In 1950s Ireland thousands of young emigrants took the boat to England in search of work and Ned Walsh was no exception. He worked for Mars in Slough where the famous Mars Bar was made and then spent time with Handley Page Aircraft Company in the production of the Victor Bombers.
From there he went to Pinewood Studios in London as a wages clerk and rubbed shoulders with the film stars of the 1950s. There he developed a love of sculpture and art and on the advice of those working on the film sets he enrolled for night classes in pottery and sculpture at a London Art College. From the first moment Ned put his hands in clay he realised his ambition, an ambition which was to remain with him for the remainder of his working life.
He met Celine, his wife to be, at a dancehall in London. She had moved from Sligo, was an employee at Barclays Bank and after some years she succeeded in encouraging him to move back to Cashel and set up a pottery business. In 1962, fifty years ago, Ned set about producing his range of Rossa Pottery in an outbuilding on the lane at the side of Mai Cliffords pub, now the Moor Lane Tavern off Main Street, while the finished product was displayed and admired by both locals and tourists alike in the pub window.
As business grew, with orders arriving from all over the country and with an export market to England, America, Canada and Australia, the need arose for a bigger premises so Ned and Celine set about building a pottery workshop with an adjoining family home on the then busy Cahir Road on the outskirts of Cashel where Rossa is still created today.
At an early age, Alan, the second youngest of four children, Mary, John, Alan and Celine, showed an interest in his father’s craft and was encouraged to develop his skills. On leaving school he trained with the Crafts Council of Ireland in Kilkenny where he met his future wife Sarah who was also studying the pottery trade. From there, he perfected his skills in Production Throwing for Nicholas Mosse Pottery in Bennettsbridge, worked in Belgium to broaden his knowledge in domestic ware, and returned home to work with his gifted father.
Meanwhile, Sarah, having studied ceramics at college in Dublin, worked in various potteries around the country before eventually joining Rossa in Cashel.
Crafted individually and hand thrown to the highest standards with no industrial techniques such as jiggering or casting involved, Rossa prides itself not only on the use of hand dug Tipperary clay, but on old secret handmade glazes, recipes and techniques that have been developed and refined within the Walsh family.
In 2011 Rossa Pottery opened a new pottery and gift shop on Main Street. Coincidentally located only three doors away from where Ned Walsh first established his business 50 years ago, the attractive premises stocks a full range including lamps, candleholders, teapots, salad bowls, dinner plates, mugs and jugs (all dishwasher friendly), as well as handbags, jewellery, quilts and a variety of other gift items.
Recently Councillor Maribel Wood, Mayor of Cashel Town Council, presented a framed scroll to the Walsh family to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Rossa Pottery.
She said its charm lay in the beautiful glaze, richness of colour and in the fact that it is still created in the traditional way first used by Ned Walsh some 50 years ago.
“Pieces of Rossa, signed individually by the finishing artist, adorn mantlepieces around the world. Visiting dignitaries to Cashel have been presented with Rossa. It has become a valued birthday, wedding, anniversary, retirement and special occasion gift. Cashel is proud of Rossa and we wish it and the Walsh family continued success for the future,” she said.