Local history project by pupils of St. Patrick's B.N.S, Castlebar

                                    Castlebar Hat Factory


The Hat factory

The Hat Factory was built in 1939. Auguste Koettegen was the architect of the Hat Factory. It was built four months before World War 2 on Alice Quinn’s field on the Newport Road. There was at least 300 people employed in the Hat Factory. On the day it was officially opened they rang the hooter for about a hour. This hooter could be heard as far out as Islandeady. It was blown several times a day. Two Germans built a huge chimney. And to show the people of Castlebar how hard they worked they danced around the rim. The conditions were very poor. Many young workers went to Belgium to be taught how to use the machines.

When the hat factory was built in 1939 it was an astonishing achievement for it’s time. They had a great deal of light in the factory, the light shone in from all the windows. They used the windows so they wouldn’t have to use so much electricity. The chimney was a great highlight of the factory and stood 300 feet high.


The Wool

The wool all came from South Africa and Australia. It came in big massive barrels and left in the store-room until needed. The pounding machine made the wool soft and as flaky as snow. The pounding made it easier to use the wool on the hats. When we were down in the hat factory itself Ernie showed us where the storeroom was and where they stored the wool. The storeroom was just above the entrance of the factory. From my view the storeroom looked like a long rectangular building.


The Chimney

Two Germans built the chimney when the hat factory was being built. When they were finished they danced around the rim. It built up to 300 feet high. Also the chimneystack was 120 feet high. There was underground tunnel leading the person to the chimney to feed it. The bricks for the chimney came from Belgium. They were specially made to close in so all you had to do was go around in circles putting the bricks on top of each-other. When we were down in the factory Ernie found a piece of the chimney and gave it to our teacher.


The Dye Room.

The dye room was at the back of the hat factory. The dye room was very dangerous because they used acid. They had to use clogs when around acid to protect themselves. The clogs were made in the carpentry room. The dye that wasn’t needed would go out a big pipe and into the river near the factory. And if you looked at the river you would see it had changed colour. And since they made such a wide variety of hats it would be a different colour every day. The reason they used acid was because if any insects got into the hat the acid would wash them out. They couldn’t touch the acid because if they did they would burn themselves badly. A lot of people were hurt because they had a hard job.



The Carpentry Room.

The carpentry room was very handy because they didn’t have to go and buy something new. Instead they fixed it or made it. There were two people working in the carpentry room. It was on the right hand side of the factory. So if a piece broke off one of their trucks they would pick up the piece and fix it. They had their own tools and if a piece got lost they had spare pieces. They had to make many things like tyres or clogs and more. If there was a hole in one of the pipes they would take out the broken one and replace it with a new one. They also made baths for the workers to put acid in.



The Store Room

They kept the hoods in an underground storeroom. So they could be kept damp. So they could be stretched to a length it had to be. The underground storeroom would make a good bomb-shelter.

They made a lot of money from making Stetsons because they were very valuable back then. They got the contract for making Berets from the Irish Army.