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16 October 2014
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Gallahers is a cigarette, tobacco and cigar manufacturer. The business was founded by the late Tom Gallaher


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By Monica O'Mullan (P6 St Mary's Primary School, Ballymena)

Gallahers is a cigarette, tobacco and cigar manufacturer. The business was founded by the late Tom Gallaher (who came from the Northwest of the province close to Eglinton), in the early 1900's.

They started producing, in a small way, tobacco products in Henry Street Belfast. In a few years they moved to a new factory in York Street. The business expanded and they built another factory just outside Ballymena, at Lisnafillan, Galgorm.

They then employed over three thousand workers, mainly women, in each factory. The firm having expanded, now became a limited company floated on the stock market and having shareholders.

Over the years things have changed with automation, there is now a much smaller work force. At present there is only one factory in Northern Ireland. The York Street factory in Belfast closed down leaving the Ballymena factory to produce all the products.

The work force has been reduced from six thousand to twelve hundred. This is due to automation machines replacing people. The machines run continuously around the clock producing more than ever with less people.

This continuous running of machines happens throughout most factories today. It takes less people employed to produce even more things than years ago.

Drawing by Monica O'Mullan, P6

Have you ever worked in Gallahers? Monica has explained how procedures are now much more mechanised - how have working conditions changed? Was there a great camaraderie between the workers?

Share your comments and thoughts with others by either e-mailing us at or posting your remarks directly yourself at the bottom of the page.

St Mary's P6 pupils are obviously proud of where they live. Pick a tower and click on it to read more of their contributions....

Motte and Bailey
and Bailey
Headless Horseman
Ballymena today

Click to return to St Mary's Primary School page..

Your Responses

H Donelon - Oct 07
Am doing research on whiskey distilling in Ireland and know that Gallahers took over the main Connswater Distillery buildings in 1936. The original distillery was built on a bend of the Connswater river and am wondering if this is the Henry Street or York Street factory referred to above? Does anyone know what has happened to the old red brick buildings and who might be occupying them now? Many thanks in advance for any response!

Eva - Apr '07
Hi there big doll. wat is this thing about and who are you. do you know that i worked in gallahers and i think you did the old place justice.

Monica O' Mullan - Apr '07
Thank you for all ur comments much love xx

Monica O' Mullan - Apr '07
I'm Monica the girl that wrote the article on Gallahers who is now in 4th year at St Louis Grammar....couldn't believe it when i realised it was stil class ever only 12 of at skul with 8 of them...3 of them still good mates ..... I hOPE YOU KEEP POSTING MORE COMMENTS FOR ME TO READ MANY THANKS MONICA XX =]

Bess Hayward (Mc Ilhagga ) - Apr '07
Hi I worked in Gallaghers , in the cigar factory
Jan 1956 till 1967, then I emigrated to Canada, been living here since , I go back to Ballymena every other year for a holiday , I loved the years I worked and made many friends , my name is Bess Mc Ilhagga , would love to here from some old work mates , great site here well done

Stephen Martin - Nov '06
I didn't work in gallaher's but grew up beside it in the royal court estate, from 1961 to 1981. During these years the factory was the main source of employment for Gracehill and Galgorm villages, my mum and two of my sisters worked there Agnes (mum) Wendy and Joyce (sisters) Martin. At 4.45pm mon- friday, there were more buses collecting the workers - mostly female, than in the Ballymena bus station itself.
The car park and gardens of Gallaher's were a massive adventure zone for us kids then - no youth clubs or community centres in those times. We were always being chased by "the gateman" for playing football, tennis or holding our own version of the grand national over the beautiful flower beds and shrubbery - which made great fences!
I think Gallaher's used to be the starting point for the circuit of Ireland car rally - we could make a few bob watching peoples cars for them. I also remember Andy Kirkpatrick testing out his Karts in the car park on saturday mornings or the long summer evenings - fine tuning them for the next race. Also shouting on the football team - Gallaher's Blues - Bumper Cathcart, Jim McCallion et al.
Great work has been done on this article - congratulations to Monica

Rod Neill - Nov '06
Just curious to know if anyone remembers Jim Carson. He is my uncle aqnd used to to work there. I live in Surrey BC canada now and found this site on the web. So I was just curious.
Rod Neill
P.S. Does anyone from Ballymena remember a woman by the name of Emma Knowles Graham (maidan name) married name now Neill. She is my mom.

Lyn Bennett Welch - Oct '06
Hi I was wondering if anyone had any information on the entertainment part of Gallahers. My Mum was a part of it in 1953, she was a singer and helped entertain the patients at the forest green hospital. Her name was Mary Baxter ( became Bennett when she married). I am trying to gather information and old photos of her and I would really appreciate any information anyone would have on this part of Gallaher's history.

Monica O'Mullan - Oct' 06
Thank u everyone for your comments please keepin leaving them, many thanks again. xx

Andrew Wilkinson - Sep '06
I worked in the Hyde factory near Manchester from 1992-1996. Whilst only with Gallahers (Senior Service) for a short time I saw many changes. Mainly due to the pressures on the market place as taxation increased the cost of cigarettes. Unfortunately the Hyde factory is no longer open but I still see people that I use to work with back then.

Vivian Jameson - April '06
I worked in Gallahers in York Street, in the chewing tobacco section, from December 1965 to October 1979. I remember the girls all having a great time working together, especially with the half hour of music in the morning and afternoon. I worked with Linda Fitzsimmons during this time and would really like to get in touch with her. She left to join the RAF, but also had a sister who worked in Gallahers. If anyone has any information would they contact me via YPAM online. Thank you.

Monica O'Mullan - November '05
Thank you for your response, R J Lilley MBE.

R J Lilley MBE - Sept '05
I worked in Gallaher's factory for thirty three and a half years. During that time I saw tremendous changes in the numbers employed and the machinery used. When I first started at the end of 1958 the cigarette making machines produced 1000 to 1200 cigarettes /min while now they produce 15,000/ min. This is a well constructed article and obviously much research went into it. Well done.

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