The River Licky – A Rich Vein of History
Like most other rural areas of the country at the end of The Great Famine years, the parish of Clashmore & Kinsalebeg was also experiencing the after effects of the heavy toll felt after successive potato crop failures and the latent dereliction of the very poorest in society by many of the ruling classes of the time.
This was the backdrop which enabled an ‘Industrial Age’ of sorts to develop in the immediate aftermath of this period as various enterprises, including the two industries which we will deal with here, flourished along the banks of the River Licky, namely Glenlicky Mill and the Slate Quarries.
This particular juncture on the River Licky at Drumgullane was important of course, especially for the Corn Mill, as it’s breadth and relative flow was key to running suitably efficient mill races to drive the mill wheels themselves. It is reputed that Glenlickey Mill ran four mill wheels at one period in time, although it is not clear whether that refers to the later Mill which we will mostly deal with here or the earlier Corn Mill located a short distance further downstream.
Records for the earlier Corn Mill are scant but it is evident on the Griffiths Valuation Map, which was surveyed in 1841, when it was located a few hundred metres downstream at Clashganny (or alternatively Kilmaloo) which is close to the site of the contemporary Fish Farm. Hence it is clear that it was operating in the pre-famine period and as of 1848 it was still owned by an Anthony Fitzgerald who was leasing much or all of the Clashganny townland from Sir John Kennedy, Baronet, but was presumed to be idle at that point as the later Glenlicky Mill was in operation by then.
According to the Valuation Office Books for the area, as of January 1848, Thomas Fuge Esq. was leasing the Glenlicky Corn Mill and associated House and Lands from a Rev. James Elliot, who was a large landowner in the area and also owned Lackendarra House. Thomas Fuge himself was a large landowner and held the remainder of Drumgullane West and was resident at Rock Lodge, Youghal. The image from Figure 1 is from the later 2nd Ed. OSI Map which is from around the turn of the 19th century. The Miller running the operation initially was a Daniel Stack who lived nearby at Drumgullane. We know that at least two mill wheels were in operation here which were driven by an approx. 500 metre mill race and both would have been controlled by sluice gates (See Fig. 2) to vary the flow and often a ‘headgate’ would also be employed to control the ‘head race’ at the top of the channel and a ‘tail race’ to redirect the water back into the River Licky further downstream.
As can be seen on Figure 1, the mill race was also culverted under the main access road to the mill for a few metres on the southern bank which is still easily visible today. The elevation of the mill race at Drumgullane (which is still mostly extant) is typical of an ‘overshot’ water wheel system (Fig. 3) which was considered the most efficient system at that time. All that survives of the Mill building today is a solitary corner wall standing at approx. 8m high with no visible evidence of the possible wheel-pit locations.
From the Schools Folklore Collection of the mid 1930’s, the Mill was still very much in living memory and was said to be;
…built by the Fuge family of Glencairn* to help the people by giving employment during the dark days of the famine. The road from Ath na Ceardchan to the Mill was made by them the same time the workmen getting about four pence a day. This mill was working within living memory and farmers from all the district brought their corn there to be ground. The Fuges left Glencairn and the mill was idle…Dúchas – Schools Folklore Collection
* This possibly refers to “Glencorrin” as some of the Fuge family lived at Glencorrin House, Ardmore and the family don’t appear to have any association with Glencairn. Also Richard Fuge was forced to flee Glencorrin House in 1921 during the War of Independence which would further explain the reference. The school collection account also mentions that the Mill was demolished during the time of the ‘Troubles’ with most of the building being ‘robbed’ out, leaving the solitary piece of standing wall that is to be seen today.
Thomas Fuge died in 1883, but it would appear the Mill was still in use up to at least 1911 when brothers Declan & John Shea, Drumgullane were attributed to be the Miller and Miller’s assistant.
Glenlicky Slate Quarries
At the height of slate production in the River Licky valley, the operation as a whole was known by the aforementioned title including Knockbrack & Kilgabriel Quarries, but of course the star of the show was undoubtedly the Knockbrack Slate Quarry which was known far and wide for the quality of its slate.
The earliest records we have show that Mrs. Eleanor Fitzgerald was the owner of the Slate Quarries at Knockbrack as of 1848 so presumably it had been running as such an operation previous to this. By 1851, the Coughlan family of Knockbrack had acquired the land and quarry and soon after, Declan Treacy of Piltown was leasing out the Quarry for slate production purposes. A public notice from the time reported;
To landed Proprietors and Agents, also to Builders and Building Parties in general: The working of Glenlickey Slate Quarries of Kilgabriel and Knockbrack (situate within 3 miles of Youghal and one mile of Clashmore, on both or opposite sides of the River Lickey), has been resumed for some time past, and is condueted by a Foreman of many years experience in the working of the Bangor or Welsh Slates. The quality of the Slates in either Quarry, for size, Soundness and Durability has been long established. Application to be made to Declan Tracy, Piltown, near Youghal or at the Quarries. May 19th, 1855...Cork Examiner – May 25th 1855
A vital service for an industry such as a Quarry would have been a forge for tools and repairs etc. and for many years the blacksmith was a Maurice Power (1847 – 1942) whose forge was immediately adjacent to the Knockbrack Quarry site. He was preceded in this trade by a Michael Daly, also from Knockbrack.
Again borrowing from the scholarly words of the Ballycurrane School pupils, it was remembered in 1935 that;
…the Knockbrack Quarry supplied all the slate roofing here about a hundred years ago. The slate on the school came from there. It was rather small and heavy and was not polished off like the English slate as they had not the requisite machinery. It was owned by the Coughlan family. Some years ago it was acquired by the Killaloe Company and was worked for a while. Some fine slate was got but it was abandoned again…”Dúchas – Schools Folklore Collection
According to Canon Power’s The Placenames of the Decies in 1907, Knockbrack Slate was exhibited at the famed Cork Exhibition of 1902 which was held at the Mardyke in Cork on a site which is today occupied by Fitzgerald’s Park and the Mardyke Arena grounds. It was reported that
the specimens on show were “in use for 45 years and apparently looked as well as ever…”. No surprise then that all the Churches, Schools and ‘Big’ Houses of this parish were roofed with this slate, as well as some of the older houses in Youghal. It was also stated that Dromana Estate was a big client of the slate.
The Slate Quarries seem to live long into recent memory and this was likely due to the fact that it was reported in September 1933 that the Killaloe Slate Company had re-opened the Knockbrack Slate Quarry with the assistance of a £300 funding grant to the Quarry owners from the Department of Industry & Commerce towards development and exploration works at the site in an effort to relieve unemployment. Economically it seemed to be a viable initiative at the time as it was reported that supply of slate had run dry in the general area and building contractors such as Murray & Sons of Youghal had complained of a severe shortage of slates for large housing projects in the town. It was planned to erect some heavy machinery at the site, such as a 3-Tonne Crane from Butter Brothers, Glasgow driven by a compound cylinder steam engine and a large steam-driven air compressor for rock excavation and boring. Also some ancillary works were needed such as some new rail tracks in different parts of the quarry for the conveyance of debris or spoil via the ‘Bogie’ rail cars (Like the example in Fig. 6).
It was hoped that once the site was cleared and prepared that excavations would be carried out to a much greater depth than before till the proper slate with the required ‘cleavage’ was obtained, after which the new company would begin work under their own capital with the hope that 30 – 50 men would be employed at that point. It is not clear how successful that latest venture became but it seems obvious from the Schools Collection accounts that it may already have ceased production again by 1935.
BibliographyDáil Éireann Díospóireacht – Dé Céadaoin, 20 Feabh 1935 (n.d.)
British Parliamentary Papers On Ireland (n.d.)
National Archives of Ireland, Office Valuation Books (n.d.)
Dungarvan Observer, Sep 30th, 1933 (n.d.)
Waterford Standard, Various Dates (n.d.)
Cork Examiner, Various Dates (n.d.)
Images courtesy of www.corkheritage.ie, www.gracesguide.co.uk
Maps courtesy of OSI Historical Maps