Wade of Portadown (1947-90)
I am indebted to Dr. John R. Wright for information about the Wade connection with Portadown.
To quote John "It is a matter of regret that no local recognition has ever been given to the workers and their products." Perhaps in some small way we can put this to rights.
I appeal to anyone with photographs or stories about Wade (Ireland), to submit them to this site.
Major H. Straker Carryer
An introduction by Dr. John Wright, Portadown
Shortly after the end of World War 2, in 1946, Sir George Wade, Chairman of the British Electrical Ceramic Manufacturers Association, was asked by the government to increase production by creating new jobs in ‘depressed’ regions of the country. Sir George entrusted this task to his son-in-law, Major H Straker Carryer. After much reconnaissance throughout the British Isles, Carryer decided to locate the new manufactory in Armstrong’s old Victorian mill in Portadown, Co Armagh. It was an excellent choice for the premises provided 150,000 square feet of floor space and there was a plentiful supply of enthusiastic, local labour. A financial incentive package from the Northern Ireland government was the icing on the cake.
George Wade & Sons Ltd began producing die pressed insulators on Saturday, 8th of February, 1947. Those present on this historic occasion included Major Carryer, R A McCullough (works manager), R Newell (warehouse manager), Lisa Bell K Kennedy, Cecil Holland, T McNaughton, Dennis Bates, N Cully, E McKinney and C Davies.
On 2nd January, 1950 the business became a private limited company, Wade (Ulster) Ltd and some sixteen years later there was another name change, this time to Wade (Ireland) Ltd. Even more name changes followed; in 1990 it became Seagoe Ceramics Ltd, a direct subsidiary of the conglomerate, Beauford Plc., and finally, in 1998 the name underwent its last metamorphosis, becoming VZS Seagoe Advanced Ceramics with headquarters in Fife. Unfortunately, over fifty years of ceramic production in Portadown came to an end in August 2002 when VZS closed its Ulster plant to concentrate production in Scotland.
There can be no doubt that Wade Portadown was highly regarded by the parent company in England. Iris Carryer, neé Wade, who was Art Director of the factory until 1964, fondly recalled the skills, enthusiasm and flexibility of the workforce. She also noted that the grey/blue glaze, so characteristic of Irish Wade productions, proved impossible to copy despite the best efforts of Wade technicians in England. Apparently, they gave up trying and, in disgust, complained that ‘there must be leprechauns in the Portadown kilns’.
If Portadown was good for Wade, then certainly Wade was good for Portadown. They provided employment when it was most needed and the relationship between workers and management was characterised by flexibility and good humour on both sides. Indeed, just before the Carryers left for California in 1964, they received a farewell letter from the staff and workers which encapsulated this mutual affection: ‘We owe our jobs to both of you. You were always fair and just and understanding…..we shall remember you always in our prayers.’
Today, Wade porcelain is highly regarded and avidly collected in many countries throughout the world including the USA, Canada, Australia and the British Isles. It is a matter of regret that no local recognition has ever been given to the workers and their products. Like the proverbial prophet, Irish Wade is not without honour – except in its own country.
‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark…. And there is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon.’
R. Wright, November 2002
|The inspiration for the Wade section came from Dr. John Wright. John, a born and bred Portadown man now living in Banbridge, has for a long time felt that a worthwhile record should be made to the contribution 'Wade' made to our town, He would be interested in past Wade employees making contact, let him know your period of employment and experiences working for the Company. If he can collect enough local material on 'Wade' he would consider publicising in book form. Contact John directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Wade 1st Page
Al Stewarts Collection
Edenderry Cultural and Historical Society have a web site dedicated to Irish Wade in Portadown at; http://www.wadeireland.co.uk