The story of the Templecrone Co-operative Society is one of triumph against almost impossible odds. Founded in 1906 in Cleendra, a small rocky townland four miles outside Dungloe in west Donegal, the Cope, as it is universally and affectionately known, became one of the largest co-operatives in Ireland. It was acclaimed by the Irish Co-Operative movement and by commentators across the world as a model of what a determined community could achieve in the most unpromising of circumstances. In the process, it overcame an economic system which had institutionalised seasonal migration to Scotland, emigration to America and the child slavery of working away in the Lagan. From a small agricultural supply business, the Cope quickly developed a breathtaking array of businesses: a chain of eight retail stores, a knitwear factory, a bakery and, in the 1940s, a fleet of boats for its fishing co-operative. It expanded into soapstone mining, granite quarrying, milling and brought electricity to Dungloe over 30 years before the ESB’s Rural Electrification Scheme.
The story is one of a resilient community working together in a spirit of cooperation, and courage in the face of adversity. The central figure is Paddy the Cope, who left school aged nine for the hiring fair in Strabane and for Scotland when he was 16 where he worked, like so many Donegal people had to then, on the land and in the oil shale and coal mines. However he never forgot where he came from and who his people were. On his return, he was determined to do what he could to improve their lot. Paddy captured this stirring tale with style and humour in his acclaimed autobiography ‘My Story’, still regarded as a classic piece of storytelling and social commentary. This book, supplemented by Paddy’s wife Sally’s recently unearthed stories, written in the 1940s, illustrates the Cope’s first hundred years through new research material, personal memories and over 400 photographs.