The origins of this book project have deep roots. Both sets of my grandparents who lived and worked in rural Ireland were members of the local co-op creamery. Family stories and memories frequently coalesced around the site of the co-op and therefore this project was gestating for a long time. In particular I remember the strong attachment that my grandfather John Durkin had to the co-op and the stories he told me as a child awoke my interest in history. Growing up in Manchester meant that I was aware of the co-operative movement from the consumer's side of the equation as well as that city's role in shaping the modern co-operative movement. A desire to link my Irish upbringing to my Mancunian surroundings led to my initial interest and eventual fascination with co-operative ideas and institutions, and the ways in which they connected people.
This book has been shaped by the intellectual co-operation of many other people. I am indebted to Pedro Ramos-Pinto, Till Geiger and Natalie Zacek for their guidance during the initial research. In particular, Pedro provided an invaluable source of wisdom and encouragement throughout the writing of the book. For that, and his friendship, I am very grateful. I'd like to thank Peter Gatrell and Cormac Ó Gráda who whose feedback and advice on early drafts shaped the project. I wish to thank Sarah Roddy with whom I have enjoyed talking and working in recent years, and from whom I have learned so much. Christopher Godden provided me with his support and wisdom, frequently dispensed in a chat over coffee, but which was always profoundly affecting. I have also benefited from meeting other co-operative historians with whom I have been lucky enough to discuss my work. In particular, I would like to thank Tony Webster, Mary Hilson, Rachael Vorburg-Rugh and Peter Gurney who provided stimulating insights into the wider history of the movement alongside their collegiality and warm support and welcome to those who work in the field of co-operative research.
Any historical research would be a failure before it began if not for the assistance of dedicated archivists. The staff at the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland always provided the assistance and advice on sources that I needed to undertake this work. I have benefited from the deep knowledge and insight that particular individuals have over their respective collections. To that extent I would like to thank Gillian Lonergan and Sophie Stewart at the National Co-operative Archive, Noelle Dowling at the Dublin Diocesan Archive, David Bracken at the Limerick Diocesan Archive and Michael Lynch at Kerry's Local History Archive, all of whose assistance and wisdom was greatly appreciated by this researcher.
I'd also like to thank everyone at Manchester University Press who has made the production of book itself a relatively painless experience. In particular I'd like to thank Tony Mason for his encouraging words along the way and for making the process more fun.
James Greenhalgh, Kat Fennelly, Barry Hazley, Tom Sharp, Muzna Rahman, Michael Durrant and Michael Kelly were fine companions at the University of Manchester, sources of intellectual inspiration, and more importantly, friends. Quintin Morgan, James Cregg and Daniel Comerford offered plenty of perspective to the project. Although we share wildly divergent and incompatible views on all matters football related, I am grateful for their patience and good humour. Andy Seddon, Alex Mitchell, Catherine Bolsover and Mark Crosher in Manchester continue to exert great efforts to watch out for me for which I am truly thankful. In London, I am deeply indebted to Richard Cooke and Amy Cox (thanks for the room!), Tom Green, Laura Teece, Fay Benson, Chris Flavin and Martina Booth. All made my time in the ‘big smoke’ a less traumatic experience. Kim Walker deserves a special mention for convincing me to finally submit a book proposal which I sat on for too long. She was, and remains, an excellent purveyor of sage advice. I have also been blessed with wonderful friendships with people in Ireland. Dorothy Ingoldsby and Áine O’Shea provided me with necessary friendship and support, all of which was offered with characteristic openheartedness for which I am eternally grateful. Thanks also to Brian and Sheila Ingoldsby who took this stranger into their home and ensured I never wanted for anything. Meanwhile, my cosmic twin, Sarah Hunt, has always had my back in Dublin.
My family have always supported me in a way that made me feel valued. I'd especially like to thank my aunt, Margaret Doyle, for her hospitality and homemade bread; my uncle and aunt, Anthony and Catherine Doyle, for their generosity and willingness to shepherd me back and forth for research trips to Tralee at the height of the Rose of Tralee madness; my uncle Gerard who put up with my unrequested, but unstintingly endured, history lectures; my aunt and uncle, Helen and Alan Breakey, who provided sanctuary in Monaghan; and my godfather, John Doyle, who has always taken that vow seriously and looked out for me. My sister Ann has always kept my feet firmly on the ground whenever I threatened to lose the run of myself, but has always ensured I had the help I needed without my ever asking for it.
Finally, I wish to thank my parents, Michael and Mary. None of this work would have been possible without their encouragement, and they continue to provide me with a source of inspiration. The love and faith in me they have shown down all the years have eased anxieties, doubts and difficulties that I have encountered and given me the belief to continue. I dedicate this book to them.