Monaghan Tour: Praise for local businesses

11.3.2024 | Moderator, Church in Society, Presbytery Tour, Presbytery News

While pastoral visits to ministers, preaching in local congregations and encouraging the local church on the ground were high on the agenda, as Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Sam Mawhinney, toured the Church's Presbytery of Monaghan last week, visits to the region’s leading businesses also formed an important part of the visit.

One of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's (PCI) 19 regional bodies, the Presbytery doesn’t just take in County Monaghan, as it stretches from the Atlantic coast to the coast of the Irish Sea: from Dundalk in County Louth to Ballina in County Mayo and from Sligo City to Kells in County Meath. The vast majority of the congregations are found in counties Monaghan and Cavan.

Alongside a number of church-based activities, which included a service for the whole Presbytery in Clontibret Presbyterian Church yesterday evening, the Moderator had other wide-ranging engagements. These included visits to the new Monaghan Peace Campus, meetings with elected representatives, and a tour of Ballyhaise Agricultural College. Dr Mawhinney, a former trainee GP, also visited Cavan General Hospital, and schools under the patronage of the Presbytery.

On a visit to the award-winning multi-directional forklift truck manufacturer Combilift, which is based in Monaghan town, Dr Mawhinney, said, “As I have said before, one of the many blessings of my role is that you get to see and do things that you wouldn’t normally, and that includes visiting impressive places like Combilift.”

Accompanied by his wife Karen, PCI’s Public Affairs Officer, Dr Rebecca Stevenson, and Rev Dr Gerry Clinton, minister of First and Second Ballybay, Drumkeen and Rockcorry Presbyterian Churches, they were shown round the 11-acre site which employs 900 people, many of whom come from the local Presbyterian community.

“To say that the operation was impressive, would be a considerable understatement. While I was struck by the size of the place, I was also impressed by company’s driving vision, ethos and obvious technical innovation, as they literally find solutions for lifting, moving and unloading all manner of different loads, and have been for over 25 years now. One such example we saw, was a recently completed truck designed specifically for a warehouse in Germany,” Dr Mawhinney said.

Co-founded by Robert Moffett, and current CEO, Matin McVicar in 1998, 97 per cent of what is produced is exported to 85 countries, which earnt Combilift numerous manufacturing and innovation awards, culminating in Manufacturing Exporter of the Year at the 2022 Irish Exporters Association awards. The company’s history however goes back further with the Moffett family, who invented the first mountable forklift truck, ‘The Moffett Mounty’ in the 1980s. Today, Combilift is still a privately owned family business.

Talking about the Moderator’s visit, Combilift’s Phillip Condell, who led the tour of the facility, said, “We were delighted to welcome Dr Mawhinney, his wife Karen, and his colleagues to our global headquarters here in Monaghan, where they were able to see the process from design, build, and dispatch of our customised forklifts.

“It was a privilege to have Dr Mawhinney meet and encourage many of our 900 staff along the way. I hope he enjoyed his time with us, as we enjoyed showing him round. Thanks to Dr Gerry Clinton, and Andy Wylie, our long serving production manager for arranging the visit.”

During his week-long tour, Dr Mawhinney also visited another family-owned business producing a very different product – Carleton Cakes in Cootehill, County Cavan. The journey for Doreen and Wilfred Carleton began in 1994 when the husband and wife team opened a bakery in the town, baking fresh sodas, wheaten, cakes and pastries on their premises.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Wilfred Carleton explained that the original shop grew into a small coffee shop and then in the year 2000 they moved to a manufacturing facility, moving again in 2019 to their current site. Having started with one fulltime and one parttime member of staff in the coffee shop, the company now employs 150 people and supplies many of Ireland’s and the UK’s leading caf├ęs and supermarkets.

“I’m not a baker, I’m a taster now,” Mr Carleton joked, who worships with his wife at Drumm Presbyterian Church. “Our two sons, Dylan and Richard, run the business and it was a pleasure to welcome the Moderator and his wife to Carletons. It was a very relaxed visit and they were very engaged as they were shown round.

“We have over 20 different lines and each week we would bake and distribute around 200,000 packs. We were very happy to show them the start of the production process to the finished product, including a great reliable, our caramel squares. We also gave them a small personalised, but edible gift, which I hope they enjoyed,” Mr Carleton said.

The ‘personalised but edible gift’ Mr Carleton spoke of was a white chocolate rice crispy bar with their names cut into the chocolate with a water jet cutter. Speaking about his visit, Dr Mawhinney said, “Like our visit to Combilift in Monaghan, Carleton Cakes is another of the outstanding businesses in the Presbytery that not only has close associations with the Church, but does so much for the local and regional economy. Both Dylan and Richard, who took us round, are engineers by profession and have brought that experience to bear in very innovative ways, like the water jet cutter that was used to cut out our names.”

Dr Mawhinney continued, “It was clear to me that the quality of their product, satisfied customers and a happy contented workforce were important to them both, as is running a business that is of benefit to the local community. We very much enjoyed our visit, and greatly appreciated the surprise gift! We wish them every blessing as they celebrate their 30th anniversary.”

The Moderator concluded by saying, “It is important that as a Church we lift our local businesses and those who lead them up in prayer, thanking God for the gifts and entrepreneurial spirit that He has given our businessmen and businesswomen. We very much enjoyed our visits to Combilift and Carleton Cakes, which were fascinating.”

Photos (1) Dr Sam Mawhinney and his wife Karen during his visit to Combilift with one of  company's multi-directional forklift trucks (2) pictured during their tour of Combilift are, (left to right) Dr Rebecca Stevenson, PCI's public affairs officer, the Moderator and his wife Karen, Andy Wylie Combilift production manager and Rev Dr Gerry Clinton minister of First and Second Ballybay, Drumkeen and Rockcorry Presbyterian Churches (3) pictured after their tour of Carleton Cakes are (left to right) Rev Daryl Edwards, Clerk of Monaghan Presbytery, the Moderator and Karen Mawhinney, Dylan and Richard Carleton and their parents Doreen and Wilfred, who founded the company (4) the Moderator and his wife Karen, at Carleton Cakes with a special edible gift that was created for them.


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