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Friday 18 August 2017

The sausages with links to the capital's rich history

GENERATIONS were RAISED ON GRANBY SAUSAGES, says anna coogan AND the firm HAS COME DO WN THROUGH THE GENERATIOns

Maurice Kavanagh, joint director at Granby Sausages. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Maurice Kavanagh, joint director at Granby Sausages. Photo: Doug O'Connor

'WE make 1.8 million single sausages a week in a factory 200 yards from O'Connell Street," says Maurice Kavanagh, joint director of Granby Ltd about the thriving family business which has been producing sausages and black and white pudding slap bang in the heart of town for 80 years.

To celebrate the business's 80th year, a premium sausage has been put on the market.

"It's shiny because we've used traditional sausage skin from sheep. Back in the day you'd have had to hang such sausages on steel railings to allow them to dry," Maurice says.

The distinctly Dublin business – who amongst us wasn't brought up on Granby Everyday Sausages – is named after its location, Granby Place off Parnell Square. It's down a laneway opposite the new entrance to the Rotunda Hospital.

Some will already know the lane because of the plaque at the site where the body of Matt Talbot – a Dubliner who struggled with alcoholism which led to him leading an ascetical life and becoming known as the Worker's Saint – was found in 1925. When his body was undressed, three chains were discovered wrapped around it which it's believed Talbot thought brought him closer to the suffering of Jesus.

Granby Ltd was started by Maurice's grandfather, John Kavanagh, eight years after Talbot's death, and following his arrival in Dublin with two of his brothers from Kinnegad in the 1920s. A butcher by trade, he initially went into the sausage business with a partner. Yet, in 1933, he came into his own by going out on his own.

"We've refined the recipe over the years," admits 52- year-old current director Maurice. "But key ingredients in Granby sausages would be shoulder meat, pork fat and bellies of pork," he says.

 

Cooked

John passed the business on to his son Maurice and Maurice's cousin Paddy. Maurice's son, also called Maurice, is today joint director with his cousin Eoin, who is Paddy's son. Maurice's sister Avril is also in the business.

A smell of sausages greets you while you walk up the lane, as Granbys also deal in hot deli cooked products for supermarkets and convenience stores. The factory is based in several buildings on Granby Place, consisting of 55,000 square feet in total. For staff making their way up the lane every weekday, Granby Ltd is a family business in more ways than one – as multiple members of some families are among Granby's 55 staff members.

On the factory floor during our tour and packing sausages as they came off the machines were Peggy Dunne (45 years service), Christine Sheridan (27 years service), Margo Cooney (37 years service) and Margaret Conroy (28 years service).

What's more, Maurice gets a gentle slagging off from his staff, so we can take it all's well in management and staff relations.

"It's important to us to hang on to our valued staff who know the product as well as we do," says Maurice, who was reared as one of seven children in Rathfarnham.

His brother, Paul Kavanagh, is a former Sunshine 101 DJ who currently runs Riviera Radio in Monaco.

"We've been over and he's created a great life over there for himself and his family," says Maurice.

 

Survivor

He currently lives in Templeogue with his wife Pauline, whose late father Michael Mills was a former Irish Press journalist and Ireland's first Ombudsman, along with their children Ali (17) and Luke (14).

"We were all reared in the business and Ali and Luke have been in doing some packing, but mainly when they want money," Maurice jokes.

A cancer survivor, Maurice credits the business with keeping him going during his battle with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, several years back.

"I'm here at 6.15am every morning and leave after 6pm and I'm thinking business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," he says.

"We've a great sense of responsibility to everyone here, and I think once you've drive and focus, you can get through anything," Maurice says.

Back in the day, his grandfather John bought two houses on Parnell Square and three on Dominick Street, with Granby Place in the middle. He had a lift shaft installed in one of the Parnell Square houses with a view to living there (The Hot Stove restaurant is currently in the basement of the house), yet moved his family out to Castleknock instead. Today, the family no longer own the houses, yet reflecting on the times we have lived through, Maurice recalls how the two Parnell Square houses sold for £2,000 back in the Sixties, then £350,000 in 1996 (approximately €450,000) and then a whopping €7.5m in 2007.

"There was one time when our buildings were worth more than our business, but today we're back to the business being worth more than the property," he says.

 

Chopping

"We've had our ups and downs like any business in these times.

"But we put the money back into the place and have just invested €180,000 in a new chopping bowl to replace the one our fathers bought in 1968 – you could say it did its job," Maurice says.

The factory is state of the art, gleaming and very orderly. Such things matter when you're fond of sausages.

"We see ourselves as custodians of the factory for the next generation," says Maurice, who has spent the last 35 years of his life churning out some of the city's best-loved sausages.

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