Glencar water springs up
Pictures: Carl BrennanThink a Texas oil well. A bubbling, unlimited reservoir of high-value liquid resource, just waiting to be tapped. Only this is not oil, it's water, cool, clear, and pure and it has just made a dream come true for a Sligo entrepreneur who looks destined to be flushed with success.The remarkable story of the birth of Glencar Water, which went on general
Pictures: Carl Brennan
Think a Texas oil well. A bubbling, unlimited reservoir of high-value liquid resource, just waiting to be tapped. Only this is not oil, it's water, cool, clear, and pure and it has just made a dream come true for a Sligo entrepreneur who looks destined to be flushed with success.
The remarkable story of the birth of Glencar Water, which went on general sale for the first time this day last week, is as unique as the man behind the ambitious venture, Ballintrillick-native, John MacSharry.
Leaving Sligo in the emigration exodus of the late 1960's with exactly 29 old pounds in his hip pocket, MacSharry is a self-made millionaire, earning his fortune through shrewd investments in the London property-market.
Now back living in his native county, he has just won a fifteen year battle to finally launch his Glencar Water, his boast that it is Europe's purest bottled water backed up by a series of independent stringent scientific examinations and compliance with exacting EU directives.
He might never have contemplated dipping his toe into the water market had it not been for a chance conversation with his uncle, Padraig Branley, a former Mayor of Sligo, in a London club almost twenty years ago.
"I'd had enough whiskey to drink this particular night and told Padraig to buy me a bottle of water instead. He couldn't believe it when he was charged ?2.50 for the water, which was unheard of in Ireland in those days, and as we talked about the cost of it and how expensive it was, he reminded me that I had a well-full of the stuff on my land at home", John recalls.
The land his uncle referred to was the Glencar site which now houses his bottling plant. At the time he had earmarked it for a holiday home at some future date, but as the water idea began to take root he quickly realised the potential of the ancient spring located on his land.
He got in touch with Gerry Duggan, a Sligo-based consultant engineer, who began extensive research. His intricate probing discovered a unique source of water, coming from deep within the rock strata of the Dartry Mountain range , being naturally filtered through two miles of rock, and maintaining a consistent temperature of four degrees.
Its unique characteristics and its unlimited supply -- the spring produces a remarkable five million litres of water every day -- made this newly discovered water source potentially the most valuable in all of Europe.
"It was literally like sitting on an oil well. In fact, it's probably more valuable", says Gerry Duggan. "The chemical make-up of this water is in perfect balance with EU Directives. The source requires no interference whatsoever with its natural chemical composition".
His entrepreneurial instincts now well honed, John MacSharry quickly set to work on his new venture. As is the normal territory for such projects, there were delays and setbacks, perhaps even despairing times in a fifteen year quest when he thought it might never happen, but with typical zeal, he saw it through all obstacles.
Preliminary work on the bottling plant at the Glencar site began 12 years ago, when more than 1,000 tonnes of earth was excavated in an operation lasting several months, creating the hollow into which the plant would eventually be built, designed by Duggan and Associates so that it is screened and concealed from public view, thereby ensuring no disturbance of the idyllic setting on the shores of Glencar Lake. Most of the excavated material was, in fact, used as a mound to screen the plant from view.
A unique feature of the location is that the ?5million bottling plant, which was finally completed four years ago, literally sits on the spring from which the water is sourced, so that the raw material flows directly into the plant and is bottled almost immediately. The expensive machinery ensures that it is treated to the requirements of EU standards, but no other treatment is required.