Matthew Foley senior was sixteen years of age. He had a part time job working with John Pratt, the head gardener, in Kenure House on the Palmer estate in Rush. It was here he saw his first glasshouse and the potential it offered. He had sixteen pounds of his own, he borrowed another ten from his sister. He collected shale off the south beach in Rush and built a shuttered wall. He built a glasshouse off this wall in the shape of a lean to. It was one hundred feet long and was the first commercial glasshouse built in Rush and probably Ireland, the year was 1936.
Between 1940 and 1960, the nursery increased in size to one acre. Different crops were grown- tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and a mixture of different flowers. In the early years, the glasshouses were not heated, so a crop of tomatoes would be planted in the spring, usually around St. Patricks day. In this part of North Dublin, the danger of frost had diminished by this time of year. Production would start in mid June and continue to mid October. A crop of winter lettuce would follow.
He married Delia in 1954 and she became his partner in life and business.
There is no doubt that these were difficult times. Production came in flushes and prices could be very low. Nearly every family in Rush had a glasshouse in their back garden.
THE 60’s AND 70’s
The sixties saw the advent of new technologies. Heating systems became common place, allowing the extension of the growing season at both ends. Growing in peat and different substrates became the norm.
By the seventies he had been joined in the business by his sons. Two acres of modern glasshouses had been built in Kenure, on land once belonging to the old Palmer estate. The estate had been split up by the land commission in the late 1950’s.
The development has continued unabated ever since. The original two acres have been replaced and currently 2.5 hectares stand on the site. They are modern houses built to the best possible design. Production is concentrated on tomatoes. In the early years, a crop of 50 ton per acre was the norm. By the 70’s, a hundred ton of crop was considered a good crop. Today, Matthew Foley senior would be very proud to know crops of over two hundred and fifty ton are being achieved. The journey continues.