Newry.ie – McCann’s Bakery – The end of an era

The Newry and Morne Museum now occupies the site of the former McCann Bakery in Castle Street, Newry. We come to the last article in our series of one-off articles on the history of the Bakery by briefly going through the company from the 1960s until its closure in the mid-1990s.

McCann's Bakery's orange delivery vans were a familiar sight in Newry, south Armagh and south Down in the 1960s. They are shown here, along with the bread servers, in front of the bakery building before demolition of Castle Street in the late 1960s.
McCann’s Bakery’s orange delivery vans were a familiar sight in Newry, south Armagh and south Down in the 1960s. They are shown here, along with the bread servers, in front of the bakery building before demolition of Castle Street in the late 1960s.

The 1960s were a period of redevelopment of the premises of the Boulangerie Victoria, with the installation of new machines including ovens and new mixing equipment. Part of the impetus for this redevelopment was the demolition of much of Castle Street and North Street, to facilitate the construction of a dual carriageway in front of the bakery building.

Miles McCann, managing director of the bakery, pictured third from left at the opening of the new extension in February 1969. The extension was opened by MV Hogg, chairman of the Newry Chamber of Commerce (pictured third from the right).  Newry and Morne Museum Collection
Miles McCann, managing director of the bakery, pictured third from left at the opening of the new extension in February 1969. The extension was opened by MV Hogg, chairman of the Newry Chamber of Commerce (pictured third from the right). Newry and Morne Museum Collection

This meant that bread vans could not be loaded in front of the building and a new shipping and loading dock had to be constructed at the rear of the premises. A 7,000 square foot extension to the bakery was planned and completed by local firms, O’Hagan and Sons, architects and Higgins and Murdock, builders. A new range of water, electricity and drainage services as well as state of the art bakery equipment including ovens, mixing equipment, proofer, conveyor and new flour silos have been installed.

The new extension was officially opened in February 1969 by MV Hogg, President of the Newry Chamber of Commerce and close friend of the McCann family, followed by lunch at the Ardmore Hotel.

In 1984, Christopher McCann became the general manager and the fifth generation of the family to take charge of Victoria Bakery.  This image shows left-back Christopher McCann, Paddy McCrink, Pat McMahon, Pat Evans, Kevin McBride and Joe O'Flaherty.  Newry and Morne Museum Collection
In 1984, Christopher McCann became the general manager and the fifth generation of the family to take charge of Victoria Bakery. This image shows left-back Christopher McCann, Paddy McCrink, Pat McMahon, Pat Evans, Kevin McBride and Joe O’Flaherty. Newry and Morne Museum Collection

With the opening of the new extension, McCann’s Bakery enters the 1970s on a solid footing. However, the 1970s were a relatively difficult decade, exacerbated locally by The Troubles, but the Bakery was able to respond to the many challenges and opportunities of the period. As the Bakery had its own generator, the company was able to cope with the many power cuts that occurred at that time.

With the accession of the United Kingdom and Ireland to the EEC (later the EU) in 1973, the bakery was also able to develop the trade of its products in the Cooley peninsula, which it had not not done since the 1930s due to tariffs and quotas. Still seen as a good employer with a loyal workforce, a pension scheme was introduced for all staff in 1974.

In 1984, Christopher McCann became the general manager and the fifth generation of the family to take charge of Victoria Bakery. The company continued to prosper and expand in the European market.

Jimmy Rowntree, Peter Connolly, Pearse Fitzpatrick, Paddy O'Neill and Tom Lundy hard at work in the 1960s. Newry and Morne Museum Collection
Jimmy Rowntree, Peter Connolly, Pearse Fitzpatrick, Paddy O’Neill and Tom Lundy hard at work in the 1960s. Newry and Morne Museum Collection

Like so many other small bakeries, however, McCann’s has come under intense competitive pressure from larger companies. The bakery market was changing, with supermarkets becoming dominant, there was an abundance of baked goods to choose from, and brand loyalty was harder to maintain. There were also new health and safety regulations and legislation and this also applied to the packaging and labeling of baked goods.

McCann’s had over thirty bread vans delivering bread to the countryside in the 1980s, and it was an important service for the rural population, but the wholesale business began to overtake door-to-door sales during this decade.

Although new equipment was installed in the 1980s, with the old ovens used since 1894 eventually removed, McCann’s Bakery, like many other small businesses, came under intense competitive pressure from larger businesses in the years 1990. McCann’s finally ceased operations in Newry in 1996 after being taken over by Irwin’s Bakery in Portadown.

Inspection of the bakery building at the time of its closure led to the rediscovery of Bagenal Castle, built by Sir Nicholas Bagenal in the mid-16and century, which had survived enveloped by the premises of the Bakery. The then Newry and Morne District Council purchased the site and restored the castle with adjoining storehouse as the new home for the Newry and Morne Museum. The Museum opened in the restored building in March 2007.

The Museum currently offers free tours of the exhibition halls on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. These must be booked in advance by calling our Education Officer on 0330 137 4422.

The Newry and Morne Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please call 0330 137 4422 or email [email protected] for more information.

Please visit our new website at www.visitmournemountains.co.uk

About Alexander Estrada

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