In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth to go along with these tobacco factories clay pipes were produced in the William Merritt’s factory, Broad Street. Twice a year fifty tons of clay would be imported from Liverpool for the production of twenty-one different kinds of pipe. Their standard pipe sold for 1d. Due to their fragile nature they were replaced often. Their pipes were used locally and exported to South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States. The Merritt family employed primarily family members. Clay pipes were often embedded into the walls of new houses in a tradition of good luck.

clay pipe trades

Clay pipe from Limerick Museum

One of the last coppersmiths in Limerick was called Heffernan and conducted his business opposite the city courthouse. Once when the court was in, sitting Judge Ball sent word that he could not hear witnesses over the sound of the copper hammering. Heffernan sent back the message, “Tell the judge that he gets paid for talking and I get paid for hammering”. He did eventually shut down works for two days, after which he sent the judge a bill for lost earnings.

Irishtown in the nineteenth century was a maze of lanes and alleys with such names as Scabby Lane, Mass Lane, Goat’s Lane, White Wine Lane, Repeal Alley and Black Bull Lane. The occupants had their occupations recorded on a local school register as as rag-gathers, wheelwrights, thatchers, chandlers, coffin makers, basket makers, grave diggers, whip makers, snuff grinders, fiddlers, cage makers, lime burners, wool card makers and bellow makers.  All of these were long and tedious jobs which allowed the employees little time for other activities than work.

The Barrett family were whip makers, while the Sweeney’s were brush makers who operated out of the Milk Market. The Limerick Soviet of December 1977 tells us about a gentleman by the name of Johnny Caulfield of Garryowen was employed in one of the most interesting crafts of all. He repaired broken crockery by stitching the pieces together. The stitching was carried out with soft steel wire through holes bored with great patience and precision.