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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Governey's of Carlow


This poster was kindly provided by William Muldowney c2005

It came from the Governey's 1984 Calendar.


"The surname GOVERNEY is associated today with Carlow and a century ago was found in small numbers in Co. Leix. Its origin has not been finally determined. A probable origin is the Huguenot name Gouvernet. In this connexion it must be noted that the Governey's of today are nearly all Catholics: as a rule Huguenot families have remained mainly Protestant".

Joe Hosey stands at the entrance to Governey's Boot & Shoe shop which was situated at Market Cross. c1930's

Demolished in 1991 it is now the Carlow branch of the First National Building Society.

Governey's Boot Factory c1930's. The factory closed in the 1970's and in 1983 the building was demolished.
A 36 seater bus awaits for 43 ladies, employees of Governey’s Boot Factory. Pictured as they prepare to leave on an outing to Tramore in June 1937. The leather cases were made in the factory. In the background we note (L. to R.) Payne’s house, James’s house, Haughney’s house with the man looking out the middle window, next is Byrne’s house with Hogan’s adjoining. The last three named buildings were demolished to make way for the Boot Factory office.

In 1903 Michael Governey proprietor of Corcoran and Co. opened a boot and shoe manufacturing factory opposite his mineral water works at Castle Hill Carlow. The factory was built by Thomas Thompson of Carlow and had a beautiful red brick frontage (a very small portion of this still exists). The trade mark of the Company called the Catherlogh Castle Boot Factory Ltd. was a picture of Carlow Castle.

Michael Governey’s eldest son also Michael went abroad to train for the business. He unfortunately died at the age of 28. His brothers Hugh and Des also worked in the company. Governey’s boots and shoes over the years were renowned for top quality

By Dan Carbery

The following article appeared in the magazine “Carlow Past and Present" in 1996 and was compiled by my uncle William (Sam) Fitzpatrick, he now resides in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Sections of the article are also based on conversations I had with my late grandfather William Fitzpatrick Snr.


Shortly after the turn of the century Michael Governey Snr. attended an Exhibition in Cork City. It was at this exhibition that Michael got the idea to establish a Boot Factory in Carlow town. The factory opened in 1903 and created much needed employment for local people. Michael Governey was a very enterprising man full of vision and foresight; he contributed much to the welfare and prosperity of the town.

William Fitzpatrick manager of Carlow Boot Factory pictured with Managing Director Hugh Governey. circa 1950.

Initially the factory was situated in a room in Castle Street but it quickly developed and progressed into one of the most modern and efficient manufacturers of Boots in the British Isles. The craft of boot making was taught to the locals by two brothers with the surname of Dodge, they came from England. Within a short time the factory acquired a reputation for the production of high quality boots.

It was with the appointment of Samuel Bassford as manager that the production line was extended to include the manufacture of stylish light laced boots for all age groups. Mr. Bassford possessed a great knowledge of the trade, he further extended the system to include costing for the first time and promoted advertising in the form of a catalogue which included information on the factory combined with pictures and prices of the type of goods produced. There are still a few copies of this catalogue in the Carlow area.

Mr Bassford spent some years in Carlow; it was in 1912 that my own father Mr. William Fitzpatrick entered the firm as a clerk to Mr. Bassford. He had just finished school in the local CBS (Christian Brothers School), and attained a Kings University Scholarship; his mother being a widow was unable to send him.

He learned a great deal from Mr. Bassford including costing, factory costs, buying and selling, pattern cutting and designing and shoe making in every respect. Mr. Bassford possessed a theoretical knowledge as well as a practical knowledge of the trade as he had been a lecturer in shoe making at the Leicester school of Technology. A quick glance at two manufacturing account returns for the years 1906 and 1922 give proof of the rapid growth of the factory.

Wages paid in 1906 amounted to £705.1s.1d., and in 1922 was £4472.16s.4d. The figure for sales in 1906 was £3266.9s.8d and in 1922 had grown to £16,523.l6s.10d. The gross profit had increased from £20.14s.4d to £600.0s.8d. After Mr. Bassford’s departure my father the late William Fitzpatrick was appointed General Manager, I think this was around 1924. The factory continued to expand and became well known throughout Ireland and England and began to make its mark and its brand was well known and recognised, for Governey’s were then manufacturing Gents Goodyear Welred shoes, men’s heavy agricultural boots, youths boys and women’s yard shoes.

I joined the factory in 1937 after leaving school and soon afterwards Michael Governey Jnr. died at a young age of 28 years. It was at around this time that adjoining property was bought and a new extension was built by Dan Carbery and Sons, this gave much wanted extra space and accommodation and it accounted for some good improvements in the factory. The factory at this time was employing some 300/400 workers all local people from the Carlow/Graiguecullen area. There were 8 people in the office including the Managing Director and the manager.

The factory at its peak manufactured some 3,500 pairs per week. Half of the production figures were welted and half heavy, sometimes this figure rose to 4,000 pairs.

Images of the employees at the factory

There was a saying throughout Ireland at the time:

'North, South, East and West

Governey's shoes are the best'.

In fact this appeared on posters all over the country. The factory had two power engines running the factory and overhead shafting which powered all the machines in each department. However as new machines were installed which were all self motorised they did away with overhead drive. Most of the machines were supplied by the British United Shoe Co. Ltd. of Leicester on a lease/rent basis. At this time there were about 26 shoe factories in operation. Governey’s had to compete against first class competition from firms such as Padmore and Barnes Kilkenny, Rawsons and Sons Dundalk, Winstanlys of Dublin and Lees of Cork. I remember one leather salesman telling me that the two best Boot Factories in Ireland (in his opinion) were Governey’s of Carlow and “The Reliable Shoe Co.” of Westport Co. Mayo.

In the manufacture of Boots and Shoes there are many operations, machinery and departments depending on types of trade and due to breakdowns in machinery, absenteeism from work etc. movement always has to be in one direction, always heading for the finishing, shoe and packing department. I often remember my father in one of these hold ups. In his habitual form and manner, gesticulation with hands and shaking his head and then stepping in to work the machine himself and get things moving again. The directors were well supported by management, factory staff and workers. In the late forties Michael J. Doyle of Potato Market was in charge of the office and became Secretary of the company. The foremen/women were all local people namely:

Mickie Donoghue - Graiguecullen - Clicking room Foreman: Annie Rogers - Castle Street - Closing and Machine room Forelady: Frank Hutton - Staplestown Road - Pullover and Lasting Foreman: Dick Toole - Staplestown Road - Making room Foreman: Joe Brennan - Burrin Street - Welting room: Martin Hogan – Graiguecullen - Press room: Dick Rogers - Castle Street - Finishing room: John, ”Cracker”, Hayden- Staplestown Road - Shoe room and Packing Foreman.

Governey’s Boot Factory housed some famous workers, Pim Quinlan, Carlow G.A.A. Gaelic Footballer of the 1940’s. Mick Haughney, (Cutchie), famous Graiguecullen and Laois footballer of the 1930’s/40’s. The Hogan brothers, Martin and Willie (Red), famous Graiguecullen and Laois G.A.A. players.

During the war years the Factory (which was now called Catherlogh Castle Boot Factory) introduced a quota system of rationing and saw to it that all of the firms customers in Ballon, Tullow, Bagenalstown, Athy and throughout the country were all looked after. In the early 1940’s Desmond Governey joined the firm as Assistant Managing Director to his brother Hugh. During the year 1948, I decided to go further afield and seek a career for myself elsewhere. In Governey’s I had acquired much knowledge and experience of the trade. I went to London to work for a factory, which manufactured ladies footwear.

In Governey’s of Carlow, in the early 1940’s the final price fixing and saleable price of the shoes were taken out of the Managers hands and left up to the Directors. This decision was later reversed and full costing and pricing given back to the Manager. After spending two years in London I returned to Governey’s at the request of Hugh Governey to assist my father in the factory.

I remained there until 1954 and I then moved to Westport to manage “The Reliable Shoe Co.”. My father retired from the factory in April 1952 and was presented with a silver tea service; he had previously been presented with a Mantle Clock in 1945 to mark 21 years as manager, and in 1952 was presented with a semi-hunter pocket watch for forty years service to the factory. He then purchased No. 13 Castle Street and set up a shoe repair shop with his son Jack and the late Peter Norris. Subsequently the business moved to Potato Market where Jack repaired shoes up to his death in 1982.

In conclusion I have to say I enjoyed my time working for the Catherlogh Castle Boot Factory and I gained valuable experience there both of the shoe trade and of life and made many friends.

During the lifetime of the Carlow Factory all of the upper and sole materials as well as all purchases and accessories required in manufacturing were all Irish made. Example: Upper leathers were obtained from: - Gorey Leather Co., Dickem Leather Co., Dungarvan, Plunder and Pollock Ltd. Carrick-on Suir. Those were the three main tanneries in Ireland. Bottom sole leather was obtained from Irish Tanners Ltd., Portlaw, Ballybay Tanneries Ltd. and Kennedy O’Brien, Dublin.

All of the workers were locals and I believe were the best in the trade. Many of them have now passed away and gone to their eternal reward.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a n-anam.

Factory Images

Previously published in: Carlow Past & Present. ISSN 0790 555 Vol.1. No.4. 1993 & Carlow Past & Present. ISSN 0790 555 Vol.1. No.5. 1996
The photos are from William Muldowney's private collection & from Michael Purcell's 'Carlow in Old Pictures' & 'Carlow in Old Picture Postcards Vol. 2'
Source: Michael Purcell (C2005)
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