Dairying is practically unique among modern industries in being able to trace its origins back to Biblical times. Even with automatic robot milking systems and sophisticated micro-filtration producing the key components of health and fitness supplements, the value of this essential family nutrient and foodstuff has been cherished over many centuries. Dairying in the province of Ulster has a long and distinguished history, the subject of The Origins of the Dairy Industry in Ulster.
George Chambers thoroughly researched and neatly illustrated book charts the intriguing story of the development of dairying in Ulster from early human settlement through to the first part of the twentieth century. Most absorbing of all is the story of the introduction and development of the Dairy Co-operative movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in transforming the dairy industry here. The birth of the Dairy Co-operatives dramatically changed the lives of dairy farmers; it continues to give them some degree of control over their own destiny.
The names and size of the co-operatives may have changed over the years through mergers and acquisitions, but the distinctively democratic structure of the movement remains faithful to the model established by its founder, the remarkable Horace Plunkett, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In Ireland as elsewhere, the dairy farmer was and remains the sole supplier of this most perishable of products and consequently is the weakest of sellers in the market place.
The Agricultural and Dairy Co-operative Society movement has countered this problem innovatively for over 100 years by developing the scale and complexity of milk product manufacturing while, crucially, ensuring it remains under the direct control of its farmer members. Its story deserves to be told as engagingly as this publication does.