Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Henry Hosie and the I.V.I. Foundry

In Athy we knew him as the Colonel but his first army commission was as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Service Corps at the outbreak of World War 1. Henry Hosie, born on 31st December 1891, was the son of Henry and Agnes Hosie of Coursetown, Athy. His father was a member of the Athy Board of Guardians and a director of Athy Auctioneering Ltd. and one of the local brickyards. Given his son’s later involvement in the economic and social life of Athy it is embarrassing to relate that Henry Hosie senior was severely injured during a raid on his home for arms in 1918. The raiders were believed to be local members of the I.R.A. 2nd Lieutenant Henry Hosie, who was sent to France in November 1914, was invalided back to Ireland in 1916. He later returned to army duties and was based in Scotland where he became officer in charge of machinery at the Scottish Area Forage Department. I gather he was promoted to Captain during that time. Henry Hosie married Laura McKeever in September 1916 and at the end of the war returned to Athy to work in Duthie Larges. After about ten years with that firm he formed Industrial Vehicles (Ireland) Ltd. with Freddie Thompson of Carlow. The company was initially involved in the sale of Fordson tractors and the manufacture of trailers. The Kildare Observer of 24th November 1934 reported that Hosie’s company was to open a factory for the manufacture of rainwater goods to the rear of its existing premises located in what was previously the town’s pound field. Hosie indicated that the new factory would start in the beginning of 1935 and said to the local newspaper reporters, ‘Athy wants a new industry, so we decided to give them one. There is a tremendous demand for rainwater goods in the Free State and we shall meet the demand.’ The I.V.I Foundry as we all know developed from the initial manufacturing of rainwater goods to become one of the most important employers of men in the south of County Kildare. In February 1964 the Nationalist and Leinster Times reported that the I.V.I. Foundry employed nearly 200 men. The company would go into liquidation resulting in the closure of the I.V.I. Foundry in September 1982. When the factory closed on 10th September of that year there were 90 men employed in the Foundry, apart from office and supervisory staff. Amongst the 90 workers was Michael Robinson who had started work in the Foundry in 1936 when he was 16 years of age. Mick O’Shea of Butler’s Row was a few months older than Michael, but he started in the Foundry a year later and ten days after Thomas Lawler of Geraldine Road. All three men spent their working lives up to September 1982 in the I.V.I. Foundry. Other long-term employees of the Foundry included Denis Byrne of Bray and Thomas Farrell of Ballylinan who started in 1946. Timothy O’Rourke of 37 Upper St. Joseph’s Terrace started work in the Foundry three years later. In 1951 Jack Kelly of Woodstock North and William Martin of Mullaghmast became foundry workers where Harry Mulhall of Skerries was already working for one year. The 1950s was a difficult time for any Athy man seeking work in his hometown. The I.V.I. Foundry however appears to have been going through a successful period at that time and recruited quite a number of young men. Amongst those who joined the I.V.I. in the 1950s and continued working until 1982 were Paddy Cahill and John Quinn, both of Pairc Bhride and Patrick Byrne of Clonmullin. They joined the Foundry in 1953 just a year after Daniel Foley of Kilberry and Daniel McCann of Castle Rheban. Others to become part of the Foundry workforce were John Kelly of St. Dominic’s Park who joined in 1956, Thomas Brennan of Ballylinan and Sylvester Bell of Foxhill who joined in 1958 and Liam Hughes of Woodstock Street who started work in the Foundry in 1959. The I.V.I. Foundry workers were the backbone of the industrial life of Athy over many decades. They worked in hot dirty dusty conditions which marked their appearance as they walked or cycled home at the end of each day. Henry Hosie, the man responsible for opening the Foundry, again served in the British Army during World War II. He was discharged with the rank of Colonel in 1947 having received an O.B.E. in the previous new year’s Honours List. His son Kenneth, a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, was killed while clearing mines in Italy in November 1943. Henry Hosie died on 27th October 1967. The local newspapers referred to him as ‘a fair minded employer who afforded his employees good conditions’. The I.V.I. Foundry is today all but forgotten but in remembering times past in Athy the I.V.I. workers’ contribution to the economic life of the town can never be ignored.

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