Stephen Morrissey has just reached 50 years’ service at Flahavan’s in Kilmacthomas and the firm held a special celebration in his honour.
Local man Stephen was aged just 13 years back then and had just finished primary school.
From Ballahussa, Newtown, Kilmacthomas, Stephen is the son of Patrick and Alice Morrissey and was the oldest of seven, with three boys and four girls namely Kathleen, Mary, Peggy, Eileen, Pat and Martin. Brother Pat also works in Flahavan’s.
Married to Marie, Stephen has six children. Eldest son Stephen is in Peru and has a travel agency and does tours of Machu Picchu and other South American countries. Edel is a PE teacher while Peter is a civil engineer in London, where he completed a Masters in Imperial College.
Clare is going into her final year as nurse in UCC and Joseph is doing second year computer science in UCC. Patrick, their youngest, has just started Secondary School at St Declan’s Community College.
Back in 1964 Stephen cycled to work, as was the norm for a great many workers across the city and county at the time. He met Marie in the Rainbow, the local dance hall, and they married in the 1970s.
Trains were still operational through ‘Kilmac’ then and Stephen fondly recalls loading porridge boxes onto trains bound for Waterford and Cork.
“Truck drivers used to leave the factory on a Monday, mostly heading for the West of Ireland where most of the porridge we made was eaten at the time,” he said.
“The truck drivers would be gone for two to three days at a time before returning back to Kilmac for the next week’s delivery.”
Stephen began work at Flahavan’s in the packing department, at a time when everything was hand packed, with a team of 16 in packing but with 40-50 staff overall.
The 16 packers were all young lads, and had good craic working and played sport, mainly soccer and Gaelic football for Kilmacthomas.
Stephen’s father Patrick worked in Townsend Flahavan’s as a lorry driver outside Kilmacthomas at the time.
With major machinery investment over the past five decades, Stephen has seen huge changes in terms of operations, with the mill going from producing 5,000 packs a day on two lines to producing 30,000 packs a day on eight lines.
Training was done on site to operate machinery. He succeeded foreman Michael Carey, who retired, but is still hale and hearty in his eighties.
“Fifty years have gone past very quickly” he said, “but a lot has changed over the years.”
Wages back in 1964 were three pounds (£3) per week and then rose by 10 shillings after a year or two’s service, most of which was handed over to his mother, keeping just 10 shillings for himself.
Stephen admits he misses many of his friends and colleagues from the old times as Flahavan’s has a much younger workforce nowadays.
Soccer was his main interest and he and his colleagues regularly travelled to Kilcohan Park to see the great Waterford FC side of the mid to late 60s and early 70s. Trips to the Tramore Races were also a great feature of the time, and he often took holidays when visiting Tramore for the big festival.
Staff dances were popular in the summers of the 1960s and several hundred attended the Flahavan dance which was the dance of the year, with showbands such as Gina Dale Haze and the Champions packing the dance floors with their tunes.
Trips to ballrooms in Waterford and Tramore or a quiet pint in Kirwan’s were also fondly recalled by Stephen.
He also played Factory League soccer, and on one occasion, Flahavan’s reached the final of the losers group one year only to be beaten by Dungarvan Crystal in the decider.
All his children worked in Flahavan’s over the summers growing up, earning extra money; it helped them get through college and Stephen has always been grateful for that.
“It’s been good to work for a family firm and they are great employers in the locality,” he said.
Stephen thanked all the staff for putting on a big celebration for him, for which he received the ‘red carpet treatment’ for.
The staff put in many hours of preparation for the party, at the conclusion of which he was presented with a gold watch.
Stephen was like a film star for the day, what with all the photos taken (!) and he will proudly continue to work the seven-generation family firm. Congratulations to Stephen on a great achievement!