Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Written by Tim Sheehan in November 1972

One of Cork’s great men of the 20th century, whose ability and boundless energy earned him a respected name in the manufacturing structure of the country, passed from the scene of his triumphs to his reward ten years ago. Few Corkmen, if any, accomplished so much in a lifetime, but his name and the memory of his greatness are matters that no tombstone could enclose.
He was the late Mr Andrew O’Shaughnessy, controller of a chain of creameries, member of the Dail Eireann, and builder of a family-owned manufacturing concern that was spread over two counties.
Like most successful men in every country, the secret of his greatness lay in the keenness of his observation and in his unerring judgment. These were natural qualities which he inherited from the illustrious clan of the name that produced several eminent men over the past 200 years since the O’Shaughnessy moved south from the ancestral territories in Galway.

His Youth
Born on 28 July 1866, the second son of Andrew and Eileen O’Shaughnessy of Coolbane Mills, Freemount, near Kanturk, Andrew Junior grew up a sturdy lad under the watchful eyes of his parents who observed in him from infancy a tendency for contemplativeness.
The other members of the O’Shaughnessy family were Edward, Anthony, Mark, Denis, Kate, Mary Anne and Helena. Andrew’s thinking was deep and concentrated and was often followed by questions that revealed his dissatisfaction at the rate of progress made in the family mill at Coolbane. Sitting beside the mill on summer days he listened intently to the mills with a faster spin rate. But even his most ambitious dreams fell short of one facet of achievement late in life, when one of his mills exported 75 per cent of its manufacture to China.

In America
Andrew O’Shaughnessy celebrated his 21st birthday in New York in 1887, the year all Americans were celebrating the anniversary of the Constitution. America was then an excellent training ground for a young man of initiative, courage and vision. At that time America was on the verge of outstripping all the old European nations, having produced talented inventors such as Edison of the electric light, Bell of the telephone, McCormick of agricultural machines, and a host of daring business leaders who were not handicapped by the weight of tradition, thus showing themselves ready to run great risks because they were playing for huge stakes. Young O’Shaughnessy saw the advantage of using some of these American ideas in Ireland, so equipped himself for business life at home by taking a course in commerce at night classes in New York.

Creamery Magnate
The Ireland to which he returned was reeling under the fall of Parnell who during his career in politics had forced successive British Governments to enact in the early Land Acts. Concessions and amendments that greatly improved the lot of the Irish farmer. The Parnellian policy on agriculture had created the need for creameries. However, the infant industry was a mixed bag because the creameries were privately owned and the success, or otherwise, of each individual creamery depended on the competence and honesty of the owners.
In 1892, fresh from his period in America, Andrew O’Shaughnessy opened a creamery at Newmarket, Co Cork. That enterprise brought to fruition the genius that was in his brain for business. Within 12 years he added six central creameries and 24 branch ones t his Newmarket concern, culminating in the establishment of the Newmarket Dairy Company, in 1904, of which he was chairman and principal shareholder. The six central creameries were Newmarket, Mitcheltown, Coachford and Tarelton in County Cork, Knockulty and Mullinahone in Co Tipperary.
The branch creameries included Rowels, Cumer, Rockchapel, Glashakinleen, Springfield, Kylecommons, Kilbehenny, Glanworth, Ballindangan, Corroghurm, Knockadea, Ballyporeen, Caum, Kilcolman, Rylane, Teergay, Castletown, etc.
He later interested himself in the Condensed Milk Company, Limerick, and the Dock Milling Company, Dublin.
In 1932, after the Dairy Disposal Board was set up as a government subsidiary body to acquire privately-owned creameries, O’Shaughnessy’s chain of creameries were in the possession of the Board, through a deal made in 1927, when the late Mr Paddy Hogan was Minister for Agriculture.

Woollen Manufacturer
The dreams of his boyhood at Coolbane materialised in 1903 when Andrew O’Shaughnessy purchased Dripsey Woollen Mills from Mr Charles Olden who was then senior partner of the firm of Atkins and Chirnside and Company. Some years later he purchased Sallybrook Woollen Mills, Glanmire, and in 1929 he took over Kilkenny Woollen Mills, which was then in liquidation, thereby establishing himself as one of the leading woollen manufacturers in the country and an exporter to such far away places as China.

Elected a TD
The country being economically rock-bottom in 1923 following the war of independence and the civil war, people looked towards upliftment and economic rehabilitation, and there were men in every county ready to grasp the nettle, under different standards, to reach the desired goals. In Kerry, a candidate for the Dail campaigned to represent the stockless farmers, under the banner “Stockless Farmers”. In Cork a group known as the Progressives appeared, one of them being Andrew O’Shaughnessy. In that year, 1923, O’Shaughnessy and R H Beamish were elected under the Progressive banner, thus securing adequate representation for the commercial life of Cork.
O’Shaughnessy’s election was hailed by the people in his native North Cork, as expressed by a tribute to him written by the Kanturk correspondent of the “Cork Examiner”.
A year later, June 1924 the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Desmond Fitzgerald, appointed O’Shaughnessy as representative from Ireland at the International Labour Conference at Geneva.

Man of Vision
In those early days of the founding of the state, the leading men of that time regarded O’Shaughnessy as a man of enterprise and vision. Mr Maurice Healy, prominent Cork solicitor and brother of the famed Tim Healy, first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, once publicly described O’Shaughnessy as “the most far-seeing man he ever knew”.
Early in 1928, he was one of the founder members of the then new Irish Catholic weekly newspaper, “The Standard”. Andrew O’Shaughnessy having been appointed the managing director, his co-directors were Professor A W Conway, University College Dublin; Right Rev Monsignor T F Macken, PP, VG, Dean of Tuam, Co Mayo; Very Rev P Keown, PP, VG, Dean of Clogher, Co Monaghan; Very Rev M S MacMahon, President, Holy Cross College Dublin; Very Rev J O’Kelleher, STL, BCL, Vice-President, St John’s College Waterford; Mr Thomas J W Kenny, Managing Director “Connacht Tribune”; Dr James McPolin, Belfast.
O’Shauhnessy also associated himself with the Juverna Press Ltd. Every company of which he was a director acknowledged his ability, and all profited from his golden touch in business.

Houses of Character
The reason that Andrew O’Shaughnessy lived in so many places, particularly in Cork, was due to his passion for improving and preserving old residences of character. He lived at Riversdale House, Coachford; Peak House Aghabullogue; Dripsey Castle. But the one that he loved best was his beautiful home at St Raphaels, Montenotte, Cork. It was here, especially in his latter years, that he entertained artists of stage and radio who specialised in traditional music and dance. He was himself an accomplished violinist and step-dancer.
Public tributes were paid at meetings of Cork Harbour Commissioners and Cork Corporation. All spoke of him as a remarkable figure whose foresight, energy and skill had built up the enterprises which bore his name.
His family included seven sons and six daughters. Five of the six daughters are nuns, and the sixth is Mrs Aileen O’Brien of Cork. Of his seven sons, one of them, Mr John A O’Shaughnessy, who took over the helm at Dripsey Woollen Mills in 1931 and was a “chip off the old block”, lives at Dripsey Castle. He is chairman of this unique family-owned industry at Dripsey which produces top class tweeds, rugs, blankets and furnishing fabrics of gold medal renown. The firm today is managed by the late Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s grandsons, Mr Andrew O’Shaughnessy, B Comm the managing director who also resides at Dripsey Castle, and Mr John Anthony O’Shaughnessy, B Comm, ACA, director and secretary, who lives in Cork.