Navan Carpet Factory on the Kells Rd. (Photo courtesy Bernard McCluskey)
The carpet factory was established at Navan in 1938 and was the oldest maker of machine made carpets in the Republic of Ireland. At first the factory was known as Templeton Carpets.
At this time the factory was owned by the McClean family from Scotland, who were related to the Mountcharles family of Slane Castle. The first Managing Director was Captain Newsom who was married to Lady Mountcharles.
The site for the facory was chosen because of its close proximity to the R. Blackwater. It was thought that a dye house would have to be built close to the factory, requiring thousands of gallons of water every day for washing, scouring and dyeing the wool. As it turned out, all the wool for the Navan factory came from the central dyeing/spinning plant at Youghal Co. Cork.
Originally the M.D. selected English and Scottish key personnel because of their experience in carpet manufacture. They quickly passed on their skill and knowledge to the 35 or so local people who started work in the factory.
(above) Spool Setters Pat Wall and Bob Dier c. 1964
In the late 1950s Capt. Newsom resigned. The new M.D. could see the possibility of extra production and sales, and in the 1960s he organised a 3 shift rota which meant that the looms were working 24 hours a day, and extra staff could be recruited.
(above) Navan Carpets Staff c. 1960s (photo thanks to Sylvia Murray)
Front row (l-r): Sheila Brady Tommy Fitzsimons, (who worked the night shift 10pm-6am) Carmel Hosey.
2nd row (l-r): Johnny 'Moshe' Murray, Fred Reilly, Jimmy 'Tank' Clarke, Nanny Connor, Johnny Clarke, Peter Spiers.
Back Row (l-r): Johnny Murtagh, Mickey Finlay, Betty O' Brien, Nancy Brady and Peggy McGrane.
Note the wool on the spools for the looms in the background.
(above) Navan Carpets' Staff 1960s (photo thanks to Sylvia Murray)
Front row (l-r) Maggie Rogers, George Webster, Capt. Newsome, Agnes Hope and Davy Hope.
Middle row( l-r:) Jimmy 'Tank' Clarke, Nanny Farrelly, Betty O'Brien (née O'Connor) Nancy Martin, Peggy McGrane and Nancy Brady.
Back row (l-r) Bill Moran, Freddie Reilly, Johnny Murtagh, Johnny Clarke, Mickey Finlay and Peter Spiers.
In 1972, Youghal Carpets bought out Navan Carpets, and in 1987 the entire operation was bought out by Coats Viyella. The American American and European markets were developed at this time. In its heyday Navan Carpets employed 550 people , making it the largest employer in the town.
(above) Navan Carpet in the
Old Darnley Athboy
(left ) An ad for Navan Carpets in the programme for the opening of the Navan Rugby Club Pavillion in 1969.
At first, production was concentrated on Chenille carpets (these were carpets which were positioned in the centre of the floor with a painted border around the edge).
Later a quantity of Narrow Spool Looms were introduced which were capable of weaving carpets with a large number of colours, giving Navan Carpets the reputation of producing carpets of top quality in design and colour, filling contrats for global corporations like the Ritz Carlton, the Beverly Hills Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria NY.
Spool Loom Dept. c. 1964
(l-R) Betty Carolan, Nancy Plunkett (née Leddy) and Betty Connell
There are 3 materials used in the making of carpets - Wool, Jute and Polypropylene.
Wool - bought in from Australia, New Zealand and S.Africa and blended with Irish wool. At the dyeing/spinning plant the wool is blended with nylon, giving it harder wearing properties.
Jute is used for backing. The plant is grown extensively in Tanzania, India and Bangladesh.The fibres are dried and sent to a factory in Scotland where they are processed into jute backing.
Polypropylene - this a product of the petro chemical industry, and is a man made fibre which was processed in Irish Ropes in Newbridge. Polypropylene, replaced the old cotton yarn, as it doesn't rot when wet, (say from a leaking radiator).
(above) The rich colours of a Navan Carpet coming off the loom.
(above) Demolition of Navan Carpet Factory Photo B. McCluskey
Due to the collapse of the market for carpets, a liquidator was called in and the Navan Carpet factory closed early in 2003.
The factory was demolished and has been replaced by the Blackwater Retail Park.
The annual loss to the local economy was estimated to be in the region of €6 million.
(above) Tony Duffy (right) and Owen Kelly with the last major carpet order to be manufactured at Navan Carpets
Source: Meath Chronicle, August 9th 2003
Final Day at Company that has became part of Everyone’s Family
Last Orders at Navan Carpets. By Joan Duignan.
The sense of sadness was palpable as Navan Carpets on Friday as the company’s last major contract order a 3,000 square metres carpet for the Rackette Hall Country House Hotel in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary reached the ‘finishing table’. Owen Kelly the supervisor in charge of finishing, and Anthony Duffy, who each have 37 years service with the firm to their credit, have worked together for about 33 years of that time on the final inspection table, watching out for faults, checking repeat lengths, identifying the order and putting the firm’s famous label on the carpet. The carpet then goes on to be rolled for delivery.
The carpet pictured here is just a segment of the huge order for the hotel in Roscrea, produced using the computerised weaving equipment Navan Carpets has had for some years. Friday was always ‘ship day’ at the firm and normally the finishing table would be jammed with carpets. However, since the liquidation of the firm at the end of June, the employees have stayed at work just to complete some final contracts.
END OF ERA
The end of an era for both of them, the firms winding up has been a ‘horrible’ experience. For Anthony, Friday was his last day at work at the Kells Road firm. The firm’s designers, Larry Tully and Helen Shiels, devised the pattern for the Rackette Hall carpet. It was based on an archival design and drawn up in conjunction with Michael Costello, the hotel’s owner.
Production manager Michael Keogan has worked for 39 years with the firm, starting in spooling, then going on to a position as supervisory tuner. He also worked in the quality department before becoming production manager. “It was a lovely place to work. I can say that I enjoyed every year of it,” said Michael. “It’s a big loss.”
He pointed out that the last four female employees in the production area had left the firm on Friday. The firm always employed a mixture of male and female workers and everyone enjoyed great working relationships over the years. “There was a great spirit about the place,” remarked Michael. Navan Carpets became part of the family of everyone who worked there.
Two of the other workers still at their stations on Friday last were Oliver Fitzsimons, who worked on the cropping machine and who has 40 years service with the firm, and Michael Ball, in weaving, who worked there for 38 years. For both Friday was a very sad day. The other remaining Navan Carpets contracts are the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, the Hyatt Scotsdale in Arizona, a top golfing hotel; the Marriott Hotel in Orlando, Florida, and the Napa Valley Country Club in northern California. The firm also is completing an order for a 7,500 square metres carpet for the Eilat Princess Hotel in Southern Israel.
Producing beautiful carpet for such elegant hotels was routine business for Navan Carpets Ltd. over the years. However, the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington had an immediate and irreversible impact on the firm’s fortunes. Many projects were “put on hold” in the days after the Twin Towers catastrophe and have remained in that state ever since.
The regret at the closure of the Kells Road firm has not been confined just to Navan or Meath where the immediate result is the loss of 230 jobs and an estimated €6 million annual loss to the local economy. As Finance and IT director, Luke Boden, commented, the decision to wind up the firm has caused immense sadness for customers who had developed a close relationship with the local firm. Letters and e-mails have been pouring in from all over the world, all recording how sad people are at the firm’s demise.
Luke and Export Sales / Marketing Director Paul Clynch both paid tribute to the workers who have remained on to complete the final contracts “They have worked on, people have deferred their holidays to stay on,” said Paul.
Traditionally, the start of August marked the beginning of the annual summer holidays for the company. This year, though, it truly marks the end of the road for the famous carpet operation.
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