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Issue 3 - The corporate raider of Cooley

Whisky Magazine Issue 3
May 1999


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The corporate raider of Cooley

Charles Maclean meets the chairman of Ireland's newest distillery, Cooley, and finds that his story can only be told in epic form

Did you see my brown bull, when you were up at the distillery?' asks John
Teeling, chairman of Cooley Distillery.

‘I did', I replied. ‘What's its significance?'

‘The Bull of Cooley; The Donn Cualnge.'
The penny dropped. Until then I had had no idea that theTain Bo Cualnge, ‘The Cattle-Raid of Cooley', which forms the centrepiece of the Dark Age epic known as ‘The Ulster Cycle' took place in the hills behind the distillery. The super-hero of the saga is Cuchulainn, ‘The Hound of Ulster' who resists the invading armies of Connaught single handed. Listening to John Teeling, the man who brought the bull back to Cooley, I could not but think of him as a latter-day, corporate Cuchulainn.

‘...and he told the men of Ireland to be on their guard, for there would come upon them he who was the slashing lion and the doom of enemies and the foe of armies, the supporting leader and the slaughtering of a great host, the hand bestowing gifts and the flaming torch, to wit, Cuchulainn the son of Sualtaim.'

The comparison is made more perfect by Teeling's choice of corporate weapons: ‘the pickaxe and the flame-thrower'. ‘Perfect pickaxe and flame-thrower territory', is how he describes Irish Distillers back in 1987, when he tried to take it over. ‘The company was in chaos,' he says. ‘Poorly managed, over-manned, too many administrators, hopeless track record – especially in export markets. I encouraged three of my students to write theses on the takeover and break-u...

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