Monkstown Plant Brings optimism to Ulster

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Kieran Mulligan arrived in my office one morning with a photocopy of STC News. He had heard I was producing this historical ‘book’ of the Monkstown site and people, and this was one of the oldest collection of photographs that I had seen at that time.

I guess these images and a fading memory are two of my drivers to make sure that we don’t lose our collective memory of what has been a real home for many of us for well over 30 years.

I am going to let the STC News words help this first generation tell their story. I also owe it to this generation to find better photographs and, with the help of Ken’s terrific photograph store in the print room, I have found most of the originals except for the one above, but my hunt continues.

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Panel wiring – and this is Mrs Margaret Clark performing the operation.

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In the Relay Adjusting Section Jean Watson, just five months with the company.

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Assembling a relay spring pileup is Victoria McKenna. This is one of several operations needed for relay assembly.

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Intently watching the wire strand on the coil winding machine is Marty Graham.

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Production Control, 17 year old Sandra Sweet prints off part numbers.

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Thomas Hagan, a setter/operator in the Machine Shop, fixes the feed on the horizontal automatic press. This turns out around 100,000 springs a day.

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Supervisor Jimmy Scullion(right) watches John Craig form a PABX line circuit in the Cable Forming Section – one of the basic jobs on a PABX.

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Monkstown has an up-to-date medical Section, under the charge of Sister ‘Paddy’ Morgan. Here Nurse Noelle Stewart is seen testing eyesight with ‘Mavis’, the Master Screen Viewer.

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A clerk in the Personnel Department, Gerry Shearer is also the Monkstown ‘disc jockey’ and as such is responsible for broadcasting over the factory public address system.

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Tommy Martin, a keen five-a-side footballer, works on selector mechanisms in the Mechanical Adjusting Department.

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A toolmaker, Jimmy Strain joined STC seven months ago. He is seen here marking out a fixture.

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In Self Wiring Section Mrs Nina Rice wires a UNI Selector Shelf. Nina is Italian by birth but married an Irishman 19 years ago and has seen much of the world in her travels.

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One of the most important sections is, of course, Payroll. Here Norma Hamilton is seen calculating wages and incentive payments on a Burroughs comptometer.

Excerpts: Acknowledgements to STC News

Monkstown : The local residents also claim that from nearby Knockagh one can see Scotland to the north and and the Mountains of Mourne to the south, not forgetting County Down itself and the glorious coastline all the way. But then we found that they are very proud of Monkstown and its surroundings. Their part of the world is Ireland and it is a fine place to live.

For the ‘settlers’, most of whom came over from Southgate with Plant Manager Mr Kenneth Frost to help start the project, there were many compensations, not least of them being the open roads, where cars can really keep moving and driving is still the pleasure it once was in crowded England. And, anyway, nearby Aldergrove Airport – an easily covered 15 miles away – brings London within an hour and ten minutes flying time, a short enough journey for any wanderer.

But mostly they have settled down. Talk to people like Jim Strugnell, Unit Production Manager of Panels and Equipment, Chief Inspector Arthur Walton, Production controller Les Calderwood, Plant Engineer Ernie Raven or Production Engineer Dudley Howard, all of whom came over right at the start of the project will tell you they really like it here – and they feel very much a part of the country.

It is only in recent years that new industry has been attracted to Ulster by availability of labour and by lively and untiring efforts of the Minister of Commerce. Today Ulster has a wide variety of modern industries and the STC plant is not only one of the showpieces but has contributed substantially to the economy of Northern Ireland and the well-being of Ulstermen.

The plant employs some 1600 people and is steadily approaching its ultimate target of 2000. This is spectacular growth – achieved only by enthusiasm, adaptability and spirit of all concerned, management, workers and trade unions. It has been a great challenge – but the Ulsterman is at his best under challenging conditions.

They are a happy and sociable people. So it is not surprising that Monkstown has a flourishing sports and social club, covering football, tennis, swimming, hockey, golf, netball, badminton, and table tennis, ballroom dancing, photography, angling, chess and including a ladies keep-fit class.

One of the most popular amenities of factory life is the twice-weekly record request programme. This is broadcast over the factory public address system every Tuesday and Friday with the 30 minute session being conducted by 19-year-old Gerry Shearer, a clerk in Personnel Department. During each programme eleven or twelve records are played, all requested by shop-floor operatives and usually taking the form of birthday and ‘boy friend or girl friend’ messages.

Gerry compiles the programme, which is pre-recorded, on tape the day before it is due to go out, thus allowing time for the elimination of any mistakes.

The programme itself typifies the spirit one finds in Monkstown. Life generally is good and there is a song in the air. And who better than Ulstermen at radiating happiness.

STC News

In their own words, like I said!!!  In today’s world of Twitter, WhatsApp and Blogs, it is still lovely to read about ‘recorded on tape’ not even cassette tape. I love it.

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Sir Ken Corfield

Sir Kenneth Corfield visiting Monkstown and in deep discussion with Jim Carvill and Noel McAlister

The focus of attention was the early days of the implementation of an On-line Purchasing system which replaced a batch system. This was all a big advance in those days but looking back it was so clunky and hard to use. The system used to ‘fall over’ every now and again and would take 2-3 hours to restore. The unofficial coffee breaks that this created were sometimes welcome but sometimes the last thing that we needed at a busy period.

The plan on this day was to have Sir Ken approve a high value Purchase Order personally … the system did behave .. and lasted for a number of years after that.

The turning off event of the Honeywell Level 6 after years of service, the official cutting of the power cable, by Robert.

Lots of familiar faces :Ivan, Terry, John, May, Robert, Noel, Mark, Adrian, Maxwell, Ronnie, Brian, Jim, Andy, Ken, Clifford…. more names will follow

 

Official opening by Lord Brookborough in 1962

The official opening was on 26th July 1962 by Lord Brookborough at which time there were 300 people already working in the plant.

He was accompanied on his factory tour by the Plant Manager Mr Kenneth Frost. If you recognise any of the other folks in this photograph please reply with a message.