Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Global [Updated February 3, 2009]

Update, February 3, 2009: The wrangling continues, the sit-in continues, and the plant is still closed -- except, tellingly, the furnace, which is being kept stoked by a skeleton crew. Two US investment groups, Clarion Capital and KPS, are evidently interested in acquiring at least the Waterford name; the former apparently would keep at least something going in Co. Waterford, while the latter is probably more interested in the brand rather than the actual product. Click here for the Irish Times' February 4th story on developments. I'll update here occasionally, but those with keen interest should establish a bookmark for the Times and check it frequently, searching on "Waterford" in its search box.


I know many people in my town, and many people in my circle of friends, and many of my students who are either in fear of losing their jobs in this deep recession or who have already lost their jobs. I'm sure that the same can be said by just about everyone who reads this blog.

The immediacy of our friends' and our fears, and the U.S. news's concentration on the situation in our nation and continent, can tend to obscure this fact: the phenomenon is global, not just the problem of one nation.

If I needed a smack upside the head on that, it was provided by this story in the Irish Times today: the venerable glass factory in Kilbarry, Co. Waterford, has been shut down and its employees laid off.

Stunned: Waterford employees take over the cafeteria in the Visitors' Centre, an action that continues now (Saturday, January 31, 2009). Photo by P. Browne, copied from the Irish Times website.

Waterford crystal glass pieces have been among the highest-quality in the world for more than 200 years. In addition to magnificent goblets, pitchers, vases, and the like, their one-of-a-kind pieces (such as the crystal carriage at the top of this blog post) are legendary. They manufactured trophies for the world's great sporting events, for example, and the ball that drops over Times Square in New York at the stroke of midnight on every New Year was skillfully crafted in County Waterford.

But all of that stopped yesterday, when the place was shut down by its bankruptcy receiver.

Diane and I made a point to visit Waterford Glass during our trip to Ireland in 2006. We were fascinated by the processes we saw, astounded by the artistry unfolding in front of us, and charmed in a way that touched our hearts by every worker we spoke to, from the artisans to the tourguides to the clerks in the gift shop. Every one of them clearly took great pride in their employer's reputation and in their own jobs.

We don't know their names, but this fact saddens us dearly: none of the people in the pictures below will be able to report to work next Monday. (All photos taken on August 7, 2006.)

Good luck, my friends.



Ronnie said...

I seem to recall that there was a time in the not-too-distant past when Waterford was out of business for a period and then someone came along and revived it. I certainly hope that happens again. What treasures!

Mike's Mom

ronnie said...

Not only has the Waterford factory shut down, but the Wedgewood and Royal Doulton lines (all three of which I believe are owned by the same company) are in receivership.

I had little interest in crystal or china until I met my mother-in-law, who taught me to recognize and appreciate quality work, especially Royal Doulton. It really saddens me to think that all these artisans and others will be put out of work. I hope your recollection is right, Ronnie, and there's a future for these venerable brands.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Oh, i hope they do make a comeback. It's awful to see real quality and craftsmanship hurt by this economy. May this be brief.