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Title: Clondalkin Paper Mills Collection 22: Paul McKee
Authors: Irish Life and Lore
O'Keeffe Maurice
McKee, Paul
Keywords: Clondalkin Paper Mill
Industrial Relations
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Irish Life and Lore/South Dublin Libraries
Description: 01 Paul McKee 1.mp3 01 Paul McKee 2.mp3 01 Paul McKee 3.mp3 01 Paul McKee 4.mp3 Track 1: Paul McKee grew up on Botanic Road in Glasnevin, and following the death of his father in 1948, he and his mother moved to Ballymun Avenue. After attending UCD he joined the Air Corps, but atfter he contracted polio this career came to an end. He was employed in a steelbrokers’ office on O’Connell Street, followed by a position at Gateaux, a flour confectionery manufacturers founded by Leslie Dakis. Arising from his study for an MBA at UCD, he met Joe Dolan who had a connection with CB Paper Sacks, and Paul was to become marketing manager of the company (later CB Packaging). Paul describes the effects of his illness on his career and how it influenced his choices, further explaining that he joined the mills in 1969. Although the technical aspects of the business were different to cake-making, the business elements were the same, he says. CB Paper Sacks was a joint venture between the Clondalkin Paper Mills and Bishops Packaging. His boss was Ken Bishop, who was joint Managing Director with Albert Cusack of the packaging company. Paul explains the interaction of the various managers within the packaging company. He recalls the various customers, including potato suppliers, flour and animal feed suppliers, Irish Sugar, fertiliser manufacturers and Cement Ltd. He explains that the machinery was sophisticated and produced various styles of sacks. The process involved buying paper mainly from Scandinavia, which came in rolls of about a ton in weight. The quality of sack paper was quite different to that produced at the Clondalkin Paper Mills as it required different strength and elasticity. Multi-wall paper sacks of different kinds were made and printed by CB Packaging. Track 2: Paul explains that for a short period he was General Manager, and he became joint Managing Director with Ken Bishop when Bert Cusack stepped down in order to devote his time to the mills. Later, he was invited to be a member of the Clondalkin Group board and moved to an office in the mills, becoming Group Managing Director. He discusses the companies which made up the Clondalkin Group and the importance of paper packaging and cartons at that time. One of Bailey Gibson’s products was teabags for Lyons’ Tea, whereas Guys of Cork was more involved in printing. Paul reflects on the relationship with national government during this period, and he recalls the role of Dr Cusack as the leader who would support the mills in every case. He is described as a man of immense talent, and Paul remembers his guidance and support. The members of the Group board are recalled, including Eugene O’Brien, Gerry Guy, Michael O’Connor and Agnes Macardle Murphy, and their qualities as business people are remembered. The turbulence in the work force is considered and Paul reverts back to the reasons why Clondalkin Paper Mills was set up initially. He recalls that trade unions were quite strong and employees at the time believed that they were in ‘a job for life’. There was a constant possibility of confrontation with entrenched views being held on both sides, as the trade unions and management came from different sides of the same coin. Many companies in Ireland and the UK formed the Clondalkin Group and later some companies in France, the USA and the Netherlands were also included. Track 3: The major change in economic outlook in the 1970s and a different approach to packaging, particularly in the supermarket arena, are subjects considered. There was innovation in graphics and packaging design, Paul says, and he recalls the development of plastics for use in such things as fertiliser sacks and pallet wrap. Also there were innovations in papers, such as the wallpaper base coated in plastic. The hub of the group was Clondalkin Paper Mills and Paul describes himself as having been part of the team that drove it, under the leadership of Dr Cusack. He considers the role of a Group board and its activities as opposed to the innovative ideas that came from individuals who may not necessarily be board members. In 1976, he stood down as Group Deputy Managing Director when another opportunity presented itself. However, he was made a non-executive director of the group and over time he became the longest serving member of the board, he explains. He recalls the fact that the paper mills was always under pressure due to competition from overseas. The equipment at the mills limited the product range and a major redefinition of the range was required. He considers that Dr Cusack was aware of this and tried to make improvements, but the cost of making changes to the plant, and the turnaround time, made this difficult. As Paul remarks, the size of the Irish market was a major factor in all of this. The quality of the Clondalkin product was excellent but it came with a premium price. He gives the example of the cheque papers produced by the mills and says that the installation of equipment for niche markets did not guarantee a market. Many changing factors in the 1970s affected the product being made, and this was in conjunction with increased competition from other suppliers. Track 4: Paul recalls the management buyout attempt for the entire Group, and he discusses where innovative ideas might come from, not always from those at the top level. He remembers some of the men with whom he worked, including Jerry and John Guy, David Harnett and Joe Dolan in CB Packaging, Jim Cullen, Tom Hogan in Bailey Gibsons, Peter Sherry and Jim Kelly in the paper mills, Pat Egan who was financial controller in the mills and Jerry Houlihan who was the group financial director. He reflects on hindsight, saying that one can only act with the information available at any time. Terry O’Neill, the engineering guru in the mills, is recalled and Paul remarks that Terry did great work with his team, operating under pressure at all times due to the pace of change. Another colleague was Dr Peter Sherry whose great resourcefulness in the production area is remembered.
Appears in Collections:Clondalkin Paper Mills Oral History Collection
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01 Paul McKee 4.mp36.82 MBUnknown
01 Paul McKee 3.mp315.49 MBUnknown
01 Paul McKee 2.mp312.1 MBUnknown
01 Paul McKee 1.mp310.61 MBUnknown

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