Easy brewing

Author Tony Corcoran traces the history of the Guinness Brewery and its progressive treatments of its workers, including his grandparents, father and himself, writes John Byrne

The Goodness of Guinness: The Brewery, Its People and the City of Dublin

By Tony Corcoran

Liberties Press €12.95

'Sometimes workers, either through illness of accident, were unable to work any more. These were allowed to stay on in the work force. They were given 'light work' which sometimes amounted to walking around with a brush all day and chatting... these bore the nicknames 'The Walking Wounded' and 'The Lourdes Gang.'"

As well as making one of the best-known alcoholic drinks in the world, the Guinness Brewery in St James' Gate in Dublin was famous for treating its staff well. One man liked the place so much that he decided to write a book about it, and the result is The Goodness of Guinness – The Brewery, Its People and the City of Dublin. Author Tony Corcoran's grandparents joined Guinness in 1891, and were followed by his father and eventually he himself joined and worked in the brewery part of the business.

Corcoran traces the growth of the company from its inception in 1759, through its heyday in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to its position today. He celebrates Guinness's progressive treatment of its workers, particularly in terms of health, training and housing, and illustrates it with anecdotes and photographs from the Guinness archives.

One such anecdote explains how staff secured free booze for themselves because of an absent-minded director: "Then the workers offered to take him (Lord Boyd) to the tap for a pint – on condition that, being a director, he was in a position to sign a docket for additional beer. In due course he signed a docket. However, neglected to state on the docket the number of pints or the date. A good time was had by all. The docked was pinned up on the wall (and used again and again)... and went into Brewery folklore as 'The Long Docket'."

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