An action-packed celebration got underway to mark an eventful 100 years of the Shelburne Co-operative Society which was set up by farmers in the heart of Campile, Co Wexford to serve their community.
Over the century it has overcome a WWII bombing with the tragic loss of life of staff, the economic uncertainty of wartime and a massive fire at the start of the harvest season in the ‘50s that nearly spelled disaster.
Along with the changing face of the Irish agriculture scene, it moved from once trading in rabbits and poultry to a modern day enterprise with a strong turnover through the innovative actions of its staff and farmers.
Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia Group managing director, paid tribute to the work of the current staff and those that had gone before as the vision of the founding farmers in setting up the Co-op in 1919 was marked.
“The new book penned by Michael Walsh to celebrate the 100-years of the Shelburne Co-operative charts the ups and downs of the Co-op over the years and it gives a good glimpse into agricultural life in Ireland over the past decades.
“It shows the innovation displayed by farmers and Co-op staff members as they overcame adversity and ensured the Co-op blossomed over the years into a strong modern day enterprise.”
Among those in attendance at the celebrations were Glanbia Ireland’s Jim Bergin; Glanbia group Chairman Martin Keane; Glanbia board member, Wexford farmer Eamon Power; members of the Wexford Senior Hurling team; farmers and staff members, both past and present.
Eamon Power said the centenary marked a momentous occasion for all those in Campile. “When the Co-op opened in 1919 the turnover was £3,000, it shows the innovative and industrious committee that were able to set it on its path to what it is today,” he said.
In addition, the ribbon was cut to officially open the refurbished and rebranded Campile Allcare Pharmacy. Allcare Pharmacy is Ireland’s largest Irish-owned pharmacy brand, with pharmacies located in communities across the country.
Among those in attendance from the Allcare Pharmacy group were Dermot Ryan, Uniphar Retail Services MD, Siobhán Flynn, Marketing Director and Alan Carroll, Franchise Relationship Manager.
There was a party mood as the BEAT Fleet provided the music, while children enjoyed face painting, art competitions and treats such as the popular Avonmore Mooju drinks.
An evening BBQ was held, while Wexford strawberries and Avonmore summer cream were among the tasty refreshments. With the GAA season heating up, there were visits from players on the Wexford GAA teams which are sponsored by GAIN Animal Nutrition.
It was a chance for the people of Campile to reminisce over the years gone by with the unveiling of a new book on the centenary of the Shelburne Co-operative put together by former employee and local historian Michael Walsh for the occasion.
It paints a picture of the difficult era in which the Co-op was set up as it shows determination to give farmers a better price for their produce after the price of grain and livestock had plummeted following the end of World War I. It spurred farmers to band together to create the Co-op in 1919 to service the vast area stretching from the Hook to the White Mountain.
However, there were many notable occasions throughout the century as the 1930s saw the Co-op blossom. The rise of the Co-op saw the installation of a seed cleaning plant by a German firm, growth in staff numbers and it became an agent for most of the leading brands of agricultural machinery.
During WWII, it faced the same travails as all businesses as the War brought difficulties including a shortage of fertilisers, animal feeds and coal.
Yet it was in August 1940 that the reality of the War was really brought home when a German plane dropped four bombs on the Co-op. Tragically, three female members of staff – Kathleen Hurley, Kitty Kent and Mary Ellen Kent – lost their lives.
The Co-op went on to overcome a fire at the start of the harvest season in the early 1950s that nearly spelled disaster for it. However, it resulted in the installation of a new clean modern plant.
The staff at the Co-op helped bring about its evolution over the decades as it expanded and grew into the facility that stands on the site today.