'Strike on Here'

Western Pride Bakery 1967

By Bernard Joyce

On a Sunday night early in 1967 I was told by a work colleague not to go to work on Monday as the staff of Western Pride Bakery were going on strike.  As a 16yr old I found this exciting and looked forward to Monday to see what would happen. The employers had been informed of this decision and a lot of ‘recruitment’ went on in Ballinrobe Sunday night. Out of a workforce numbering 25, 24 supported the strike action including 2 women.   

We met in the square in Abbey St on Monday and so began the first strike in Ballinrobe.  We spent most of the time sitting in cars in the square, when a delivery truck appeared we’d hop out of the cars displaying our placards ‘strike on here’.  We had the support of the Bakers Union and were visited on a number of occasions by union reps. A guard was often on duty in Abbey St during this period.

Reporters from local newspapers came to Ballinrobe and locals visited Abbey St to see ‘what’s going on’.  The employers were determined to overcome the strike and carry on as usual even though the strikers had support from a lot of shops, we had reports of vans returning with half their load unsold.

The new ‘staff’ were mostly from areas outside of Ballinrobe although one local would be picked up each day and brought to the bakery hiding in the boot of a car (as if we did not know!)

On St Patrick’s night things got very serious when the alleged organiser of the strike was badly beaten resulting in broken bones ,loss of teeth and a lengthy stay in hospital.

After 7 weeks the strike fizzled out with some people getting jobs elsewhere: not easy to survive on strike pay (I was getting £2 a week from the union)!  A couple of salesmen got their jobs back, I got a job in another bakery....An exciting time for a 16yr old in BALLINROBE.

This page was added by Bernard Joyce on 05/02/2012.