflects on the question of whether the trade unions effected the closure of the paper mills. Gertrude remembers the export of paper to London companies, via Liverpool, after WWII. Paper was also sent to Northern Ireland every week, to be used in the manufacture of cement bags. She recalls the Remington manual typewriters used in the typing pool, and says that she also used a cylinder Dictaphone and was kept very busy, mainly with export documents. She remembers that the work became intense when the time came for the shipments to go out. It was important to be accurate because, if the paperwork was incorrect, the shipments would be left on the quayside and ‘quay charges’ would be payable. She remembers Mr Buggy and Mr Curry who were drivers, and the Minihans from Clondalkin who were haulage contractors. When she resigned, she says that she missed the companionship of her work colleagues. Track 6: Tony further recalls the warning made by Dr Cusack in 1977. There had been a strike in the previous year he says. After the paper mills closed in 1981, Tony and John Geraghty, both engineering foremen, with engineer Bruce Shaha, re-joined the paper mills under Canadian ownership. Tony recalls the closure of the mills in 1987 and describes how this came about, and he discusses the many closures of Clondalkin Paper Mills during its history. Under the Canadian ownership, the mills was renamed Leinster Paper Mills, a name which had earlier been used. He recalls Seamus Rowntree, an Irish company director of this new company, who was connected to the Rowntree chocolate firm and, in Tony’s opinion, had probably interested the Canadians in Clondalkin. Track 7: Tony considers that the opening of the pulp mills was one of the errors made in the history of the Clondalkin Paper Mills. He talks about the Fianna Fáil policy of the 1930s, relating to reafforestation, and says that the pulp mills was built in the 1960s with a view to processing the timber. The various methods of making pulp are described, and he explains that the groundwood method was used at Clondalkin, producing a very fine pulp, though this did not make good paper. He remembers the construction of the large plant by two Swedes, and the poor opinion of Irish timber held by a Swedish man. The quality of the timber is related to the time of maturation, Tony explains. The groundwood method was replaced with an American machine that shredded the timber, though Tommy Keogh remarks that this American machine used too much electricity. Tony recalls the huge consumption of energy and the system of turbines involved. He describes the cylinders in the paper machines: the Fourdrinier and the machine-glazed (MG) machines. At one time, a cylinder was replaced, and Tony was sent to England to bring it back for installation. The old cylinder had to be sold at a low price to a scrap merchant, as it was too large to be transported in one piece for break up. The new cylinder was 85 tons in weight, and Tony describes the police escort which accompanied the low-loader truck from the foundry in Lancashire to the port in Liverpool, and the logistics involved in the route planning and transport. The pumps on the paper-making machines are recalled, and Tony explains that though he had been constantly repairing the pumps, they were replaced by Bruce Shaha. He remembers that every time the groundwood plant was started up in the early days, the ESB would have to be informed so that the network would not be closed down. Tony remembers the busy time the fitters and engineers had during the first fortnight in August, maintaining the machinery. Other than then, the machines ran for a week or weeks on end. Tony reflects on the fact that he was better paid as a fitter than as a foreman, as the fitters received overtime but the foremen did not. He remembers dealing with the engineers out of hours and the difficulties of getting them to come in. He explains that the foremen fitters grouped together and decided to join the Draughtsmans and Technicians Association (DATA). He tells an anecdote about meeting a union representative, and the demands for pay for Saturday and Sunday work and call ins. He recalls his uncle Philip who was killed at the Battle of the Marne during WWI, and the family story which described the fact that his older uncle, Tommy, had found his brother’s body.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

7.44 MB, 7.63 MB, 9.15 MB, 9.11 MB, 6.02 MB, 10.83 MB, 13.37 MB

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An engineer fitter at the paper mills

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe