500-year old Dublin candle making company founded before Columbus landed in America
World’s oldest trading company plans a candle museum
The world’s oldest trading community has vowed to beat the recession in Ireland and continue its 524 years in business.
Rathborne Candles, based in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown, is regarded as the oldest company in the world still trading.
The Sunday Independent reports that the company was founded in 1488, four years before Columbus discovered America, and has survived everything from plagues to the coming of electricity, gas street lamps and the Second Vatican Council.
Master chandler William Rathborne started the business making candles in Wine Tavern Street in Dublin before the company relocated, first to East Wall and in more recent years, to Blanchardstown.
The report states that the company now plans to open a museum and to expand into the lucrative scented candle market.
Financial director Vincent Brady told the paper: “During the 19th Century, Rathborne Candles had the contract for all the street lighting fittings in Dublin.
“Obviously times are testing now but I can only imagine the meetings they had when electricity was discovered, with the financial guys saying ‘We are doomed’ and the sales guys saying ‘It’ll never catch on.'
“Sales guys are usually very positive and don’t often see the threat.”
The Second Vatican Council provided one difficulty for the company when it decreed that Catholic churches should be stripped of much of their previous ornamentation including elaborate candles.
Brady added: “Fortunately, the meddling ecclesiastical busybodies relented and the traditional church candle survived.
“We make a lot of church candles. There are some great traditions in Ireland such as the blessing of the throat on February 2 and the Christmas Candle in the west of Ireland, a very popular item that people place in their window.
“At present we are not making as many scented candles as we would like, so it is not the biggest part of our market.”
The company is no longer in the hands of the Rathborne family but one American descendant has an open invite to visit at any time.
“The Rathborne family itself has since died out. The last direct descendent of the Rathborne clan lives in America and has a standing invite to come over any time,” said Brady
The company has big plans for the future and is determined to last another 500 years.
“We would like to set up a museum where we could exhibit all the old machines and demonstrate the ancient candle-making skills, and maybe one day return to East Wall which is our ancestral home,” said Brady.
“We have 18 people here and we are hoping to expand this year and take on a few more staff.
“We will keep the flame burning for the next generation who will one day take over Rathborne Candles,” he added.
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