Nestled in the scenic Goresbridge countryside, Connolly’s RED MILLS has been the home of the Connolly family business since 1908.
TODAY, they are one of the most trusted global names in high performance animal feed, pet food and agri products, but their origins were as humble as a fresh-baked loaf
In 1800s Bagenalstown, County Carlow, the Connollys were hit head on by the repeal of Corn Laws. Against the backdrop of the Great Famine, a tonne of grain dropped to 1/20th of its previous value. Like thousands of others, the Connollys fled Ireland for America.
Twenty years later in 1866, Michael Connolly, who was now 36, returned to inherit the family’s bakery business. By now, the flourmill industry had consolidated to the ports of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick, and rural mills were all but closed.
But Michael saw potential in a mill on the river Barrow. In 1908 he bought that mill in Goresbridge, restarting it as William Connolly & Sons Ltd – named after his youngest son, William.
That is the foundation of the ethos of Connolly’s RED MILLS. Every generation works as hard as they can, not for themselves, but to provide a better business for the next generation.
When William took over, there were four other mills in the area, all producing similar products for the local farming community. To make Connolly’s stand out, he painted the roof red – unwittingly creating a brand icon, now known across the globe as RED MILLS.
William steered the company through two world wars, the Depression, and foot and mouth disease in 1941, handing over to his son Liam at the birth of the technology boom, which he embraced.
The genesis of a modern, high-tech mill came about in the 1950’s, when it was connected to the national electricity grid for the first time. By 1954, the third generation of the Connolly family was at the helm – in the form of Liam Connolly.
Liam was the driving force behind Connolly’s RED MILLS for the next half century, and set down the blueprint of innovation, new product technology, sales and marketing which were to take the company global.
In 1963, local racehorse trainer Paddy Mullins came to the Connollys for advice on a horse that wouldn’t eat up. They didn’t make horse feed, but Liam decided to work on it.
He made a formula to encompass all the nutritional requirements of the horse, then cooked it to make it more appetising and digestible.
He came up with a feed that Mullins heralded as the turning point in the horse’s development and he went on to win the 1966 Powers Gold Cup and the 1967 Irish Grand National.
That horse was Vulpine and his idiosyncrasies launched a new arm of the Connolly family business that has grown to feed 93 winners of group and grade 1 in 14 countries.