Nostalgia: When Coca-Cola came to Cork

Nostalgia: When Coca-Cola came to Cork

Jack Lynch opens Coca-Cola plant.

OVER 68 years ago, one of the biggest franchises in the world came to Cork.

Coca-Cola first came to Northern Ireland in 1939 and to the Republic of Ireland in 1952.

In 1938 local businessman Tom Robinson wrote a letter to the Coca-Cola company in London expressing an interest in setting up the franchise in Northern Ireland. 

The agreement was signed in April 1939 and Ulster Iced Drinks Company (UIDC) was formed in Rumford Street, off Shankill Road in Belfast. 

The first case of Coca-Cola produced in Northern Ireland was sold at a price of four old pence per bottle on May 3.

Official opening of Coca-Cola bottling plant at Carrigrohane Road, Cork.
Official opening of Coca-Cola bottling plant at Carrigrohane Road, Cork.

Over a decade later, Coca-Cola arrived in the Republic of Ireland, following the set up of the first bottling company; Munster Bottlers Ltd. 

The plant on the Carrigrohane Road was officially opened on May 9, 1952, by the then Parliamentary Secretary, Jack Lynch.

It was a major success story for the Irish Government who had sought out such companies, but also a success for the directors of the Munster Bottlers Ltd founded just 11 months prior to the opening.

The opening was also attended by James J. Farley, then President of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, who travelled specifically from the United States for the function. 

An Echo article from the evening the event took place stated that Mr Lynch said the opening of the new project marked a step in the country's industrial progress.

Blessing the Coca-Cola plant.
Blessing the Coca-Cola plant.

"Not alone did it create employment within itself, but it gave employment to kindred industries in bottle manufacture and in other things material to the wealth of the nation.

"It also added to the wealth of the local authority and of the central authority in rates and taxes and duties on vehicles," Mr Lynch said. 

Mrs Maureeen Lynch looking at a section of the new Coca-Cola plant during a tour of the premises at Carrigrohane Road, after the plant was officially opened by Jack Lynch.
Mrs Maureeen Lynch looking at a section of the new Coca-Cola plant during a tour of the premises at Carrigrohane Road, after the plant was officially opened by Jack Lynch.

He added that the opening of the plant marked another desirable development, namely, the bringing together of American and Irish industrialists.

Mr Lynch also paid tribute to the group of Cork industrialists who had made the venture possible.

"They had succeeded in establishing and equipping a factory of the first order which represented the last word in design and exuded cleanliness and efficiency," he said.

"I hope," Mr Lynch concluded, "this will mark another means of bringing together our Irish people and our American brethren, not only in the social sense but more and more in the industrial sphere."

Mr Farley said he was happy and proud to attend the opening of the new bottling plant and to be present to see Cork citizens take a product of American origin and make it Irish.

The article from May 9 gave a sense of the new state-of-the-art facility.

"Visitors to the gleaming new plant in Cork would see flowing from automatic machines the same bottles they would find in a Coca-Cola plant in any one of the 70 other countries.

Blessing of the Coca-Cola plant. 
Blessing of the Coca-Cola plant. 

"The men responsible for it had become members of a unique group of businessmen.

"That group consisted of hundreds of Coca-Cola bottlers around the world, all of them owning and operating their own bottling plants yet all of them engaged in the production and distribution of one and the same product."

The site, which has been unused since 2007 and demolished in 2016, is now earmarked for the development of student accommodation. 

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