A formal agreement which restores to Eire one of its major industries – the growing of flax – has been signed between Kirkpatrick of Ballyclare, a subsidiary of the Manchester-based Whitecroft group, and the Bunclody Farmers’ Co-operative Society in County Wexford, which has an annual turnover of approximately £1 million.
The agreement sets up a flax fibre division of the Bunclody Co-operative with capital provided in equal parts by Whitecroft and the Co-operative itself.
The new division will also have the advantage of a major grant by the Industrial Development Authority of the Eire government.
No Flax has been grown in Ireland, north or south – except on an experimental basis – since 1956.
At its peak, in the middle of the last century, the Irish flax industry grew 300,00 acres.
Dr P W Smith, a director of Whitecroft, becomes chairman; Mr Rory Murphy, who is general manager of the Co-operative, becomes managing director. Also on the board are Mr L Kinsella, chairman of the Society and Dr F R W Sloan, managing director of Kirkpatrick of Ballyclare, the producers of Linron bleached linen fibre.
Acting as adviser to the whole project and secretary of the board is Dr Michael Neenan of the Irish Agricultural Institute at Oak Park, Carlow.
The agreement follows the trial growing of 275 acres, the first of which has just been put through a new £50,000 scutching plant (which breaks up the flax straw to extract the fibre), in Bunclody this week. The resulting fibre will be in Ballyclare shortly.
Mr Rory Murphy, the division’s newly appointed managing director, commenting on these developments, said: “So successful has our experimental growing of flax been – with both quality and yield approaching the highest continental standard – that we have decided to treble our growing programme to over 800 acres for the 1970 season.”
Dr F R W Sloan, managing director of Kirkpatrick, whose revolutionary Linron fibre process won the Queen’s Award to Industry last year, said that his company had agreed to take up the whole of the Bunclody output in the immediate future.
“In this way,” he added, “the Irish growers will have a guaranteed market for their crop and increases in acreage can go forward in a planned manner.”