Vera Crofton and Jean Byrnes (née Reilly)
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Vera Crofton and Jean Byrnes (née Reilly)


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Track 1: Jean Byrnes begins by talking about the great times she had going places and meeting people with her brother, singer Paddy Reilly, and she recalls Mick McCarthy (of The Kerryman) giving him a start in the Embankment public house. Vera Crofton is from Saggart and on her return from Birmingham she started work in Saggart Paper Mills in 1956. She was a general worker on the factory floor, tidying up the area and collecting waste paper for recyling. Jean comes from Rathcoole village, and she explains that her father, Jack Reilly, and her mother, Nellie Whelan, both worked in Swiftbrook paper mills. She recalls her grandmother Jane, a milliner who lived in Fortunestown Lane, and her visits to Saggart to visit. Her parents’ musical parties when her uncle Owen Reilly came home from England for a visit are also recalled. The familial relationship between Vera and Jean is explained, and Jean recalls the row of houses in Rathcoole where she was brought up. Track 2: Jean talks about her father, Jack Reilly, being on the run during the Civil War with Jimmy Butler and John Tyndall, and explains that her father used to tell the family his stories of those times. The split between the brothers during the war is described, and Jean remembers hearing about the family history while hiding under the kitchen table. The effect of politics on Jack’s ability to get work, because of his IRA connection, is also described. Vera’s grandfather, Joseph Walsh, had been a British soldier who was wounded during WWI, but she says there was no animosity between him and Jack Reilly. She recalls Joe talking about the trenches and Jack’s running from the Black and Tans.
Track 3: After school Jean first worked at the Glen Abbey clothing factory and later she worked at Swiftbrook until the early 1960s, when she married. She recalls a great atmosphere in the workplace, and Vera tells an anecdote about trying to listen to Ella Fitzgerald on the radio at work. Jean remembers having to pay to hear music at the Glen Abbey factory, and she remarks that they were very young when working at Swiftbrook and it seemed like great fun, but it was hard work with heavy loads to lift and with long hours. The Swiftbrook weekly ‘hops’ were organised by Jack Reilly, Jimmy Butler and Mr McDermott in the pavilion, initially using old 78 rpm records before bands were later introduced. Vera recalls bands such as Ralph Sylvester and Jimmy Dunny. Though there was no piped music at Swiftbrook, all the workers would be singing songs from films and popular music. The working hours were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour for lunch. Jean remarks that for a long time, Newcastle people did not work in Swiftbrook as it was felt that a Saggart clique was employed there, though later on plenty of Newcastle people were also employed at the facility. The good money paid by Swiftbrook is recalled. Track 4: Jean remembers that before her marriage she spent her earnings on clothes. The quality of the Swiftbrook paper is recalled, and Vera remarks that Swiftbrook was located at the start of the flow of the River Camac, while Clondalkin was located further down the river. The refurbishment of the old section of the mills is underway and Vera discusses this. Jean talks about her brother Pat who was working in Swiftbrook as a cutter, and his decision to go to America and follow his singing career full-time. She recalls the saying of the rosary in the mills and the collection for a statue in the Marian Year of 1954. Vera remembers Jack Reilly’s devotion to the rosary and how she and her friends would try to leave work before the prayers would start. In conclusion, Jean and Vera recall some stories about Jack and the mills workers.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

10.16 MB, 8.27 MB, 11.36 MB, 11.65 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Working at Swiftbrook Paper Mills

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe