Kerry family recreate creamery experience

A Kerry family has recreated the creamery experience, giving a snapshot of how creameries all over the country earned their place as a pivotal point of rural life in the past.

Annette and Paul Garland and their four children have spent years recreating Listry Creamery which closed in 1993, to replicate its original working model.

Annette is from Kilorglin and Paul is a native of the Cooley peninsula in Co. Louth, where he grew up on a small suckler farm. He has been living in Kerry for over 30 years and the couple have four children.

‘All aspects of rural life’

The Garlands purchased the creamery site at Lissavane East from the Kerry Group in 2002 and ran a garden centre there until 2018. They now run a museum ‘The Kerry Creamery Experience’ with tea rooms, having invested their own money in the venture, along with Leader rural development programme funding of €22,000.

“We, the Garland family, as it is indeed a whole family enterprise, took the decision to turn our small garden centre housed on a disused creamery site into a museum dedicated to the creamery movement which played such a part in all aspects of Irish rural life.

“The creameries were in existence as a national network of small collection centres for the dairy industry,” said Annette.

Whether a large landowner or a small farmer down to the household with a house cow, all came together at the creamery to bring their milk to be sent on and processed into the very essence of good food that Ireland is world famous for. Thus all strata of Irish society levelled by coming together at the local creamery.

The Garlands built on the original creamery records which were in their possession.

“We got donations from farmers of machinery and creamery cans and responses to an appeal for memorabilia we put out through Ireland’s Own,” said Annette.

“We had several aims in setting up the museum. We wanted to educate younger generations in both bygone rural life and the creamery movement. We wanted to introduce foreign tourists into the history of Irish rural life as it was played out through the daily use of the creamery.

“We were also keen to evoke fond memories for older visitors who remember using or their family using their local creamery,” she said.

“We renovated the original building which still housed all the infrastructure to collect and process the milk. We have an intact manager’s office with a range of paperwork recording daily intake and payments to contributors and have collected a large exhibition of related machinery and objects, both for industrial and domestic use,” said Annette.

“Visitors can see the arrival on donkey and cart of the churns. They can be talked through the whole process of measuring and grading the quality of the milk, through to a media room in which interviews with local people who used the creamery giving their recollections, are featured,” Paul said.

Creamery cheque

The importance of the creamery cheque is recounted by local people. Dairymaster, which is based in north Kerry, shows how milking techniques have advanced.

Also highlighted is the importance to the community socially of the creameries. They were where news was exchanged and help offered when need became known. They also were places of interplay during sporting events, both local and countywide between the different supporters.

“You can wander independently or take one of our regular guided tours through the museum,” Paul said. “It has been a long hard road but we are happy to have recreated an experience that relates to every part of the country.”

The Garlands would be delighted to accept further memorabilia such as photographs and stories from around the country. “We are always on the lookout for information,” said Paul.

To complete the experience, visitors can enjoy a taste of creamery products and homebaking in the tea rooms while children revel in exploring the farm-themed playground.

“We have welcomed many groups of older people, schools and some coach tours. We are viewed as a very welcome discovery by independent travellers around Kerry and continuing the creamery tradition of community cohesion hosting charity events such as coffee mornings for cancer research,” Annette said.

The museum will reopen the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day but will facilitate groups interested in visiting before then. The Garlands can be contacted on: 087-9473322; or alternatively: 087-3081907; or by email at: [email protected].