BERRINGS CREAMERY at BALLYSHONIN CROSSROADS
1927 – 1980

In the early 20th century many farmers, including those of Inniscarra, had no regular or regulated outlet for their milk. They mostly fed it to pigs and calves and sold on some to their neighbours or gave it to labourers in part payment for their services. This was not very satisfactory to say the least so farmers in different areas came together to try and rectify the situation. Their purpose was to decide how best they could put something in place to dispose of their surplus milk e.g. by making butter and getting a market for it resulting in a better return or price for their produce. At that time milk was sold for approximately half of one penny per gallon. In c1927, some very enterprising, forward thinking local farmers, including Paddy Healy of Ballyshonin, decided to do something about the situation and went about setting up a new creamery in the locality. Two sites were proposed, Ballyshonin Crossroads and the Yellow House and it was agreed that wherever they got the greatest commitment from the herd owners of the area to supply their milk to a new creamery at either site would decide its location. It is believed that the milk of 100 cows was required. The greater support was received from the Ballyshonin area, due in no small way to the fact that the farmers in the Cloghroe area had many more local customers for their milk since that was in the time before pasteurized milk was the norm. They were also nearer to a larger captive audience in Cork City.
The creamery was set up as a co-operative by farmers and was known as Berrings Co-operative. In 1932, it was taken over by Newmarket Dairy Disposable Company with headquarters in Coachford. Coachford had eight branches namely: Aghabullogue, Berrings, Caum, Dripsey, Kilcoleman, Macroom, Rusheen and Rylane – 9 creameries in total.
In 1971 Ballyclough took over the running of these creameries from the Dairy Disposal Company. In 1990, Ballyclough and Mitchelstown amalgamated to form Dairygold. In 1980 milk intake ceased at Berrings and it became a milk collection depot. This subsequently ceased in 1988 to be replaced by refrigerated bulk milk collection ex farm. By this time the number of suppliers delivering milk to Berrings had reduced to a handful of smaller suppliers as the larger ones had already converted to ex farm collection. Because of this the creamery lay idle for a number of years and was subsequently sold to D. Donovan & Co Ltd.

When Ballyclough Co-op took over the Coachford group of creameries a committee was formed to represent the local farmers’ interests at the shareholders’ meetings. These representatives included Michael Richardson, Michael Dineen, Jerome Walsh, Liam Burke, Pat Healy (grandson of one of the founders) and John Walsh.  Prior to that the manager represented the farmers at meetings of the Dairy Disposal Company. The aforementioned Pat Healy was the first Berrings supplier to be elected to the board of Dairygold and later served as Vice- Chairman, continuing a proud tradition.

Creameries were traditionally situated by a river and the Sheep River (Abhainn na Gaoire) runs along the valley. Originally the water supply for the creamery came from the Sheep River. A tank was placed on the bank of the river fitted with filter beds. The water was piped across to the creamery. Later a well was bored, when electricity became available in the late 1950’s.

The creamery had a Blackstone diesel single cylinder engine with a starting handle. A single axle was fixed to the wall up near the roof and this was driven by a belt from the engine fitted over a pulley on the axle. This in turn drove all the other pulleys which were fitted on the same axle which ran from one end of the creamery to the other end. By using a series of belts over these pulleys it was possible to drive the separator, milk pumps and the entire creamery equipment.

Milk was pasteurised, separated and the cream made into butter when it was under Berrings Co-operative and for a time under the Dairy Disposal Board. The skim milk was given back to the farmers in churns and used to feed pigs and calves. In later years the milk was pasteurised and taken to Coachford Creamery, which was the headquarters, for processing. Pasteurisation ceased around 1971 when Ballyclough took them over.

In the summertime the creamery was open 7 days a week and in winter time it was reduced to opening only every 2nd or 3rd day. The creamery had over 90 suppliers, all having their own unique creamery number and this number was painted on the churns. These numbers are incorporated into today’s milk account numbers. Every supplier had a “creamery book”; one for each month, and a record of the amount of milk supplied was entered every day. A log of his/her purchases of butter and skim milk was also maintained in this book. The milk supplied by each farmer was weighed over the weighing scales. The milk was weighed in pounds and converted to gallons for payment purposes; one gallon equals 10.32 pounds (lbs). The milk was sampled daily and the samples analyzed for butterfat content using the Gerber Method. The butterfat content, combined with the weight of the milk supplied for the month and the commercial value of the cream and skim, determined what money the farmer got for his produce.

Berrings Creamery also had a shop and store attached. It traded in hardware, farm requisites and groceries. These were traded on a contra account basis i.e. the cost of the goods purchased was offset against the value of the milk and deducted from the value of the milk before the farmer was paid. This invariably meant that the milk cheque was very small or, in many cases, non existent in the months of November to April each year. You could, however, by agreement with the manager, spread the cost over the summer months, when milk supply was at its peak. This gave a more steady income. With the exception of St. Olan’s shop, attached to the Aghabullogue branch, none of the remaining seven Coachford branches had a trading centre attached.

Ballyshonin Cross was a hive of activity at the time with the Creamery stores and shop, Dan Donovan’s shop and store, Minnie Mahony’s shop and the forge all doing a roaring trade. Between them they supplied everything needed for the farm and home and provided an element of competition. The forge across the road was the place the farmers got the shoes for horses and bands for the wheels and any iron work or welding they required. Jim Cooney was the owner. The forge was the first to adapt to electric welding. Rabbits and eggs were collected and sold at Minnie’s shop to buyers from the likes of John Lane, Catford and Farm Products. Fresh bread was delivered by Neville’s Macroom, FH Thompson and Simcox of Cork.
Berrings creamery was a meeting place for everyone, it could be called the community centre. The postman, especially when the bicycle was his mode of transport, delivered the mail to the farmers there. The local beet agent, Con McDonnell, met the farmers there to give out the beet dockets and sell lime. Salesmen for all agricultural products saw the creamery as an ideal opportunity to meet customers. Lime salesmen being an example and they offered a local spreading service operated by the Lyons brothers, Ted and Eugene, as an added attraction. Politicians canvassed there at election time. Friendships were made there and news or gossip spread. It could be considered a hedge school.
Some farmers “cored” (shared) the job of bringing their milk to the creamery, 2 or 3 farmers would come together and each one take turns. This was at a time when milk was in churns and labour scarce.
The farmers heading back to Berrings, via Callas, were able to halt at “The Glasha” to give a drink to the horse. This is a little pool of water at the side of the road, formed from the Glasha stream before it continued on under the road to join up with the Sheep River.

A greyhound of great renown, known as “Creamery Border”, was reared at the Creamery and went on to win many races.

“Shine’s Cross”, Callas got its name from Tim Shine, one of the Berrings creamery managers, who lived there.

The Berrings curates kept a few cows as there was some land attached to the priest’s house at Callas and brought milk to the creamery. This milk had the best butter fat content......seemingly something to do with the land or certain produce of the land when diverted in the right direction.


Employees:
Creamery Managers:
Tim Shine
Martin J. Mullaly
Paddy Healy, Macroom,
Paddy Healy, Berrings

Shop Managers:
Murt Lane
John P Hayes
Vincent McCarthy

Maintenance:
Joe Collins
Nicholas Martin
Shop & Creamery Employees:
Paddy Healy, Derry
Timmy Cronin
Johnny Reilly
Kit Herlihy (Desmond)
Davy Herlihy
Nicholas Cronin
Liam Kelleher
Mick Collins
Hannah Walsh (Collins)
Peter Buckley
Mary Jo Buckley (Cronin)
Sheila Healy
Margaret Healy
Donal Casey
John Riordan
Connie O’Mahony
Batt O’Sullivan
Billy Walsh, Blarney

Acknowledgement:
We acknowledge the contribution of both Pat Healys, grandsons of one of the founders, Paddy Healy, in compiling this review.
Stacks Image 1101
Berrings Milk Suppliers 1958
Front Row (l to r): Jack McCarthy, Jack Desmond, Eugene Regan, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jimmy Hoare, Bridie O'Mahony and Thomas Healy
Second Row: John O'Brien, Michael Ritcherson, Dan Kiely, Jack Burns, Jerome Walsh, Tim Lane and Jimmy O'Mahony
Third Row: Denis McCarthy, Matthew Healy, Paddy Daly and Rita Regan
Back Row: Con Desmond, Bill Ellis, Thomas Healy, Dan Desmond, Mr Kelleher (Advisor), Batt O'Sullivan, Tim O'Herlihy, Pat Cronin, Jer O'Riordan and Donal Murphy
Stacks Image 1104
Kit Desmond in 1955