A forgotten slice of Ardglass

A forgotten slice of Ardglass

21 November 2012 - by BY JOANNE FLEMING

AN Ardglass man is carrying out research into what was once one of the biggest employers in the village. Jim Moran is interested in EF Eatons— a large food canning factory, which supplied goods for well-known brands such as Batchelors from the late 1940s.

His father Jimmy Moran was foreman at the factory for a time and it was also Jim’s first job when he left school, before going to England to pursue a career in photojournalism.

“I would be interested to hear from anyone who worked there or have any archive photos which may be of assistance to me in this project,” he said.

“Any help in this matter would be appreciated.”

The Eaton’s Inner Dock Canning factory, located on Ardglass’s inner dock, was built in 1949 and was originally a kippering house until Messrs. Eaton & Co. had it converted into the canning factory.

On the site where Milligans factory now stands, it was officially opened on December 12, 1949, and the list of products canned varied from fruits and vegetables to fish, hams and jam.

Apples, pears, peaches, apricots, pineapples, grapefruit, peas, beans, damsons, green grapes, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries were regularly canned and in 1954 rhubarb was even processed for the Admiralty.

Ham was canned in one and two pound cans for export only while tomato puree and tomato sauce were produced regularly. Salmon, prawns and herrings were canned in tomato sauce or natural oils. Eaton’s lemon cheese and salad cream were put in jars and were very popular along with their cream and jellies.

Jim remembers a well lit and ventilated factory, which contained a laboratory where a chemist and biologist continually tested the different foods.

“Mr. Eaton, the factory manager supervised the laboratory along with the rest of the plant and on any particular day the staff canned about 16,000 four ounce cans of salmon, 3,920 eight ounce cans of apricots, 850 six pound cans of solid packed apples, 130 seven pound jars of apricot jam and 1,800 pound jars of lemon cheese,” he said.

“The factory employed about 100 female workers and 10 men but during the height of the canning season about 200 workers were employed, 30 of them being male.

“The work was so intensive that over at Newcastle, a further 45 female workers were employed in the peeling of apples as there was simply not enough room at the Ardglass factory.

“Hogg and Co. supplied the apples which the factory girls peeled and cored and then put into large barrels, each of which contained 16 quarts of water and six pounds of salt, which preserved the fruit. They sat overnight in the barrels and the next morning the salt was hosed off and the apples. Before the can was sealed it passed through 185 (F) degrees steam before been sealed and steamed again at a lower temperature. Lorries then took the products away in crates for export via the Belfast boat to the English cities.”

The factory prospered and continued to flourish due to the increasing demand for canned food. A new factory subsequently had to be built out the Downpatrick Road.

Anyone with any information on Eaton’s factory can contact Jim Moran by email at rjs.moran@btinternet.com, or by mobile on 07563 713342.