Tyrone Crystal

Tyrone Crystal

Date: 05/04/2021 10:09

Our staff pick for the month of April is footage from Tyrone Crystal (1978) which showcases a mesmerising demonstration of skill from the local glass blowers. 

From the clip you can almost feel the heat of the furnace as molten glass is sculpted into sparkling goblets. We paired the shortened clip with an upbeat 70’s instrumental as you go on a journey through the factory floor. Glass making in Tyrone dates back as far as 1771, when Benjamin Edwards founded a company in County Tyrone, Ireland. However, Tyrone Crystal was founded by Fr. Austin Eustace in 1971, seven years before this was filmed, as one of the many creative solutions to rising unemployment and rampant sectarian discrimination in Northern Ireland. 

The aim was to train and hire local unemployed people in a highly skilled craft so they could enjoy meaningful work. An advertisement was placed in a national newspaper, seeking someone who could train people in the area. By chance, two Austrians - a master blower and a master cutter - were hiking across England and read the advertisement and came over to train the employees. Before trainees were given precious materials they had to master their skills by practising on glass jars and bottles, after which they set up a glass blowing shop in Dungannon. 

Just seventeen years after the company was set up, in 1988 it was awarded an ISO 9000 for quality. Making it the youngest glasshouse in Ireland or the U.K. to gain the recognised standard. This was only the beginning for Tyrone Crystal on its path to success, with a new factory built in 1990 also becoming a tourist attraction. Just ten years on and Tyrone Crystal acquired Tipperary Crystal in 2000 as part of an investment plan that spent £500,000 on a new visitors' centre that opened in 2001.

The Dungannon factory closed sadly on 12th March 2010, seeing the loss of 31 jobs - some of the production staff spent their entire working lives in the plant. Changing tastes combined with the effects of the recession were blamed for falling sales of its products. If you want to see an example of Tyrone Crystal’s intricate work, the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, has a commissioned piece in its Great Room. It won’t be hard to spot, being the largest chandelier in Ireland!

To watch the footage in full, click here.