It’s Sunday night, just gone nine o’clock. The wet days have passed; the Gerald Flemings have assured us. Icy winds from Russia, carrying the possibility of snow, shall make for an inhospitable replacement.
The lights in the Waterford Crystal visitor centre remain bright as the roster at reception is marked up for the sit-in shift that will become a lie-in for many come the wee small hours.
A mattress standing against a nearby wall shall be in use before too long, while a television in the restaurant’s dining area is playing the evening news, with Damien Tiernan’s latest report having just been broadcast.
“Everyone agrees that the next 48 hours will be crucial,” the RTE correspondent informs the nation.
A German TV crew had stopped by earlier to capture the mood of a story that has put Waterford on the map again, albeit not in the manner that any of us would have envisaged or desired.
Twenty-four hours previously, a busload of Hungarian tourists had arrived for their tour of the Kilbarry factory, booked well in advance of last Friday’s devastating developments.
What happened upon their arrival was arguably one of the most heart-warming and inspiring manifestations of Waterford pride I’ve ever come across.
Those that had travelled from more than halfway across our continent were not turned away.
They were not told, ‘sorry lads, it looks like we’ve lost our jobs and our pensions, we’re doing our damnest to save them, we’re sort of tied up with this so we really can’t show you around here today.’
Instead, like tens of millions before them, thanks to the skill and craft of generations of Waterfordians who have made hundreds of millions for the company, the ‘Magyars’ got their tour. It was an extraordinary moment.
Waterford Crystal has not just been a place where people have merely gone to work every day for several decades. It’s been much more than that; the public reaction since Friday being the proof of that particular pudding.
The emotional investment made by the current staff and all those that clocked in here before them, year after year, is impossible to quantify; their contribution to the modern history of Waterford just as difficult to measure.
For theirs has been the business, theirs has been the trade and theirs has been the hospitality that has made our city and county famous the world over.
Henry Moloney, a retired blower who got his first payslip from ‘The Glass’ back in 1950, is one of the hundreds of outstanding ambassadors that the workers have been able to call upon in recent days.
That same tag just as easily applies to Ian Paul, Tom Allen and Seamus Norris, all of whom I spoke to amidst Friday afternoon’s disbelieving and, at times, tense atmosphere in the visitors’ centre.
The warmth of the welcome Henry afforded me on Sunday night and the generosity of his time thereafter, was simply terrific.
He regaled me with stories of the old days in Johnstown, the fun had in the canteen when dispensing advice to grooms-to-be and his pride in the work of colleagues, many of whom are now sadly deceased.
He re-enforced the notion that working here really was and hopefully will be something that the people of Waterford, Munster and Ireland shall continue to be enormously proud of.
Waterford to the bone, Waterford Crystal to the core, Henry Moloney and all those affected by the events of recent days deserve every good wish that each and every one of us can muster.
For if it’s in adversity that people show their true strength and demonstrate what they’re really made of, then the staff of ‘The Glass’ are folk we can all be enormously proud of. And I for one salute them.