Local company Balcas has been looking to their roots as they this week mark 60 years as a limited company.

One of Fermanagh’s largest employers, the company's story began under devastating circumstances following a hurricane, as a Balcas spokeswoman explained.

“When Hurricane Debbie struck Ireland on September 16, 1961, it caused terrible devastation and loss of life, and 18 people were killed – including four in Cavan, and two in Fermanagh. It also did great damage to agriculture and forestry.”

The company was formed as a joint business venture between the Abercorn family and George Kidney following the hurricane.

“On the Baronscourt estate in Tyrone, 778 acres of plantation – thousands of trees – were felled with potentially huge losses for the proprietors, the Abercorn family.”

Adding context, the spokeswoman said: “Fallen trees have less commercial value than trees that are still growing, and their condition also deteriorates if they are not quickly processed.

"The Abercorns did have a sawmill on their estate, but it did not have the capacity to deal with such a huge volume of fallen timber.”

George Kidney was a fourth generation saw-miller, with a mill at Ballycassidy, near Enniskillen. Enterprising and hard-working, he was the Chair of the Northern Ireland Home Timber Merchants, and approached the Abercorns to discuss the possibility of a joint business venture.

The result was an investment of £20,000, and the formation of a limited company in August, 1962, with James, Marquis of Hamilton (now the Duke of Abercorn) as Chairman.

The involvement of the Abercorn family, initially intended as a short- to medium-term investment, lasted for more than 40 years.

Things developed quickly for the business the spokeswoman explained: “The formation of the limited company led to a massive expansion of the business.

"A new site was procured a short distance from the old mill, and a new mill built, incorporating the latest technology.

"George’s three sons joined the business and new products and markets were developed. While remaining committed to the core business at Ballycassidy, other businesses at Kildare, Glengormley, Magherafelt, Newtowngore, Invergordon in Scotland, in Estonia, Russia, and in Canada, played a part in our history. The name was changed to Balcas in 1991.

Concluding, the spokeswoman for Balcas said: “Here we still are [at Ballycassidy], 60 years later, becoming one of the largest employers in Fermanagh and contributors to the local rural economy.

"Over the 60 years, our aggregate local payroll has been around a half a billion pounds.

"Our history has seen generations of several families make a career at Balcas, and our greatest wish is to continue to provide excellent opportunities for our young people for many more decades to come.”