Family employed at brewery since day it opened — 163 years ago

Family employed at brewery since day it opened — 163 years ago
Barry Hosford in a test taste room at Heineken Brewery, Cork. His great-grandfather Thomas Hosford was present on the Golden Jubilee staff excursion to Killarney in 1906 and Thomas Hosford was employed in the company since its inception. Picture: Larry Cummins

A brewery in Cork is throwing open its doors tomorrow as part of heritage week and is proud to trumpet an unbroken record of employment within one family stretching back to the day it opened — 163 years ago.

There has been a Hosford on the payroll of Murphy’s Brewery since 1856, which is now the Heineken Ireland brewery, and over that period they have been responsible for brewing millions of pints.

At one point in the 1960s there were five Hosford brothers working at the brewery at the same time.

Barry Hosford is the fourth generation of his family to work at the brewery at Lady’s Well Brewery, Blackpool, What began as a temporary summer job has become a lifelong career, seeing him rise in the ranks to become the company’s production supervisor:

The first of my family to start work here was my great grandfather, Thomas Hosford. He was followed by my grandfather, Joseph, and my father, Christopher.

Barry, 52, recollects as a young child coming to see the brewery in the early 1970s with his father. Lorries were deployed to deliver the beer and stout to rural areas: “I remember the dray horses taking the deliveries to pubs around the city. Everybody knew the men who were on those deliveries. But they were only used around town.”

“When I started here in 1984 the old Murphy’s brewhouse was still working. Heineken had just bought it. At the time it was very labour intensive, especially during the malting season,” Barry said.

Barry Hosford at the entrance to the automated brewhouse at Heineken Brewery.
Barry Hosford at the entrance to the automated brewhouse at Heineken Brewery.

That was when the hops, grain etc would be brought into the brewery and a lot of seasonal jobs were created.

Barry said one particularly labour intensive part of the job was dealing the leftover grain, which would be boiling hot. It was shovelled out of brewery into waiting lorries and then transported to farms as cattle feed.

“When I first joined it was just as a general operative, but now I’m the production supervisor,” he added.

Heineken Ireland is a major employer, with 400 staff nationwide. About 120 people are employed ‘on the road’ as reps or in deliveries. A further 80 are in Dublin and 200 are employed at the Cork brewery.

Barry pointed out that technology now plays a very big role in the brewing process, far more so than it did when he joined the company 35 years ago: “Today we have about 40 people employed directly between fermentation and kegging.”

Barry Hosford beneath fermentation vessels at the brewery. His family connection to the company spans four generations.
Barry Hosford beneath fermentation vessels at the brewery. His family connection to the company spans four generations.

When Barry first started in the company there was double the number employed on that particular part of the process: “Where I work now is in an extremely high-tech environment and the people who work here are very highly-skilled.”

Needless to say, he’s proud of the Hosford involvement in the history of the brewery and there’s one particular picture hanging in the brewery that he points to. It’s a picture of hundreds of workers taken in 1909 of the then Murphy’s brewery staff on a day trip to Killarney. Among them is his grandfather, Joseph. It hangs in the hospitality area.

Cousins Donal and Barry Hosford in the Kiln Bar in the Heineken Brewery, Cork.
Cousins Donal and Barry Hosford in the Kiln Bar in the Heineken Brewery, Cork.

Barbara Anne Richardson, the company’s communications manager, said the brewery will open its doors to the public from 11am to 1pm tomorrow:

There will be full, guided tours of the malt house and the kiln. People will get to see a huge amount of history. It has a fabulous history and is a Cork institution.

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