‘Pigtown’ to be focus of new archival research project

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Pigs on Parnell Street, c.1900, the Ludlow Collection and below, the O'Byrne Brothers, c. 1920
A NEW heritage project is set to examine the impact of the bacon industry on Limerick.

A NEW heritage project is set to examine the impact of the bacon industry on Limerick.

The city’s lengthy association with the industry, which was a key employer for over a century, will be examined by the Museum and Archives, in tandem with Mary Immaculate College.

Members of the public are being invited to an open night in City Hall on December 3 to share their memories of and connections to the bacon factories as part of the project team’s social research on the industry.

City archivist Jacqui Hayes explained that the bacon industry was “part of the fabric” of the city, as pigs were not only delivered but also killed in the city centre.

“The bacon factories were critical to the city’s economy by the turn of the century and were Limerick’s biggest employer. The factories also provided cheap food for the city’s populace for many decades and pigs heads and crubeens were essential to the Limerick diet. Many Limerick people kept pigs in their back yards.”

As well as Shaw’s on Mulgrave Street, there was also Matterson’s and O’Mara’s on Roches Street and Denny’s of William Street and Mulgrave Street. Such was the fame of the produce that English bacon curers recruited butchers and Limerick ham was sold at a premium internationally.

Researcher Ruth Guiry said the open night would “offer an opportunity to former workers to meet and share their memories. We are keen to capture the heritage of this industry which tells us so much about the history of Limerick as a hive of industrial activity.

“The bacon industry linked city and county in the production of pigs and bacon. In these stories we get closer to the true character of Limerick with stories of nicknames, families and humour in a time when people counted themselves lucky to have a job.

“The Bacon factories were very much local communities and many of the employees were related. It was a common sight to see pigs being driven through the streets of Limerick en route to O’Mara’s or Matterson’s. Many of the pig buyers lived in Athlunkard Street, the real heart of Pigtown. Our hope is that the Open Night will offer an opportunity to former workers to meet and share their memories,” she added.

The Open Night will be held at City Hall, Merchants Quay on Thursday, December 3 at 7pm. For further information contact Limerick Museum and Archives on 061-407293.