Thurles – Looking Back.

Pictured (centre of crowd) An Taoiseach Mr Éamon de Valera (1882 – 1975) arriving in Thurles to turn the sod on the Thurles Sugar Factory, in 1933.

In 1933 the first state owned company, Cómlucht Siūicre Eireann Teo, was formed and the then Taoiseach Mr Éamon de Valera came to Thurles to turn the sod on the second of three new sugar beet factories.

One year later, in 1934 the first sugar beet campaigns commenced at Thurles, Mallow and Tuam. In the 1934 production campaign more than 44,000 acres of sugar beet were sown and approximately half-a-million tonnes of beet were processed.

In Thurles this enterprise back in 1934, transformed the fortunes of Thurles and its hinterland. In an era of acute economic hardship, arising from a worldwide depression and a bitter trade war with Britain, the plant was described as “manna from heaven”.

In 1989 the Thurles Sugar Factory closed with the loss of 400 jobs, delivering a blow from which Thurles, to date, would never recover. This devastation, would be followed later by the closure of the GMX factory, with the loss of 230 jobs; Erin Foods with the loss of 95 jobs, while smaller Thurles industries like Tipperary Candy and Tipperary Cereals also vanished; and while local politicians found themselves incapable of consigning even the smallest modicum of replacement industry.

Interesting to note from the picture the number of men found “doffing their hats” in a cultural expression of recognition, respect, gratitude, simple salutation or acknowledgement rarely seen in today’s Ireland.


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