On the road in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin

With over a million people, Dublin is easily the biggest city in Ireland (five times bigger than Cork, the second largest city). For some reason I don't particularly care for Dublin. Maybe it's because it rained or was very windy every day, maybe it's because it looks like Boston without the tall buildings or maybe because it isn't as grand as some of the other European capitals visited so far (Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels).

CRH plc

Hey, this sounds like fun! The mailing and street address I have for the offices of CRH is a castle, Belgard Castle to be exact.

CRH, an international manufacturer and supplier of building materials with 1994 revenues of US$2.5 billion, profit US$180 million, derives about a fourth of its revenues from operations in the United States. Cement, sand & gravel, readymixed concrete, asphalt, road surfacing, insulation products and fencing are some of CRH's products and services. Hmm, I wonder why they need a castle for a headquarters.

Yep, I'm about seven miles from downtown Dublin and up on a small hill I can see the castle. Entering the tree-filled grounds from the main road it's about a quarter mile ride along a narrow paved lane lined with beech, oak and chestnut trees. Before entering through a side courtyard I'm greeted by a security guard and a colorful peacock with her two chicks in tow. The guard says the peacocks have free rein on the property and are pretty tame. I whip my camera out and the mama almost lets me get close enough to touch her.

Seamus O'Carroll, General Manager-planning, gives me a warm welcome and extensive tour of the castle. Well, I find out it really isn't a castle although it stands on the site of one built many centuries ago. However, the castle tower survives and abutting it is a Georgian mansion built in the 1760's. The premises were bought in the 1960's as part of a 1000-acre holding of limestone-bearing land on which stands the Belgard Quarry complex on the other side of the hill.

About 35 employees get to work in the park-like surroundings. A chief cooks lunch and although I arrived at 1 PM, the smell of whatever he cooked is still in the air and it smells marvelous. Sometimes CRH (Cement-Roadstone Holdings) holds formal dinner parties or functions here. That's when the front door is used. A key opens the huge wooden door, painted bright red,, and I kid you not, the key is over 12 inches long! Though the tower part is not used, O'Carroll walks me inside the old staircase leading to the top. We're talking REALLY old here, back to the 12th century when the Normans invaded Ireland and built this place.

The boardroom's located on the second floor of the three-story building. The walls are blue, the rug is blue and there's a fireplace in the room. Lining the walls are quite a few oil paintings of local scenery and, of the castle.

CEO Don Godson has a great view of the grounds from his corner office on second floor. The man has a computer plus, sits at a double-sided partners desk.

I spend about 20 minutes wandering around the grounds, then ride up to the top of the hill to look at the large limestone quarry on the other side. On the way out I stop and talk to the security guard again. "It must be pitch black around here after dark, have you ever had any problems with wild animals?", I ask. "Oh, we get all kinds", he replies. "Any ghosts?", I ask. Boy, that question gets him talking. He's worked the late night shift quite a few times and has problems with lights mysteriously coming on by themselves. (For more information: CRH)

Jefferson Smurfit Group plc

Since its founding 60 years ago, the Jefferson Smurfit Group has expanded from its Dublin roots to become the world's largest recycler of paper and largest producer of paper-based packaging.

Riding two miles from downtown Dublin to a walled-in office park brings me to the 2-story, hexagon-shaped headquarters of Jefferson Smurfit. Built in the early 1980's, about 40 employees work here but, an addition is currently going up next door.

Two bronze busts greet you upon entering the small lobby. There's John Jefferson Smurfit (1909-1977), the founder and, one of his sons Jeff Smurfit Jr. (1937-1987). On the coffee table there's the Irish Times, a local newspaper.

Niamh Byrne, marketing, answers questions. Yes I ask but, the company has no connection what-so-ever with the Smurfit dolls. The company's first plant, which is still in use, lies across the road from the office park. I can't see CEO Dr. Michael Smurfit (58 year-old son of the founder) because "he's due in today". "Where's he due in from?", I ask. "Monaco", Byrne answers. Turns out Smurfit lives there and is the Honorary Irish Consul to the Principality of Monaco. The boardroom, like the building, is hexagon-shaped.

I read in a local magazine where CEO Smurfit is listed as being Ireland's wealthiest person. Which might explain the helipad on the grounds. The Dublin airport is eight miles away.

Revenues in 1994 were US$2.6 billion, profit US$445 million. (For more information: JJSC)

Company Odds and Ends

Pretty boring visit to Electricity Supply Board, which came into existence as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1927. Located about a mile from downtown the block-long, seven-story structure is home to 1,000 employees. Revenues in 1994 were 997 million Irish pounds, loss 19 million Irish pounds.

Greencore Group, now a supplier of foods, food ingredients and prepared foods to industrial and consumer markets, was until 1990 a state-owned, one product company: sugar. The company leases the 6th and 7th floors of an ugly downtown seven-story building built in 1962. I can't see CEO David Dilder's office because "We just don't do that".

Fyffes plc, is a big-time supplier of produce. Revenues in 1994 were 897 million Irish pounds, profit 27 million Irish pounds. Offices are in a dumpy warehouse building located smack in the middle of Dublin's downtown wholesale produce area. Getting inside to the offices requires walking through the busy loading dock. Never made it back after being told to return another day.

IAWS plc's turn-of-the-century, four-story brick building with stain glass windows is neat. So's the location: next door to a massive Guinness brewery. The reception isn't. Barbara Hurley, secretary to CEO Philip Lynch, greets me in the lobby and says no one except Mr. Lynch is authorized to talk to me and he's busy. Revenues for this supplier of animal feed, fertilizer and food processor were 480 million Irish pounds in 1994 with a profit of 17 million Irish pounds. (For more information: IAWA)