Milk Stands

Knockarrigan milk stand
Oonagh McElligott © 2023
Milk stand at Moorspark, Glen of Imaal
Oonagh McElligott © 2023
Bicycle trailer with milk churn.
Photo courtesy of Edwin Murphy
Donard milk stand
Karen Allison © 2023
Milk stand near Tullow, Co. Carlow
Jim Butler © 2023
Milk churns on stand near Tinahealy
Oonagh McElligott © 2023
Trade-card 'Sir Han Sloan's Milk Chocolate'
CC-BY-4.0 Wellcome Collection

Milk stands are long disused but are still a feature in the rural landscape.  Those made from timber are long gone. Some of the stone-made stands still exist around Ireland including a few in the Donard and Glen of Imaal area.

Irish Co-operative Creameries were established in Ireland in the 1890s. In areas without a local creamery, the milk was collected by the creamery from various locations especially at cross roads.  Knockanarrigan cross roads has a very well preserved milk stand.  Derek Fox remembers that “milk churns went everyday certainly during the spring/summer months, for late morning collection – no robberies were reported!  Milk went to Avonmore creameries in Ballytore on a flatbed Bedford truck and later they may have moved up to a Ford. The milk was processed into cheddar cheese and the by-product of this (skimmed milk) could be returned to the farmers – used to feed the pigs – that’s the bacon producers not the owners!”

The child’s pram

A creamery collection might cover an area of five to eight miles radius, and sometimes further. Originally, farmers travelled to these collection points by horse or donkey-drawn carts carrying the milk in churns. More resourceful modes of transport involved bicycles with trailers and the child’s pram. The milk churns were placed on the milk stands.  The height of the milk stand made it easier to transfer the heavy milk churns onto the collection vehicle rather than lifting them directly off the ground.  Whether the farmers delivered to a collection point or directly to a creamery, it was a social gathering and a time to interact with your neighbours.

Milk collected from Donard was taken to Ballitore to make butter. There were at least two collection points in the village – one still exists and is incorporated into the wall of Donard House opposite the RC presbytery and another was at the green area opposite the Pinnacle pub.  Annalecky and Whitestown junctions also had collection points.  Derek Fox remembers that “the milk collected at Whitestown was sent to Premier Dairies.  But other farmers would have supplied Avonmore and they had stands at their gates!”.

Engraved the farmer’s name

Another collection point was at Knockaderry. It was to here that Edwin Murphy delivered his milk for collection by Avonmore in Ballitore. He says that “some of his neighbours’ milk went to Rathfarnham in Dublin and that the Dublin dairies engraved the farmer’s name onto the churns”.  Interestingly,  the milk collected from a stand near Tullow was also brought to Rathfarnham.  That’s a journey of ap. 93km (58 miles) one way.

There was no collection on a Saturday or Sunday. The milk was kept cool by placing the churns in a stream. If the milk wasn’t fresh when it arrived in Rathfarnham, it was returned to the farmer.

EU membership

From the early 1970s with Ireland’s entry to the EU, the dairy industry began to change. The bulk tank collection and the closing of small creameries led to job losses, isolation of farmers and some small dairy farms ceased milk production. But also with EU membership, Ireland’s dairy industry developed into a strong business. Currently, there are approximately 17,000 dairy farms in Ireland. Over 8.7 billion litres of liquid milk were produced in 2022. Irish dairy exports reached €6.8 billion in 2022.

Milk production has come a long way from the era of wooden milk stands, milk churns and donkey or horse-drawn carts.

Irish Botanist

Of the many products manufactured using milk as an ingredient, the very popular Hot Chocolate drink is attributed to the Irish botanist Hans Sloane who was born in Killyleagh, Co. Down. While on a trip to Jamaica in the late 1600s, he was given a drink made from cacao and water which he found somewhat nauseous. He mixed milk and sugar into it to make it more palatable. Returning to England with his new recipe, the drink was first produced and sold as a medicine in the 1750s. In the 19th century, Cadburys were selling tins of drinking chocolate inspired by Sloane’s recipe.

Cronin, M.(2005) ‘Remembering the Creameries’, in McCarthy, M.(ed), Ireland’s Heritages. Ashgate:Farnham, 169-185.



Comments about this page

  • I enjoyed reading about the reason for a milk stand being off the ground, where there are two in Donard ( now I know what they are !) and that the location of many at crossroads meant farmers met socially (by default), which was a missed interaction from the late 70’s.

    By Geraldine Cleary (09/03/2024)
  • Fantastic article. The milk stand in Donard was a great meeting place for teenagers.

    By Pauline Flynn (08/03/2024)

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