THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: ‘By hook or crook the wheels of industry must keep moving’ during the winter months

From the News Letter, June 4, 1947

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:19 pm
The docks in Belfast with the Bangor Castle tied to the quay and beautifully stacked timbers all around. The queue of horse carts with sacks of coal. NLI Ref: L_ROY_04742. Picture: National Library of Ireland

Sir Ronald Nugent, the Ulster Minister Commerce, in a statement during this week in 1947 on industrial coal supplies, said that letters were going out from his department to industrialists telling them what their allocation for the next five months would be.

“In general” he said, “this allocation follows, as indeed it must, the lines announced for British industry by the president of the Board of Trade.”

He said: “That is to say, industrialists will be getting the same amount of coal as they consumed last summer, but they will be required to accumulate between now and the end of October, out of that allocation, a stock equivalent to three weeks’ consumption.

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“Many no doubt, will feel that this requirement is a hardship. It may well be so, but it is a measure which is particularly necessary in Northern Ireland. Quite apart from the uncertainties of the situation from the point of view of coal production we here in Northern Ireland are exposed to the added risks during the winter months of an interruption of our supplies through storm and fog. By hook or crook we must keeps the wheels of industry moving.

“Accordingly, I want particularly to emphasise that when we say that firms must take steps to accumulate three weeks’ stock during the summer period we do literally mean just that. The stock position last year was better than it is now and therefore, we must increase our insurance against the perils of the coming winter.”

The Minister Commerce continued: “On the other hand, I do not contemplate a return to the system whereby firms more than two weeks’ stock in hand were precluded from getting any more coal.

“So far as the matter lies with me full credit during next winter will be given to firms for all stocks that they can accumulate during the summer months.

“To accumulate a three weeks’ stock coal must be saved somewhere and somehow, and I would urge upon every firm in Northern Ireland the importance of taking active steps to secure fuel economy. We have started a fuel economy branch at the Ministry of Commerce and hope to be able to render material assistance in this direction to firms who seek our advice.”