Limerick has had many booming industries over the years but one prominent example was flour milling. The company, Ranks Ltd, played a vital role in this booming trade and is currently the focus of a fascinating exhibition in the Hunt Museum at the moment.
Ranks came to the city in the 1930s and continued here for over 50 years. The colossal Ranks mill (part of it is in the photo on the left) on the Dock Road was a city landmark and countless local people worked there including my great-grandfather, my granduncle and my uncle. Many families had several generations work there and it was very much a part of the community.
The exhibition—a collaboration between the Limerick City Archives and the Hunt Museum—is not only a factual catalogue but more a social history with a strong input from former workers and their families.
There are a lot of great photographs on display along with equipment, documents and Ranks paraphernalia from calendars to flour sacks. One of the artifacts was an old bicycle and in Ranks’ heyday, there used to be hundreds of people cycling to work down the Dock Road on any given morning. What a brilliant image!
Also, there’s a really interesting AV presentation made by students from Mary Immaculate College featuring RTE archive footage and interviews with workers. Ranks was one of the first companies to set up a sports and social club; the reminiscences of sports days, dinner dances and outings are particularly poignant. The overwhelming feeling is pride at having worked there, which is touching.
The exhibition is on in the Hunt Museum on Rutland Street until May 31 and is free but if you’ve never seen the museum itself, that is well worth a look. The former Customs House building is beautiful and the Hunt collection covers many eras and genres. At €5, admission is a bargain. It does ‘2 for 1’ deals on Monday and is free on Sundays from 2-5pm.