1800 74 74 75
Henry Ford & Sons, Cork
President John F Kennedy Visit to Cork, 1963
Removal of Railway Bridge, 1969
Beamish & Crawford, Cork, 1964
Suttons, Cork, 1964
Mobile Steam Cleaner
St Patrick's Day, 1975
South Mall Cork 1968
Ogilvie & Moore Cork 1965
Holy Trinity, Clonakilty
Men Carrying Pipe, South Mall, Cork
Knock Cathedral, 1976
Jennings, Cork, 1973
Christmas Tree, Cork, 1968
Clontarf Bridge, Cork, 1965
Crossbarry, Cork, 1966
GPO, Dublin, 1974
Fords, Cork, 1969
Outside Holy Trinity Church, Clonakilty
Wm. O’ Brien has been servicing the construction industry for over 70 years. However, the story begins long before that with William O’Brien Senior – a true entrepreneur – born to create opportunity wherever he went.
William had been at boarding school in Rockwell College and gave up at the age of just 15. He went to Dublin to visit his sister Kathleen where he spotted a shop selling hard boiled sweets. He was fascinated by the place and asked the owner would he show him how to make the sweets. The owner said if he would work for him for free for a week, that he would show him. After the week, William returned home and started making sweets in the spare room of his father’s shop in Glenflesk, Co Kerry.
The room he used was actually one that the travelling doctor rented from his father. He would use it just one day a week and the rest of the time it was idle. The night before the doctor would arrive, William would clean out the room and the doctor would have no clue that the room he was paying rent for 7 days a week was being used for sweet production! William then expanded to making rag dolls and would go to the marts and fairs around Kerry selling his produce.
When William was just 14, the priest in Glenflesk was moving to a new parish. William was tasked with driving him to Dingle in his father’s Model T truck. When William arrived in Dingle he realised that the price of onions were way cheaper there than in Glenflesk. Spotting the opportunity, he loaded the truck up with onions and by the time he got home he had all the onions sold!
His next big venture came in the form of mattresses. In those days people were getting rid of the mattresses stuffed with horse hair as foam was becoming popular. William turned the upstairs of the shed next to his dad’s shop into a factory. He hired a number of local women and bought sewing machines. He would take in people’s old mattresses, remove the horse hair and stuff them with the foam and sell them on. He would also recycle (not a term used back then!) the horse hair by selling it on to another company.
From that, William and his older brother Tim got into the plant hire business. Initially they had a truck and used to draw gravel for the Kerry County Council who in those days were turning the bog roads into real roads with crushed stone. From that one truck came a JCB, and then a few JCBs and the business was a big success around the County of Kerry. William wanted to expand outside of the County so Tim and himself split the business and William headed to Cork.
Marketing was another strength of William O'Brien Snr. and slogans such as “Don’t Risk It, Let O’Brien Lift It” and “Where O’Brien Goes, Prosperity Follows” became well known catch phrases across Ireland.
In those days there was a lot of work with the Land Commission initially around Mallow. The big old estates were being split up and they had high walls that needed to be taken down and buried. William spent his time going around Cork doing this work for the Land Commission, tidying up the large estates making them suitable for small holdings. From having JCBs he moved into bulldozers.
On a trip to an exhibition in Holland William saw his first ever waste skip and thought that it was a great idea. He knew there was no one in Ireland doing that. On his return, he made a few skips, got a truck and Wm. O’Brien Waste Disposal was born.
The IDA would bring large multinationals to Ireland to see possible sites to persuade them to set up facilities like the pharmaceutical companies. The one question they’d always ask is “What do you do about waste disposal?”. In those days the IDA just used to say “William will look after that”.
In the 60’s, he saw the evolution of plastic and began manufacturing plastic pipes from a shed around Boreenmanna Road in Cork City. This business was sold in the ‘70’s to Upinor, a Scandinavian company.
Then one day William needed a crane for a job he was working on. Doyle Shipping in Cork had one of the few cranes around and William ended up having to wait 3 days for it to arrive. That’s when he saw the first opportunity to get in to crane hire. So off he went to another exhibition, did his research on cranes and bought his first one. This was the beginning of one of the longest established and best known crane hire companies in the business.
The crane hire and waste disposal companies expanded simultaneously, with depots opening in Limerick, Waterford, Dublin and other parts of the country.
Marketing was another strength of William’s and slogans such as “Don’t Risk It, Let O’Brien Lift It” and “Where O’Brien Goes, Prosperity Follows” became well known catch phrases across Ireland. An iconic Cork company, it has always been appreciated for the prosperity it has brought to the local economy in both good times and bad.
In the 80’s when the recession hit, William scaled down and sold the waste disposal company to an Australian company called Clean Win. He then started importing road rollers from Stavostroj, a Czechoslovakian company, as well as CKD cranes from Eastern Europe for a number of years.
William O’Brien Junior joined in the 90’s and a year later the pair bought their first concrete pump, introducing another wing of the company, which rapidly grew into a fleet of pumps.
The next significant venture was the self-storage business. William Jnr established Wm. O’ Brien Public Storage in 2005. With its central location on the Bandon Road Roundabout the business has grown substantially over the years. As well as the purpose-built facility, it also boasts a substantial container park offering both internal storage rooms and drive up units.
Watching a Circus Act
In 2007 the company started to focus on the renewable energy industry and completed its first wind farm job for Enercon. As another recession hit Ireland, the company needed to pivot from traditional crane hire. 3 years later it did its first crane and labour installation project for Enercon and subsequently began working with Vestas and Siemens. The company has now moved away from wind labour services to focus primarily on heavy lift services.
In 2019 the company began working on decommissioning projects, as well as developing its expertise on lift and shift projects.
Call free: 1800 74 74 75
Intl: +353 (0)21 4545582
Bandon Road RoundaboutBishopstownCork, IrelandT12 Y9NH
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