Dr. Bill O' Gorman, from WIT, speaking about this site on WLR

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Quakers

In the early 1700's Quakers began settling in Waterford and by the end of the century they were emerging as the new entrepreneurs and industrialists. The Quakers consolidated their business and trade locally and nationally they became trusted for their honesty and integrity.

Their trade became rich and diverse and by the end of the century they prospered as traders, merchants and ship owners. The Quakers became synonymous with risk taking entrepreneurship in Waterford, playing a large role in the commercial life of the city - the ship yards at Waterford were an example of this.

By 1770 the Penrose family were among Waterford's leading Quaker merchants and the owners of many ships. In 1858 they opened their own shipbuilding and repair facility. Penrose's shipyard was on a very small scale and very little is known about it. Only three ships, the M.E.C., the Mayfly and the Heron can be traced to the Penrose yard which closed in 1880 due to the general decline in the building of wooden ships.

The Whites family were prominent Quaker entrepreneurs in Waterford with extensive shipping business interests in the city. They began trading in O'Connell Street (then King Street) in 1776 selling sugar and groceries. They were soon stocking imported goods such as tea, coffee, spices, sugar, hemp and tar, as the business grew they became ship owners and builders.

William White opened the shipyard in Ferrybank in 1820, many of their skilled workers and labours were recruited locally. Between 1820 and 1870 the craftsmen and artisans built over sixty wooden sailing ships. The work was of such a high quality that the reputation of Whites grew nationally and internationally, leading cross - channel ship owners in Britain including Beasley and Blyth ordered ships.

The nineteenth century shipping boom resulted in the growth in local ownership of ships. In 1853 at least 115 were registered and owned in Waterford Port. It was a maritime culture that was both international and vibrant.

Quakers families established the three shipyards in Waterford, Penrose, Whites and NeptuneThe shipyards provided a lot of skilled jobs, at its peak over 1,000 were employed. Waterford was becoming a centre for highly specialised industry with organised and skilled labour.

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