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25Dec/19

WHEN LETTERKENNY’S SWEETNESS TURNED SOUR – A PERSONAL STORY

first_imgOatfields is bulldozed to the ground this week.Former journalist Amy Rose Harte made a stunning radio documentary which captured the last days of the famous Oatfields Sweet Factory in Letterkenny.In this specially-commissioned piece for Donegal Daily, Amy reveals how she felt when she heard the news that the famous building had been pulled to the ground this week.Amy Rose Harte  This week Letterkenny said goodbye to one of the town’s most iconic landmarks with the demolition of Oatfield Sweet Factory.Local wisdom had it that the Oatfield rooftops could be seen from almost everywhere in Letterkenny, regardless of where one stood.But no more.Oatfields, a global success story, was a major employer of the town for many decades, often seeing different generations of the same family coming through the factory doors to boil sweets, churn chocolate or make toffee for a living. Eventually it grew to become Ireland’s oldest and largest confectionary manufacturer, and over time Oatfield Sweets simply became synonymous with Letterkenny.The once proud sweet factory.Such was its inherent place in our local community that for many years, a large siren that rang from the factory site at various points of the working day served as an alarm clock for people in the town.Many of its products – Orange Chocolates, Eskimo Mints, Winter Easers, Liquorice Bon-Bons – remain firm market favourites, while Irish Butter Toffees and Emeralds have never waned in popularity.Oatfield was one of the first manufacturing factories Letterkenny ever had. With its origins in 1927, it survived numerous recessions, and outlived facilities such as Fruit of the Loom, Hospira, and UNIFI, the Donegal Baking Company and many indigenous businesses.Within the industry itself, it was seen as a leader and a maverick, particularly during its heyday – the 60s and 70s. It was among the first manufacturers worldwide to introduce centres to boiled sweets, while its decision to introduce pre-packing equipment in 1968 is heralded as kick-starting the tradition of pre-packing sweets in Ireland.In recent years, Oatfield was still producing 30 varieties of sweets which were ‘‘pure’’, as the company’s motto suggested. Approximately five tonnes of high-boiled sweets, two tonnes of toffee, two tonnes of eclairs and 1.5 tonnes of Emerald toffees were being produced at the factory every day, with recipes largely the same as they were when the company was established by brothers Ira and Haddon McKinney in 1927. The company’s range of high boiled sweets – Eskimo mints, brandy balls and orange chocolates – were produced on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Emeralds, Irish butter toffees and eclairs were made on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Production in recent times was semi-automated, in comparison to years ago, when the sweets were handmade.In its last few years, while a considerable amount of production was being outsourced to the UK, activity at the factory was quite high, and the 52-strong workforce had their hands full. This was due to a major redesign of the company brand, and a recession-related boost in demand for sweets.But recent commercial pressures meant Oatfield’s days were numbered, and it was closed by current owners, Zed Candy, in May 2012.This week marked the final chapter in the charmed history of the sprawling brown-and-mustard edifice that will never be forgotten. Amy Rose Harte’s radio documentary, ‘Oatfields: A Short but Sweet History’ can be listened to here. Edited by Lochlainn Harte.Part 1: https://soundcloud.com/user2465491/oatfields-a-short-but-sweetPart 2: https://soundcloud.com/user2465491/oatfields-a-short-but-sweet-1WHEN LETTERKENNY’S SWEETNESS TURNED SOUR – A PERSONAL STORY was last modified: April 26th, 2014 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:Amy Rose HarteOatfieldslast_img read more