Re: Re: Guinness History ?

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“Irish” Guinness – The False But Lucrative Identity

Somebody sent me this on the email today. It’s common knowlege that Guinness is an English invention, but this article helps to fill in the gaps. Interesting read 🙂

Arthur Guinness first began to brew porter in 1778, and would eventually stop brewing ale in 1799. Arthur was inspired by a London brewer, named Harwood. Harwood developed a brew which he called “Entire” that used roast barley and high temperatures in the brewing process. The dark brew was a favorite drink among the street porters of Covent Garden, London, who drank it for its high iron content. The drink was nicknamed “porter” and was soon exported to Ireland. The St. James’s Gate brewery would develop several types of porter, eventually introducing the word “stout” to describe its versions of porter. Arthur was strongly influenced by an English brewer, but also had other critical connections to England.

The one aspect of Arthur’s life which makes the most compelling case against the claim of his Irish identity would be Arthur’s political allegiance. Arthur, like many members of the elite minority, was closely aligned with the forces of English colonialism. Arthur was directly opposed to any movement toward Irish Independence, and wanted Ireland to remain under English control.

After Arthur Guinness retired from the brewery, his son, also named Arthur, assumed control. Along with sharing the same name, the two had similar political outlooks. In the general election of 1835, the second Arthur Guinness not only opposed Daniel O’Connell, but seriously considered running against him. O’Connell fought for the repeal of the Act of Union, and therefore the independence of Ireland. Arthur Guinness voted against him, and continued with the Guinness loyalty to English rule.

Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868), Arthur’s son, took full control of the brewery after his father’s death in 1855. Around this time, he purchased what was then worth between £20,000 and £30,000 worth of land in County Mayo. He would also later buy a luxurious estate in Ashford, County Galway. Benjamin purchased this land during the years surrounding the massive starvation in Ireland. He was an extremely wealthy man who possessed the ability to aid evicted and starving farmers, but opted instead to exploit a prime investment opportunity in real estate.

Benjamin also entered politics by being elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1851. In 1865, he was elected within the Conservative interest to the Irish Parliament. And naturally, he was a strong Unionist. Referring to nationalists, he stated: “Those wicked and worthless adventurers who would not only deprive our country of the advantages which, as a part of the British Empire, we enjoy, but who would overturn all the social arrangements of society.”

Following Benjamin’s death in 1868, the brewery was transferred to his two sons, Arthur Edward and Edward Cecil (1847-1927). Edward continued the same political outlook as his father. During a time of optimistic Irish nationalism, Edward used his position as High Sheriff of Dublin to assist in the organization of the state visit of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. In 1886, Edward Cecil made Guinness a public company to be quoted on the London stock market. The decision therefore placed Guinness as an English company. He chose Baring Brothers as his merchant bank, and the company floated for £6 million. The most remarkable aspect of the deal was the favoritism showed toward the wealthy elite. Shares of the company were hoarded by the rich, which left the public little opportunity to invest. Although the event was then legal, it led to vast public criticism.

Edward Cecil divided control of the brewery between three sons, with Rupert Edward (1874-1967) succeeding him as the Chairman of the company. Rupert won a seat during the General Election of 1906, as another Conservative Guinness who opposed Home Rule. Soon after this, members of the Guinness family spoke in the House of Commons to recommend the execution of the leaders of the 1916 rising, an event that clearly revealed the family’s long held political beliefs.

Throughout history, the ownership of Guinness is unable to claim any true connection to Ireland. It is more accurate to state that the beliefs of Guinness ownership have always been anti-Irish. This point becomes more evident through the examination of the Guinness workforce.

The Guinness workforce was segregated from the very beginning. For most of its history, Guinness management has been dominated by the Protestant minority of Ireland. Catholic workers were barred from holding a management position. In fact, it was not until the 1960s that a Catholic worker entered management, after facing strong opposition. In other words, over 200 years had passed since the signing of the lease at St. James’s Gate brewery before a Catholic was allowed promotion to a management position.

Today, the structure of the Guinness workforce is less driven by the apartheid system of sectarianism. It is now more controlled by the agenda of corporate capitalism. Workers at the brewery are less likely to be oppressed due to their religious beliefs, but now face being victims of a rationalization plan. The effects of the Guinness family’s allegiance to British rule have been replaced by the effects of the ownership of the Diageo corporate group.

The effects of the Diageo ownership became clear in July 2000, when Guinness announced plans to close the brewing and packaging plants in Dundalk, located just north of Dublin. This was the first Guinness plant closing ever to occur in Ireland. The closing eliminated over 300 jobs in a small community, as management justified the move as part of plan to remain globally competitive.

The famous brewery at St. James’s Gate has also seen tremendous change. Many departments that once existed at St. James’s Gate have been moved to the Park Royal brewery in West London, which has long been considered the headquarters of Guinness. As Guinness now operates breweries in several countries, Irish workers presently form a minority of the Guinness operation.

Not all areas of the St. James’s Gate brewery have faced reduction. The tourist facility at the brewery has recently received tremendous investment. In 2000, the £32 million Guinness Storehouse was opened at St. James’s Gate brewery. The Storehouse invites visitors to experience the history and wonders of Guinness Stout by exploring a Guinness museum, enjoying Guinness at the Gravity Bar, and purchasing Guinness merchandise at the retail shop.

Around the same time as the opening of the Guinness Storehouse, talk began of a possible move from St. James’s Gate. The Diageo management is still considering moving the brewing operation from St. James’s Gate to a location just outside of Dublin, in order to improve the efficiency of distribution. Brewing would completely cease at the site, leaving behind only one responsibility at St. James’s Gate, the production of marketing messages by the Guinness Storehouse.

This is not to say that St. James’s Gate brewery would no longer be an essential part of Guinness, as the brand image production of Guinness is very important to the company. This tradition dates back to April 5, 1862, when the O’Neill harp, (an icon of Irish history that has been associated with Nationalist movements), was chosen as the Guinness trademark. From that time through to recent promotions that gave away Irish pubs to Americans on St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness has always invested heavily in portraying an Irish image to particular markets.

So, should Guinness be involved in St. Patrick’s Day and other Irish celebrations? Absolutely, but it should be used as a point in conversation to better understand the events of Irish history. This would be a great improvement on the more popular activity of merely contributing to a legacy of inequality and greed.

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