The story of GEC Dunleer in the words of the people who made it

Fintan Harmon with his Book the Road to Dunleer
Fintan Harmon is from Annagassan and has written a superb book on the GEC factory in Dunleer which was at the centre of this county’s industry in the 1960s employing 1,500 people.

Fintan Harmon is from Annagassan and has written a superb book on the GEC factory in Dunleer which was at the centre of this county’s industry in the 1960s employing 1,500 people.

Fintan’s book, It was Sunshine and Laughter All the Way, recreates that time by catching the actual words of many of the people who worked there.

It is not only a great social documentary, it is also a great read. As well as describing what it was like working at the factory, it also gives a great idea of what life was like at the time.

The late Nickey McCartney cycled to work from Dromiskin to Dunleer every day with Jim Murtagh, John McDonnell and Paddy Yore.

At the time there was no electricity in the factory. The power came from a diesel generator.

There was a cycling club in Dunleer and Nicky joined it. Himself and the late Johnny Mullen from Dundalk, who incidentally was a beautiful singer, would cycle to Ardee, Collon, and then on home, every Tuesday and Thursday.

This was 1939 and the factory was then called AET. It all began when a group of businessmen decided to move an electrical appliance business from Ardee to Dunleer.

Nickey McCartney started straight from school and his first job was to go to Ardee and help pack the equipment at the old Railway station and move it to Dunleer.

So the factory began when World War Two began, or the Emergency, as it was known here.

In the late 1950s, Martin McCourt became the main shareholder and it was he who brought the company into the General Electric Company (GEC) empire.

So, in the 1960s, GEC Dunleer became the biggest industrial plant in the region.

When the Irish television service began in late 1962 - later to become RTE - the sale of television sets roared.

Before then, television was only available in the North and the border counties.

Dunleer was making them by the thousands.

They had also developed electrical storage heating and were making fires, fridges, in fact all household electrical goods.

By the end of the 1960s Martin McCourt, Danny McCreanor, Maurice Ward, Pat Bolger, Jack McQuillan - who worked with Martin McCourt at the GNR plant in Dundalk before moving to AET, and all the team had turned GEC into one of the most successful industrial centres in the country.

Over one-and-a-half thousand people worked there.

Fintan Harmon’s book captures the atmosphere with first-hand accounts by many of the employees.

It’s a treasure, something to think about when it comes to Christmas presents.

It’s available at Carroll’s Bookshop Park Street Dundalk: Mulligan’s Dromiskin: Joe’s Kilsaran: Post Office Annagassan: Pat’s Gift Shop Dunleer: O’Brien’s Ardee.

It was Sunshine and Laughter All the Way by Fintan Harmon. Price is €5.