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Rhyno Mills History

Rhyno Mills Since 1846 , a mill has stood at Tonbwee, Castleisland. It was built by Lord Baron Ventry as a flour mill. He constructed a fine milling plant and chose the location wisely, adjacent to the River Maine. On the 25th of March 1873, Redmond Roche of Maglass acquired a 98 year lease on the premises at an annual rent of u14- 12s-6d. On his death on the 12th of September 1884, the lease passed to his son Redmond, who died on the 3rd of November 1894, with the mill subsequently sold on the 11th of June 1901 to a consortium of Tralee businessmen- John Donovan, John Walsh, Maurice Kelliher, Robert McCowen and Richard Latchford. They closed it down for many years, as they believed that it might affect their milling interests in nearby Tralee.

William H. O’Connor, a local man who had been working in Africa, returned to Castleisland in the early years of the Century. However, it was not until 1926 that W.H. O’Connor finally decided to re-open the mill as an animal feed manufacturing plant. He had considered opening a woolen mill, but, being a far-seeing man, he made the prudent decision to open an animal feed mill and became widely regarded as a pioneer in this field. He chose the company name, Rhyno, an old English word meaning “money”. He developed his business from his headquarters in The Kingdom House, and quickly established a progressive and modern mill. He died on the 1st of January 1949 and was succeeded by his sons, Sean, Liam and Hugh. Today, the company is run by his grandsons, Paudie, William and Joe.

By damming the fast flowing waters of the river Maine, Lord Baron Ventry had diverted the course of the river. He also constructed a man-made tributary known locally as the Mill Stream, which rejoined the Maine at Barrack Lane Bridge. At the head of the Mill Stream were the weir and sluice gates, controlling the river flow and driving the mighty waterwheel. The waterwheel was removed in 1939, and was to be replaced by turbines delivered from the North. However, because of the outbreak of WW2, they never arrived. In any case, these older machines were eventually replaced by electrification and computerisation. All that remains today of the old mechanism are rows of giant granite plummer blocks and the cast-iron housing for the water wheel bearings. Many fine salmon were caught at the water wheel.

The O’Connor family was one of the leading employers in the district and generations of Castleisland families earned their daily bread by working at the mill. Sacks of grain were manually hoisted up into the mill and emptied into the grain bin.

From there, the grain was separated and crushed by the millstones and transferred to the sieving machine where it was bagged and drawn away by horse and cart. Part of the typical dress of the mill was a sack, which covered the head and shoulders.

Many people will remember the fine sunny days of yesteryear when young people whiled away the balmy days catching tadpoles, swimming, picnicking and playing, by the weir that is no more. We remember the flowery meadows and the River Maine that has never run dry. Those Carefree days of a bygone age remain as happy childhood memories for generations of Castleisland people.

And as the mill enters it’s third century, it’s success is a great tribute to the O’Connor family.

WH O'Connor History

WH O'Connor, Rhyno MillsW.H O’Connor was born on the 19th of December, 1878 on a farm at coolnageragh, Scartaglin. He went to Kimberley, Cape Colony, South Africa in 1897 and was there during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902. Kimberley was besieged by the Boers for 126 days from October 1899 to February 1900. W.H. Worked as a mining engineer for De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd, installing and maintaining machinery in the vast diamond mines for adjoining townships Kimberley and Beaconsfield.

W.H. at the same time worked for a builder, learning building skills; He purchased land and built a number of bungalows, naming them “Emerald Villas”, for rent to diamond miners. These houses still stand. He also built a house for his own use, with Veranda surrounding; W.H Continued working for both De Beers and the builder, so for a few years he held three jobs and worked 20 hours a day.

W.H O’Connor married Julia Blennerhassett of Tralee on the 2nd of March 1905 at St. Augustine’s Church, Beaconsfield, Kimberely. Julia had visited her brother Authur Blennerhassett in South Africa in 1904, being met off the ship by her future husband. She stayed in South Africa as a Red Cross nurse. There, she married, and Nellie, her first child was born.

The giant South African diamond mining company, De Beers, where W.H worked as a mining engineer, had been formed in 1888 by Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), the financier, statesman and empire builder who was Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890 to’96 and the first governor of the De Beers Company. Julia Blennerhassett was during the 1900's, nurse and companion to the mother of the Governor of De Beers. They became friends, she being married from the Governor’s house and leaving for her wedding in his horse-drawn carriage (The name of this Governor is uncertain, but he had a daughter , and also a son named Neville).

W.H returned to Co. Kerry in 1907 with his wife and child for a holiday, but stayed on. He went back to South Africa briefly to sell their house and on his final return to Kerry, purchased a substantial part of the family farm, Coolnageragh, from his mother (This land he later sold to Mr. Breen, whose family still work the farm). The remaining part of the family farm later passed to his brother Con. W.H. Purchased the Castleisland grain mill (then water driven) by the river at Tonbwee; also a house and business named The Fountain Warehouse (which contained a drapery shop ect. And “The Fountain Bar”) opposite the old market house and drinking water fountain in Lower Main St., Castleisland. The Fountain Warehouse was managed by his wife Julia until it was burnt in 1921.

“W.H. O’Connor”, “millers, merchants, drapers, outfitters and importers” was formed in 1919, milling and selling the highest quality animal feedstuffs to the Munster farming community as “Rhyno Balanced Rations”. The mill became known as “Rhyno Mills”. In 1940, the business became a limited company “W.H O’Connor Ltd”. W.H purchased farms at Ballygree, off Powell’s road in Castleisland, and in 1935 at Commeen House in Carrigaline, Co. Cork.

A Republican by inclination, in 1914 W.H O’Connor became Chairman of the “Castleisland Volunteers”. Prominently identified with the Sinn Fein Movement of that time, he was one of the first local judges of the Republican courts, and spent some time during the troubles in hiding, a fugitive form the British authorities. W.H is mentioned in the book “Kerry’ Fighting Story 1916-21”, published by “The Kerrymnan Ltd” of Tralee.

Being a fluent Irish speaker , his house and business”The Fountain Warehouse” displayed his name outside in Irish. In 1921, this property was burnt, with two other republican -owned buildings in the town by the Black and Tans as reprisal for the shooting of two RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) guards outside Castleisland parish church. The shooting, by men on motorcycles wearing trench coats, was witnessed by his wife Julia and daughter Peggy as they left church after Sunday mass. The irony of this event is that one of the RIC officers who died was a good friend of W.H’s wife.

Following the burning of the house, the family lived for about seven years at Artane lodge, on Puckstown Road (now Collins Avenue) in Donnycarney, Dublin. During this time, Julia managed a retail drapery shop in Talbot St., Dublin. Artane Lodge was later sold and demolished, the land being developed as a Dublin suburb.

Julia O’Connor sought, through the courts, compensation for the burning of their house. Compensation was paid by the British authorities and a new house was built on the same site, a 3 story, 12 bedroom house with drapery and grocery business beneath, also a small lounge bar preserving the old name “The Fountain Bar”. Building was completed in 1927, when W.H named his new home “The Kingdom House”, after “The Kingdom of Kerry”. Julia managed the retail business at their new home and was a director of W.H O’Connor Ltd.

“The Kingdom House” was a large home of great Character; among it’s features was “The Crow’s nest”, a roofed platform above the house, open at the sides, providing wonderful views of Castleisland town and surrounding countryside; also a flat roof for leisure activities and a snooker room. At the rear were several barns, a greenhouse with grapevine lovingly tended by Julia, and a large yard always full of hens, geese and turkeys.

“The Kingdom House” was sold out of the family in 1984, sadly much changed, with shops and yet another “Fountain Bar” installed beneath.




Rhyno Mills Archive - Press

Rhyno Feed Mills, Castleisland 

7th February 2003

O’Se Animal Feed Ads are Revived

Kerry football manager Mr. Paidi O’Se’s controversial animal comments have proved a coon of one animal feedstuff company. Mr O Se provoked a storm of criticism when he described Kerry supporters as the “roughest type of f******g animals you could ever deal with”, in a Sunday newspater interview January. In the wake of the controversy, Rhyno Mills in Castleisland, one of Munsters biggest private animal compound feed firms, has resurrected two voiced advertisements made by Mr, O’Se on Behalf of the company in 1997. In one, he describes the animal feedstuff as so good “ I nearly ate it myself”. The ad is being rerun on Radio Kerry “for a bit of fun”, said Mr. Paudie O’Connor, MD of Rhyno Mills, alongside more Serious Rhyno ads, he said.

Rhyno MIlls, The Kerryman 

Date Unknown

Last week I told you of the death of Joe Foran and of the impending tribute by his great friend Deputy Dick Spring. Joe, who hadn’t enjoyed the greatest of health in recent times, surprised family and friends by the suddenness of his passing. I also told you that Joe was always the first to call or ring in the wake of a death in the parish. The call would be to secure space for a few words and this would be followed by a neatly written tribute to the departed. Knowing of his lifelong passion for politics and for his beloved Labour Party I asked his political hero Dick Spring to contribute a few words in his honour. In the course of the week I also spoke to Rhyno Mills managing Director Paudie O’Connor who, as a boy, came to know Joe as a foreman in his father’s business. Loyalty, and dedication to the task at hand were attributes which readily presented themselves in my chats with both men. “His loyalty to the company here in tough times is one of outstanding memories I have of Joe Foran. His organisational abilities and his willingness to get stuck in to what whatever was going on at the time marked him as a man before his time in my recollections. “He maintained an interest in the affairs of the mill long after he retired and I remember getting a letter of congratulations from him only a couple of ago when we achieved the ISO certificate here. That’s something you appreciate and I’m glad to say I replied to his letter and thanked his for his kind thoughts, “said Mr. O’Connor. A week of so before he passed away Joe had a visit form Dick Spring and the former Labour Party leader and Tanaiste took him away for a drive around the hills and they visited the golf course at Tulligibeen. The following is Mr. Spring’s tribute to one of his most loyal friends and supporters: The untimely passing of Joe Foran is a great loss to the Labour Party in North Kerry and in particular in the Castleisland area. Joe’s association with the party spans many decades and he was very proud of his membership of the party.

Rhyno MIlls, Quality Animal Feed 

Saturday, January 25th, 1964

Computer Helps Castleisland Firm Compound Rations

Kerry is a leading the rest of the south of Ireland in the use of the Qeleq computer for the compounding of animal rations. The computer has been installed in the Castleisland milling plant of Messrs. W.H O’Connor Ltd. since April of last year and the manager Mr. Sean O’Connor says that “it has been invaluable”. “I just don’t know how we managed all along without it,” he added, “ “it enables a man to do in an hour what would normally take him a week to complete.” The computer, which looks like something of a science-fiction movie, stores in it’s “memory” a detailed specification of 24 raw materials which are likely to be included in feed formulae. Each ingredient is allotted a separate dialling knob and when this operated the memory instantaneously relays the specification to a series of panels on the computer. These panels record the quality of the raw material in terms of oil, protein, fibre, amino acids, calcium phosphorus, total energy, etc., according to the amount of the ingredient to be incorporated into the ration. Together with these the machine also shows the current cost of the compound. If the cost of any of the ingredients is raised all one is required to do is to adjust one of the dials and turn a knob in one of the drawers and the computer registers the new cost of the ingredient in the compound. The rapid speed with which a formulation may be completed enables alternative formulae to be developed quickly in the event of and unexpected shortage of a key raw material, ensuring that the alternatives are nutritionally correct and economically sound. One thing that the computer has accomplished is that it rules out all possibility of human error thus saving considerable sums of money that would normally be spent in correcting such mistakes. “ I think that any reasonably sized mill should have one of these installed,” said Mr. O’Connor. “It should be worth the while of any mill producing between 100 and 200 tons a week to have one of these installed and one could just not estimate the amount of time that would be saved by it.” The computer which cost the company £4,000 took no time to install all that was required was to plug it in. Having acquired the analysis from the computer, Mr. O’Connor went to a panel in the mill, turned a few dials and from there on the rest of the operation was automatic. Mr. Eamon Breen of Castleisland stood watching a panel of coloured lights as Mr. O’Connor explained that on this panel he could see what was happening throughout the process of compounding the feed. As the process continued this Richardson select-O Weight Panel flashed its multi-coloured lights to show that one bin was running low on grain, that another was coming into operation and even the weighing of the bags was recorded on it. This has been installed for the last 2 years. This automated Mill is a working example of what time and money can be saved by the introduction of machinery to do the difficult chores of a man. Surprising as it may seem W.H O’Connor Ltd., have in spite of this automation managed to retain their entire staff, by moving them on to other work. “ But more important than the saving of time or money,” said Mr. O’Connor, “is the fact that now we are sure that our customers are getting the correct mixtures.”

Rhyno MIlls, Quality Animal Feeds 

Saturday, January 25, 1964

Castleisland firm goes from record to record in animal food production

A new milling plant one of the most up to date in the Twenty six counties, has been installed in the mill of Messrs. W.H. O’Connor Ltd., Castleisland, makers of the famous Rhyno brand of animal feed compounds. The new plant is almost entirely automatic, and increases the production capacity of the mill by about 40%. By Michael O’Harloran Bag manufacture Rhyno MIllsIn a special department, Can O'Connor and a group of girls attend to the manufacture of new bags for the Rhyno Rations. Push button control of the whole process of selecting ingredients, grinding, blending and bagging is a feature of the new plant. A central electronic control panel with a diagram of the whole lay out and indicator lights to show the progress of each operation at a glance, is the nerve centre of the system. The increasing awareness among farmers of the importance of expertly mixed feeding stuffs in pig production and for poultry and other livestock. And the growing demand for Rhyno mixes, has made the expansion imperative. “last year we could not produce enough to meet demand, although we were working overtime night after night,” said Sean O’Connor, managing director of the firm. “But we are now confident that the installation of new machinery will solve our supply problem and that no shopkeeper of farmer will be short of Rhyno feeding compounds.” Last year was a record year for Rhyno Mills but, then, every year has been a record year of late. When the late Mr. W.H O’Connor acquired the mill in 1919, balanced rations and the use of expertly blended mixtures for animal feeding were practically unheard of. The late Mr. O’Connor began to market animal feed in 1926, and at that time he was one of the men who pioneered the study of scientific animal feeding in this country, Just as the firm today is among the first to introduce revolutionary methods into the business of efficient and precisely accurate production of feeding stuffs. But it was not until about fourteen years ago that the use of scientifically blended animal feed came into general use in the country. Ever since then O’Connors have been straining to keep up with the demand for their products in Kerry, Cork and Limerick. The new plant, which cost about £40,000, is at present geared to turn out 12 tons of precisely mixed animal feed per hour and can be adapted to produce 25 tons per hour- which adds up to a very healthy supply of calories, proteins, vitamins and trace mineral requirements for the farm animals of Munster.

Rhyno First

Animal Feeds

Although the new plant is practically automatic, there will be no drop in the number employed. Apparently they are all needed in this progressive business. Nor will there be any deviation form the special Rhyno formulas for feed stuffs except where new nutritional developments or advances occur from time to time Day after day, week after week, a fleet of lorries keeps bringing Rhyno to the farmers of southern Ireland “we were one of the first firms in the country to study precision animal feeding and we are constantly carrying out tests of new formulas,” said Sean O’Connor. The new control panel which has become the nerve centre of the mill would delight a boy with an interest in space fiction. Lights flash, dial needles kick and there is a bank of coloured buttons which, with a slight stretch of imagination, would do for controlling a space ship. Far from being a plaything, the control panel is a master-piece in intricate electronics in which all the complex operations of the huge dial which measures tons with accuracy down to the ounce, the operator can make precisely blended Rhyno feed by remote control at the rate of 12 tons per hour.

Filling Rhyno animal feed bags

Mill Plan

Mr. Teddy Nolan makes an adjustment ot a machine which automatically fills the Rhyno bags.The diagram on the panel is a plan of the whole mill and indicator lights show how each grinding, mixing and conveying process is getting on. The distant murmur of machinery and the blink of a light on the panel are an assurance to the sight-seer that the magic-wand control is really working . Nearby there is a special hopper where small ingredients, such as O’Connor’s famous “Rhymin” mineral mix of other special ingredients can be added in precise quantities. IN charge of the control panel at the moment is this thriving business run by three brothers, is Hugh O’Connor, director. The training of a permanent panel operator will commence in the near future. This important post will entail a high degree of skill and integrity. Hugh O’Connor also personally supervises that weighing, storing and dispatch of all the finished products. Third brother in this three man team of experts is Liam, the engineer, who supervises all construction work, mechanical operation and maintenance. Expansion of production capacity by 40% requires extension of the storage capacity and the O’Connors have planned development on the 35 acre site of the mill which will meet the heaviest increase in business. An new warehouse measuring 68 feet by 40 feet, capable of holding 200 tons of the finished feeding compound has been built and here the bags of compound can be loaded mechanically on to lorries. An new grain store measuring 90 feet by 60 feet, capable of holding 2000 tons of grain in bulk has been built and construction of another store of similar capacity is under way. A further store to hold 1,500 tons is being planned in all the mill will have storage space of 6,000 tons of grain and 3,000 tons of other material.

40 Tons an Hour

Mr. Ned O'Connor, pictured here in the Grinding Department, has been with the firm for the last 37 years. The mill has a bulk intake plant capable of handling 40 tons of material an hour and this does away with the handling of materials in bags. The raw materials can be automatically conveyed to the drier, stores and the 200 ton capacity bins over the grinders. The mill is also equipped with a grain drier which can handle 5 tons of grain per hour, depending on moisture content, and during the season this operates for 24 hours a day. A new plant for the manufacture of Rhymin is also being planned. The output of this mineral mix is expanding rapidly as more and more farmers realise that these scientifically blended minerals are essential to the welfare of live-stock, and for ensuring a good milk yield. At this time of the year particularly, Rhymin is highly beneficial to cattle. The vast number of sacks used at the mill is handled by a subsidiary company under the management of Mr. Dan O’Connor. This company is set up in a premises in convent street. Here sacks are graded, cleaned and, where necessary, repaired by a staff of ten girls. This adjunct to the business ensures that there is always an adequate supply of sound, hygienic sacks for animal feed. In every branch of the business it is obvious that the firm has kept abreast of the times and gives their customers the benefit of long experience plus the most modern techniques of efficient, scientific feed milling.

Formal Opening

The new automated plant will ensure that the increasing orders will be met and that the customer is assured of, uniform and accurately blended compounds in the famous Rhyno range of feeding mixes. In the new system the various ingredients are conveyed through elevators, bins, grinders, weighers and on to the sack stitchers without being touched by hand. The headquarters of the firm is, of course, in the Kingdom House in the centre of the town and here the old established businesses of bar, grocery and drapery are thriving. Phoenix-like, this premises rose form the ashes of the former building which was burned in the early twenties. The new automated plant which has just been installed in the mill will be formally blessed and opened later on when all the work is finally complete. The occasion will be a significant one in the history of a firm which combines generations of sound experience with the most progressive methods of the day.

Balanced Rations

Rhyno expert explains importance of proper feeding What are balanced rations and what are the factors affecting the compounding and utilisation of these rations? Mr. Nick Canning, B.Agr. S.c., nutritional advisor with Rhyno Mills, Says that each ration is scientifically formulated to supply all the essential nutrients required by a particular animal- whether the animal is being fed for higher milk yield or leaner meat. In the foregoing Mr. Canning, who is always available to give free advice to customers on their animal feeding problems, gives a factor-by-factor explanation of balanced rations and their value to the producer.

Mineral Department at Rhyno MIlls

Mr. Liam O'Connor photographed in the Mineral Department at Rhyno Mills

High Quality

Protein is the most expensive portion of any ration and consequently more money has been spent on research on protein utilisation than any other ingredient. The scientists have broken down protein to essential and non-essential amino acids. The requirements of these essential amino-acids vary with the age of the animal and the purpose of which it is fed, for example, meat, milk or egg production. If any of these essential amino-acids balance is far more important that the total amino - acid content of the ration. That is not all, because the availability to the animal of each amino-acid varies considerably depending on the origin and process of manufacture of the ingredient which contains it. Thus, for example, the lysine content of one feedstuff may be far more available than the same lysine content in another feedstuff. Unfortunately, reliable tests are not available for the measuring the availability of all the amino acids, though these tests are being developed rapidly. To assure a favourable amino-acid balance, adequate high quality protein concentrates must be incorporated in the ration.

Energy Content

The energy content of a feeding-stuff is the one factor which cannot be too high. However, to utilise the energy in the proper way, protein mineral and vitimin content must be adequate or the purpose of which the ration was intended may be defeated, e.g, Grade A bacon production. Minerals Mineral supplementation of rations is very important, especially on intensive stock producing farms. The mineral requirements of fattening pigs are fairly well known though there may be some yet undiscovered. Pig rations are supplemented with a view to supplying in the ration a proper calcium to phosphorus ratio as well as supplying certain trace elements necessary for the general health of the pig. In the case of dairy rations the requirements vary considerably with the purpose for which the ration is used and the type of roughage fed. Good quality hay or silage are rich in most minerals with the exception of phosphorus. In the case of high producing milk cows where the intake of roughage is restricted, mineral supplementation is essential for production, maintenance and the general health of the animal. Vitamin supplementation is relatively new in the feeding industry, but there is no doubt as to their value and importance in all livestock rations, though required in only small quantities, vitamins are essential for increased growth and health maintenance of all stock reared indoor. Quality is more important than quantity as far as vitamins are concerned and some deteriorate with heat and storage. A fresh supply is important though antioxidants have been developed which are quite successful in stabilising vitamins and products with high oil content.

Higher Costs

All the essential nutrients available, palatability must be considered before finally balancing the ration. Palatability affects most of the ingredients utilised in a compound feedingstuff. In recent experiments where up to one hundred and fifty litters of bonhams were fed a uniform creep feed to weaning weight, the intake of feed varied enormously, ranging from 7 to 50 lbs, of meal per Bonham. The reasons for this varation are not known but seem to be unrelated to palatability. Some nutritionists have worked out palatability factors for the different ingredients but these are not completely satisfactory due to varations in chemical analysis, changes in storage and the effect of fineness of grinding of the individual ingredients. Generally, however, we can say that unpalability limits intake which in turn limits production and feed efficiency resulting in higher costs for the meat producer. The chemical analysis of the essential components of a ration, Viz., proteins, carbohydrates, fats and minerals, varies in the different ingredients from sample to sample fo those ingredients thus, before balancing, one must be assured of a plentiful supply of standard high quality ingredients. The inclusion of these ingredients in the ration will vary with the nutrient requirements of the type and ageo f the animal and the purpose of which it is fed. Nutritional Advisor Rhyno MIlls Mr. Nick Canning, nutritional adviser to Rhyno Mills, who is always available to give free advise to customers


When the compounder has balanced his ration successfully with all essential nutrients, supplemented with vitamins and antibiotics, he has to keep that ration consistent. As animal production is becoming more intensive and more scientific, and where animals are forced to maximum potential, consistency is of vital importance as any change in the diet can have deleterious effects.


Briefly, any product is qualified by its origin, protein carbohydrate, fat, moisture, vitamin and mineral content. Many of these qualities can change or deteriorate in long storage. It all boils down to strict quality control and regular laboratory testing. To avoid delays and inconvenience the company plans to get all the modern equipment and apparatus necessary to carry out these routine essential quality tests.


How can the farmer improve his lot with this scientific balance of nutrients? it takes the average producer over 4lbs. Of meal to produce one lb. Of bacon. This is at least 25% higher than it should be. The reasons for this vary form a lack of proper management to poor environmental conditions and lack of a quick growing breed of pigs. Feed wastage occurs through careless handling, shallow troughs, excess feeding, especially where floor feeding is practised, and through poor or dilapidated self-feeding troughs. Disease could largely be eliminated by reducing draughts and improving ventilation and insulation in both old and new buildings, also by more careful selection of breeding stock and by controlling human traffic, rodents, birds and other disease producing factors. Sow productivity should be increased form the national average of fourteen bonhams per sow per annum to at least twenty. This can easily be achieved by early weaning. If good weaning weights are to be achieved bonhams must have eccess to creep feed when they are from 10 to 14 days old. A 40lb Bonham at weaning time will go to slaughter about a fortnight before a 20lb Bonham at weaning time. If the bonhams are reared solely on the sow’s milk up to weaning , weaning weights in excess of 20lbs cannot be expected.


"Rhyno Mills is renowned for the production of high quality feed for dairy cows, beef cattle, calves and sheep."


Rhyno Mills,
Church Street,
Co. Kerry,


(+353) 66 7141205

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