Irish Ropes - a brief history



Irish Ropes was established in 1933 by Eric Rigby Jones. Leasing the disused military barracks from the Board of Works, the factory started to make ropes and twine, using imported sisal, for a home market that was strongly protected by tariffs. In 1937 the range of products expanded with the manufacturing of floor covering by a carpet weaving process.

During the Second World War, 1939-45, the company remained profitable during the Emergency because it was able to supply an active agricultural market with binder twine.

In 1946, the company embarked on an export drive and raised the necessary funds through the Industrial Credit Company. At this stage it was employing 300, including 40 female staff. By 1953 this had increased to 400, and was exporting to 24 countries, despite the impact of the Korean War on the price of raw materials. By 1958, the company employed 500, and was exporting more than half its output, again at a time when the Suez Crisis, 1956, impacted on the price of raw materials worldwide.

In the early 1960s further expansion was made in the manufacturing of woven carpets, in synthetics and wool. This increased the work force to 900 by 1965. The current manufacturing process of tufting began in 1969. The company expected a shortage of labour to limit any further expansion. But the population of Newbridge grew in the late 1960s. They also needed more land to expand, and even considered moving if none could be acquired nearby. The Council machinery yard was made available, and some privately –owned land was also bought.

In 1966, Irish Ropes started to make polypropylene, an oil by-product that was used to make a synthetic yarn for carpets. By 1969 the workforce peaked at 1,035. The Middle East Oil Crisis of 1973 affected markets worldwide. By 1975 the workforce had dropped back to 730. Since then it has been gradually reduced.