Whiskey’s a go go at former west Donegal factory

Údarás na Gaeltachta has started the initial phase of the refurbishment of the Crolly Factory, at Coillín Darrach. The building is to be restored and developed as a distillery and a visitor centre.
Donnchadh Ó Baoill, Development Executive, with Údarás na Gaeltachta, said they were delighted that the iconic buildings is being put into use again.
“The building played a historic and a key role in the economic and social life of this community in the past. Now this development offers us an excellent opportunity to bring employment to the area and have a commanding building in use once again. We are glad to be preserving and restoring not only an important part of our built heritage but bringing to life a building that is associated with many key historical events in the area. There are very few families from the Lower Rosses and Gaoth Dobhair that do not have links to this historic building, from carpet manufacturing, to soft toys and Crolly Doll production and in more recent times to toroidal transformer assembly,” Mr Ó Baoill said.
The construction of the building was completed in 1903 by the Congested Districts Board. The Board promoted industry and crafts with particular emphasis on indigenous crafts and traditional skills. There was a major outcry against emigration.
The CDB succeeded in attracting the first employer to the Crolly Factory in 1903, Messrs. Morton & Co., an Ayrshire Carpet Manufacturer. They also established other similar factories in Killybegs, Kilcar and Annagry. The factory closed during the War of Independence and when it reopened in 1939, it became a soft toy manufacturer. 
Later production moved from soft toy production to the production of the internationally famous Crolly Doll. The factory was ahead of its time, in that it was quite self-sufficient having its own peat-fuelled heating system and its own source of electricity.
Later in the 1980s and 90’s it was to become a toroidal transformer producer and it contributed significantly to the local economy through all these years.    
“We are pleased that this iconic building will once again provide employment for the local community and that the Crolly Factory through this restoration will once again play an important role in supporting the economic well-being of the area,” Mr Ó Baoill said.
Letterkenny-based businessmen Seosamh Ó Duibheannaigh, Conor McMenamin and Kieran Davis are the promoters behind the new whiskey distillery and visitors’ centre which represents a total investment of over €271,000.
Údarás na Gaeltachta has provided financial support for the project to the tune of €121,000 and will involve the refurbishment of the old Crolly doll factory.
It is estimated that between 2022 to 2023 the first whiskey will be produced. They hope to produce over 15,000 litres of alcohol annually for the first five years and their focus will be on the tourist industry and the international whiskey market
Mr Ó Duibheannaigh, of Cólaiste na Rosann, said for him Crolly was the perfect location.
“I know the building, it is an iconic building, with architectural merit and it is in a fabulous location,” he said.

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