Cork pottery company closes with loss of 25 jobs


ONE OF the country's best known pottery companies, Stephen Pearce, which is based in Shanagarry, east Cork, closed over the weekend with the loss of 25 jobs.

Staff at the pottery were called to a meeting on Friday afternoon and told that the pottery was closing with immediate effect.

Pearce's pottery is handmade and hand-decorated using local Blackwater valley clay. Despite its ubiquitous appeal, it is understood the intricate processes each piece of pottery must undergo meant profits were never huge.

Local Fine Gael TD David Stanton said the closure was confirmed to him by workers on Friday evening.

"We have all been so proud of the company and the work that it has produced over the years. I hadn't heard that it was in difficulty, but I suppose obviously there are international trading difficulties. The workers were called in on Friday and told the news, so it was a big surprise. It was an east Cork institution for so many years. I am very disappointed. It is a huge, huge loss to Shanagarry because it drew so many people to the area."

Mr Stanton said it was a sad day for Shanagarry and east Cork as the pottery was an institution in the area, providing valuable and skilled employment. Management at Stephen Pearce were unavailable for comment yesterday.

The pottery was established in Shanagarry in 1960 by Mr Pearce's parents, Philip and Lucy, with the distinctive earthenware brand going on to earn international recognition. Mr and Mrs Pearce were instructed in the art of pottery by Willie Greene, one of the last surviving master potters from Youghal, Co Cork.

Stephen began his apprenticeship under his father Philip Pearce in 1962, when he helped develop the Shanagarry range of earthenware. As a young man he travelled overseas to work with potters in England and France.

In 1966, he won a year-long scholarship to study in Japan under master potter Kanhesaige Toyo, later hitching his way back through Asia and Europe to London.

By the time he returned to Ireland in 1971, he knew what he wanted to do. Stephen Pearce pottery as we know it today began in 1973.

In 1991, Stephen took over the running of Shanagarry Pottery from his father and soon realised that demand was exceeding capacity to supply. So he purchased the ruins of Shanagarry Castle and its grounds which had been the ancestral home of the founder of the state of Pennsylvania, William Penn.

In 1993, a new 12,000 square foot facility was opened. It included the pottery and workshops, a cafe and a gallery.