Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Pat Purcell Papers
Michael Governey


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From the Leinster Leader, Saturday, December 17, 1898

Leading Local Merchants

No. 1.

Mr. Michael Governey, C.T.C., Carlow

“Nothing succeeds like success”, and certainly in the domain of commercial enterprise, no provincial merchant has achieved a more signal success than Mr. Michael Governey, C.T.C., Carlow, and proprietor of the extensive mineral water factory of Corcoran and Co. As an energetic business man and entrepreneur of unassuming rectitude and honour, Mr. Governey is well and favourable known, not alone throughout the midland counties, but also in the Irish metropolis and other parts of Ireland.

As a public man of ability and high character, and as a staunch and consistent politician, he is also distinguished; but we propose to deal with him at present not as a politician, but as a business man, whose well-directed energies and resources have resulted in building up an extensive trade and giving employment to a large number of hands, who would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity of earning in their native town a comfortable and honourable livelihood.

Mr. Governey comes of a good old stock, of a family always well-known for their charity and their loyalty to Irish customs, principles and traditions. He is son of the late Mr. Patrick Governey, of Ballylinan, Queen’s County, and over 30 years ago, when but a youth of 14 or 15 years, was apprenticed to the late Mr. Thomas Corcoran of Carlow, to learn the grocery and spirit business. At that early age he showed in a relative degree the same industry, aptitude, zeal, intelligent appreciation and discernment which have singled him out in after life. No branch of his business did he neglect. High-minded, trustworthy and honourable, able, active sand energetic, he soon showed that he was possessed in a superabundant degree of the characteristics which distinguish the business man, who is destined to succeed, and with whom failures or any form of discouragement would act but as incentives and driving pistons to increased energy and effort.

At this time Mr. Corcoran was engaged in the manufacture of mineral waters, but the industry was to a certain extent neglected, and a policy of “laisser faire” was adopted or passively regarded so far as the principal manufactured articles were concerned. There was no attempt at development, no desire to increase or widen trade, and in all probability the belief was never entertained that the business could be possibly developed to the extent which has marked its modern growth. Twenty-four years since, in 1874, the subject of our sketch married Miss Corcoran, only daughter of Mr. Corcoran. From the time of his marriage Mr. Governey applied himself vigorously to the task of developing the mineral water business, and so well pleased was he with the results that he determined to introduce new plant and machinery, the machines up to this time having been driven by manual power.

He accordingly sunk a large amount of capital in steam engines sand new mineral water plant, and erected filters for the filtration of the water, which is obtained wholly from the celebrated well of Carlow Castle — a well whose pure and gushing waters have been celebrated in song and story. Mr. Governey knew and appreciated the necessity of advertising.

No matter how good or superior the article offered might be — he knew that standing on merit alone, without having recourse to the mechanical process of a forced recognition, it would not appeal to a public who are inclined to regard continuous and effective advertising as an indication of confidence on the advertiser’s part in the quality of his commodity, and its capability of holding its own when compared with articles of the same kind. Accordingly at the Irish National Exhibition in ’82 he procured space for the exhibition of the minerals manufactured in his factory, viz — ginger ale, soda water, etc. He was awarded a certificate of merit, a no inconsiderable honour for a first exhibitor.

He kept pegging on steadily, and continued to effect new improvements from day to day. In ’83 he attended the Cork Exhibition, at which he exhibited. He then gained an exhibition, and was awarded a prize medal on account of the excellent quality of his waters.

He next exhibited at the Irish Exhibition in London, where his exhibits attracted a good deal of attention, and the “freeman’s Journal”, writing at the time praised the waters highly. He subsequently at the Brewers and distillers Exhibition in Dublin attained the climax of his ambition, when he obtained the “highest award” for the excellence of the manufacture of his minerals.

Here, therefore, is proof positive, as convincing as Holy Writ, of the excellence of the products manufactured on the premises of Corcoran and Co., and of the success which talent, united with perseverance have achieved in a field which hitherto in the provinces has yielded but few such successful and enterprising gentlemen.

Owing to an increasing trade, and to a development of business, Mr. Governey found it necessary in ’86 to rebuild the house in 24 Wellington square, in which the grocery and spirit business was carried on, and to extend the premises about 350 feet down Mill street. The mineral water factory and bottling stores, as they now stand, take up a space of 400 feet by 76. At the rear of the premises and between them and the old and historic Castle of Carlow — a castle which has not been altogether neglected in connection with modern political movements — is a beautiful garden, possessing a southern aspect, and planted with such taste and laid out in such a beautiful and artistic manner, as to have gained universal admiration, and called forth the most spontaneous encomiums from those most competent to judge.

The stabling accommodation at the southern side of Mill street is extensive and commodious, and the buildings are laid out with a view to perfect sanitation. Accommodation is provided for up to 70 horses. Twenty vans are engaged in the work of supplying every town within a radius of 14 miles. The products of the factory find a market in towns within a radius of 100 miles, and amongst places where they have an extensive sale might be mentioned — Mountmellick, Mountrath, Naas, Portarlington, Monasterevan, Newbridge, Kildare, Abbeyleix, Maryborough, Thurles, Kilkenny, Callan, Thomastown, Wexford, Roscrea, Birr, Ennisteague, Edenderry, Rathangan, Athy, Nenagh, Borris-in-Ossory, Borris-a-Leigh and Durrow.

On the premises is a 6-horse power steam engine for washing bottles, and a gas engine for driving the machinery. By an ingenious arrangement, if the gas engine goes wrong, that worked by steam is able to supply the motive power to both, so that no inconvenience of stoppage of work can occur. A hop bitter brewery recently started in connection with the other industries has been prolific of excellent results, and the bitters enjoy a very extensive sale.

 Encouraging Home manufacture.

One industry generally supports and begets another, and it is significant, as pointing to the unreasonableness of boycotting a great many Irish branches of employment, and exporting patronage as well as capital, which could be profitably invested at home, to the other side of the Channel, that Mr. Governey gets all his vans built, and most of the constructive works necessary for the distribution of the minerals, etc., executed on the premises. About 70 hands are in constant employment, and supposing that each of these takes unto himself a wife, and that, without becoming over befamilied, every employee can claim to be the father of five children, we have 420 souls who live and have their being as the result of the existence of such a thriving and well-managed industry in their midst.

Mr. Governey is one of the most lenient and indulgent of employers. the iron rod of discipline he has never applied, and et everything in his extensive concerns goes on like clockwork, simply because he has gained the confidence of his employees, and by his kind and humane actions, has appealed to their sense of honour, justice and truth. During the hours of work the mineral water factory is, indeed a hive of industry, and a stranger on entering the premises is at once struck with the zeal with which every individual applies himself to his own particular branch of employment. A large merchant, who knows intimately and is perfectly well acquainted with the relations existing between Mr. Governey and his employees, remarked a few days since to a representative of the Leader, “Do you know what is it? If Mr. Governey was never seen, his men would mind their business. They know they’re well treated, whilst the magic of personal attachment has a most beneficial influence upon them.” His workmen become grey in his service; What greater tribute can be paid to the kindness and humane treatment of an employer? Or what affords more convincing proof of the loyalty and high sense of duty of employees?

Mr. Governey uses Carlow Castle as a trade mark on his labels, etc. The adoption of such a device interweaves, as it were, the glories of the past with modern utilitarianism, and forms a connecting link with “the pride of former days” — when storied hall and stately arch looked down on our forefathers, as they debated how they would best defend or preserve the liberties of their native land.

 The Machinery Employed.

As already suggested, Mr. Governey when he undertook the management and development of the business, decided to introduce elaborate and up-to-date machinery. The plant accordingly is of the newest and most improved kind. It consists of the following: — Two large tanks, into which the water is pumped by a steam pump from the spring well on the premises, already referred to. I

n these tanks are placed large charcoal filters, through which all the water used in the manufacture is filtered and thoroughly purified before reaching the aerated machines; two slate tanks for the preparation of soda water; two aerating machines, the cylinders of which are silver-lined, thus securing the safety of the waters from contamination with lead or other impurities; double generators for producing carbonic gas; two (2) Riley steam bottling machines, capable of turning out from 120 to 140 dozen bottles per hour; three hand-bottling machines, with which well-trained hands can fill 120 dozen per hour; two turnover machines, for glass-stoppered bottles, and quite capable of turning out sixty dozen each per hour. There is also a syphon-filling machine.

The preparation of the syrups, which forms a very important part of the manufacture of aerated waters, is carried out under the personal supervision of Mr Governey.

 Bottle Washing.

This most important work is done by means of patent machinery, on which is adjusted revolving brushes. The bottles are steeped in revolving trays, with compartments for each bottle. Before being placed on the brushes, which revolve very rapidly, the bottles are washed externally by hand. they are adjusted on the brushes by the hands of the operators, and are cleaned thoroughly and completely on the inside with an almost marvellous clerity — as quickly as they can be put on and taken off. When taken off the brushes, they are placed on syphons supplied with a high-pressure water supply, which needs only the turning of a cock to rinse them thoroughly. This done, they are examined by men specially appointed for the purpose  of seeing that every bottle is perfectly clean before being sent to the filling machines.

The wiring of the bottles is done by hand, and the rapidity with which well-trained hands adjust the wire is really astonishing,. the labelling is also done by hand, and to the uninitiated the speed shown in the process by experts is well-nigh calculated to awaken a suspicion of the possession of some occult powers.

It only remains to be said in conclusion that the industry is a thriving one, that it is developing from year to year, and that it effects an amount of good, the fractional part of which, if rendered by some of our professing philanthropists, would redeem them in some measure from the contempt and scorn which are their proper desserts. That Mr. Governey has gained the confidence of his fellow townsmen is proved by the fact that he is chairman of the Town Commissioners. This position he is likely to hold in future under an extended franchise, because while other men may sound their own horns and sing their own praises, by the working classes, by those who work and spin, the genial honest and whole-hearted proprietor of Corcoran and Co. is from his character and past achievements regarded as “the noblest Roman of them all.”

Source: J.J. Woods c.2014

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