Jacob’s Biscuit Factory – an Assorted History
Many parishioners have had an association with Jacob’s Biscuits over the years and perhaps this accounted for the large attendance at Wendy Williams‘ fascinating talk on Jacob’s – once the third-largest biscuit producer in the British Commonwealth. The company was founded in Waterford in 1851 by William and Robert Jacob, initially producing ship biscuits. Later the factory moved to Peter’s Row in Dublin and diversified into the production of hand-decorated fancy biscuits. The company rapidly expanded and was a major employer, with over 3000 employees of whom 1800 were women. The company exported biscuits around the world: to Freemantle, Manila and Calcutta. Working conditions were challenging with fire a common occurrence but employees could enjoy cold milk, a swimming pool and generous educational, medical and dental benefits.
Jacob’s responded to the First World War by encouraging workers to enlist, sending biscuits to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and sending a fleet of ambulances to the front. Closer to home, the building was occupied by the rebels in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Jacob’s factory played a significant part in the social, cultural and economic development of Dublin and Wendy’s talk whetted our appetites to learn more. The advertising posters provided particularly interesting insights into the social norms of the day. In the meantime we assuaged other appetites with Kimberly, Mikado and Coconut Creams with our tea and coffee. A very interesting morning.
April saw twenty of us visit the recently refurbished Stella Theatre in Rathmines. The original cinema was opened in 1923 with a capacity for 1283, making it the largest cinema in Ireland. The recent restoration work of the art deco façade and interior was meticulously executed with great care and attention to detail with reference to photographs, written and oral records. Fortunately part of the original ornate ceiling of the balcony had been covered up and so escaped the ravages of time. So we luxuriated in the plush red armchairs and couches and some even checked out the double bed-sized loungers for comfort (sure you’d get a crick in your neck!). Small tables with fringed lights were strategically positioned to accommodate the clients’ food and drinks. The over-arching impression is one of wonderful 1920s decadence and Karl our guide informed us that when the Stella is not in use as a cinema it is a much sought-after venue for promotions and corporate events. We are not surprised.
We then crossed the road for lunch at the recently opened Fallon & Byrne restaurant in the Swan Centre. Thanks to the rector whose thoughtful action ensured we got from the church on time!
Mount Usher Gardens
A smaller group braved it to Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford on a damp day in May. Following our coffee we enjoyed a guided tour of the gardens, which were created by four generations of the Walpole family commencing in 1865.The Walpoles were influenced by Ireland’s most famous gardener, William Robinson, (1838–1935) and thanks to his influence the gardens are informal and in harmony with nature and the immediate landscape. The present owner Mrs Madeline Jay introduced a policy of maintaining Mount Usher organically without the use of herbicides or pesticides. It is said that May is the best time to see the gardens and we were not disappointed. The brilliant banks of azaleas and camellias and rhododendrons were stunning and time and time again our excellent guide drew our attention to the many Champion Trees of Ireland imported from around the world. The Vartry river runs through the gardens and with its weirs and bridges it adds greatly to the atmosphere. The heavy rain held off and we had a very pleasant morning impressing one another with our plant knowledge!
Lunch in the Avoca Café rounded off the day with time left for some browsing and shopping. Sincere thanks to the drivers who facilitated the car-pooling.
Date for your diary:
Wednesday 13 June: Meet in the alcove of The Goat, Kilmacud Road at 11.30 am for coffee and /or lunch. All welcome. Just turn up on the day.
Have a great summer and thank you for all your support during the year.
Gloria and Irene