Eamon McAllister left school facing an uncertain future. In 1954, Newry, Co. Down, was enduring economic decline. It had once been an important port because its canal linked coastal shipping to Northern Ireland's industrial hinterland, but political and economic changes had erased its relative advantage. Jobs of any kind were scarce, and well-paid ones even more so. So, Eamon and his brother Patrick did what Newry men had done for generations. They went to sea.

It was 1956, Eamon was sixteen, and he would be away with the merchant navy more or less continuously for the next 14 years. He sailed to the Brazilian Amazon and traded good and crude oil around Caribbean ports. He was on shore leave in Havana during the Cuban Revolution and witnessed taxi drivers moving arms around the city. He was on the last ship to sail through the Suez Canal before the Egyptian authorities closed global trade's most important artery and sparked the 1956 crisis. After that, he did a stint in England and sailed to the Russian Arctic.

He came home to stay in 1968, just as the Troubles entered their most violent phase. Not much had changed economically. Work was still hard to find, and people took whatever jobs they could. Yet, as in all times and places, there were opportunities for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Eamon's younger brother Michael had established a construction company with his school friend. His elder brother Patrick returned from the merchant navy and put his mechanical skills to work in the Ballylumford power station. What would Eamon do? His time at sea had taught him valuable rigging skills, so he took work in a steel fabrication company where he hoisted heavy parts. It was steady, but it didn't sit well with him.

In the late sixties, Northern Ireland's government was casting around for sources of economic growth. Purpose-built towns were enjoying a heyday in Great Britain – so-called "New Towns" like Milton Keynes and Cumbernauld were meeting with some success – and it seemed that a similar plan might work in Co. Down. Craigavon would link the established towns of Lurgan and Portadown, provide homes for a growing population, and new facilities for industry. A quasi-governmental development commission would build it from scratch.

Eamon recognised the opportunity straight away. He hired a few other Newry men and approached the commission to do contract cleaning work preparing homes, schools, and railway stations for their new occupants. His brother Michael was shuttering concrete on some of the same projects. However, the real prize was to secure work at the enormous Goodyear factory in the new town's industrial estate. 

"One day, we decided to go over and ask if there was any work on," Eamon recalls. "The head engineer gave us a go. We were doing small jobs – getting to things that their maintenance crews couldn't cover. It was a massive factory that employed over 2000 people. There were also 15 miles of drains, and their guys were having trouble keeping them clear. So I went over to Liverpool and bought a jetting machine, and I got the contract for doing all their drains."

Soon enough, he was busier than he had ever been. His brothers saw his success and recognised that they could take it much further with innovation and enterprise. So Patrick left his job at the power station, and Michael arranged for his partner to buy him out of his construction company.

McAllister Brothers Ltd. was born.

Northern Ireland’s government never realised its vision for Craigavon, and the Goodyear factory would close in 1983, but McAllister Brothers went from strength to strength. Eamon and his brothers won contracts with Belfast City Council and the Department for Infrastructure. Their vans and jetting machines multiplied. 

We are driven by innovation and enterprise. Take CCTV surveying, for example.

Today, CCTV surveying is an essential part of our work. We use cameras mounted on small robots to explore drains, understand the work we have to do, and review the work we've completed. This technology was new in the 1980s, but we saw its potential even then. McAllister Brothers was the first company to use CCTV surveying in Ireland and among the first in the UK. The first systems were rudimentary – our technicians dragged the camera through pipes on a simple sledge.  We invested in our first PearPoint robotic crawler CCTV system in 1988. We adopted new technology as it evolved – moving from VHS to digital, from DVDs to cloud data storage. 

We continue to boast the most advanced CCTV surveying equipment and expertise in the industry. WinCan's ground-breaking software helps us collate the vast amount of data our survey teams collect. An array of new hardware enhances our CCTV survey capabilities – optical zoom, pan and tilt cameras, laser scanners. We use the data they collect to create interactive, 3D models that inform better decision-making by developers and water authorities. Since 1987, our survey teams have recorded over 5 million metres of pipeline – roughly the distance from London to Beijing – and more than 125,000 manholes.

We were early adopters of trenchless technology and cured-in-place pipe lining, too. We introduced both to Ireland during the 1990s, helping our customers maintain pipelines without disturbing the surface environment.  

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, McAllister continued to grow. We took on projects as far away as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and increased our presence across Ireland and the UK.

In the 2000s, the three brothers – Eamon, Patrick, and Michael – handed control of McAllister to a new generation. Eamon’s sons Peter and Leo now lead the company, inspired by the innovation and enterprise that drove their predecessors. Their brother-in-law, Dan Watson, established our London office in 2011.

McAllister’s commitment to working at the cutting edge, investing in our people, and taking on challenges has made us leaders in the environmental services industry. Get in touch today, and discover what our heritage of excellence can do for you.