Family’s Nazi link uncovered during writing of Beamish & Crawford history

Two historians who have written a new book on the remarkable history of what was once Ireland’s largest brewery, have unearthed a Nazi link to a member of one of its founding families.
Family’s Nazi link uncovered during writing of Beamish & Crawford history

Donal and Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil, who launched Beamish & Crawford — The History of an Irish Brewery in Cork last night, said they were surprised to discover during their research that Carin Beamish, the great-great-granddaughter of brewery founder William Beamish, married Nazi Hermann Goering, who went on to become commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe.

Their book tells the story of more than two centuries of Cork’s most important brewery and the people who worked there.

Specially commissioned and published by Collins Press, it is extensively illustrated with mostly unpublished material.

The historian brothers discovered that Carin Beamish, whose mother was Swedish, met Goering in Sweden in 1920. They married and settled in Munich, where she joined the Nazi party and helped an injured Goering escape to Austria after Hitler’s failed 1923 coup attempt — the Beer Hall Putsch.

Carin had suffered from TB for some time and died in Sweden in 1931. Goering called his country house outside Berlin Karinhalle in her memory.

Donal said: “He had her remains exhumed in Sweden and reinterred there in a lavish funeral attended by Hitler.”

The brothers also discovered that Carin’s first cousin, Richard Beamish, who was a director of the brewery in 1937, met Goering at Karinhalle after writing to him explaining their connection. While at a luncheon at the air ministry, Beamish spotted Hitler standing in a doorway.

It is one of several incredible insights into the Beamish and Crawford brewery, which has been a part of the Cork City landscape since 1792, and which was the first to produce stout and porter on a large scale.

It was founded a year earlier when two leading merchants, William Beamish from Cork, and William Crawford, from Bangor, Co Down, joined forces with two Cork brewers, Richard Barrett and Digby O’Brien, to set up the Cork Porter Brewery on South Main St. The first porter was brewed there on January 17, 1792 and the business took off during the French wars when Cork was a major provisioning centre for British fleets.

By 1799, Beamish and Crawford had taken over the business and at the height of production, it was making more stout than Guinness and was exporting to Australia, the US and Caribbean.

However, by the mid-1830s, Guinness overtook Beamish and Crawford in volume terms.

Beamish and Crawford went on to take over rival Cork brewery, Lane’s, while Murphy’s took over another Cork brewery, Arnott’s, to create two major city-based breweries.

The brewery was taken over by Murphy’s parent company, Heineken Ireland, in 2009, and closed its doors, bringing to an end its rich 217-year history.

The Ó Drisceoil brothers, who have written several history books on Cork’s iconic institutions, including the English Market and Cork Airport, said their new book is a logical follow-on from their 1997 title, The Murphy’s Story: the History of Lady’s Well Brewery.

Diarmuid, who works full-time at historical research and writing, said Beamish and Crawford’s extensive company archive provided most of the information for their book. “With the support and co-operation of Heineken, those company records that remained in the brewery were transferred to the Cork City and County Archives,” he said.

“An earlier tranche of company papers had already been deposited there in the early 1970s. That unique collection formed the basis for this book — the most comprehensive history of an Irish brewery ever published.”

Donal, who lectures in history at UCC, was historical adviser to the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley and is completing a history of media and literary censorship in Ireland. He said this history of the brewery gives a unique insight into the business and the wealthy families who ran it.

“It left an indelible mark on Cork’s economy, as well as its social, cultural and political landscape,” he said.

Meanwhile, some of the country’s top broadcasters reveal how they lived in fear of garda raids to cut their teeth as young pirate radio DJs in another new book launched last night.

Top names in the business, including RTÉ’s John Creedon, RedFM’s Neil Prendeville, 96fm’s Derry O’Callaghan and Trevor Welch, as well as TV3’s Paul Byrne and Mark Cagney, all talk of the joy and excitement of working in Cork pirate stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The Jolly Roger, by sports broadcaster Trevor Welch — who began his career with Radio Caroline and SouthCoast — and his brother Noel Welch — who has worked in print, radio, and TV, primarily with The Evening Echo and The Cork Examiner for more than 40 years — and the Irish Independent ’s southern correspondent Ralph Riegel, recalls the glory days of pirate radio in Cork.

“It was a time of magic, when, for a single glorious decade, imagination triumphed over commercial reality,” Noel said.

“Pirate radio station DJs compiled playlists based purely on their love for the music; broadcast studios were in old caravans; stars adapted exotic-sounding names to woo listeners; outside broadcast units were invariably the back seats of old Ford Cortinas or Opel Asconas and every DJ lived in mortal terror that the gardaí might arrive to shut their station down or, worse still, confiscate their precious private record collections.” The book charts the stories of those who broadcast on legendary stations such as CCLR, South Coast, Radio Caroline, and ERI.

TV3’s Paul Byrne, who as a teenager broadcast a 15-minute Teen Beats show on CCLR on Saturday mornings from pokey studios on French Church St under the name Paul Stevens, said it was a massive learning curve.“It was like the Fás of broadcasting and was an invaluable experience. They were the best days of my life,” he said.“I got my big break six months later when I got a half-an-hour show.”

  • The Jolly Roger, published by Currach Press, is available now, priced 14.99.
  • Beamish & Crawford – The History of an Irish Brewery, is published by The Collins Press, priced €29.99.

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