A Brief History of the Old Mill

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OLDMILL 

PLACE NAME - It is possible that the name Old Mill came from the historic townland of Ballyine. Located half a mile away from the shrine in a south-west direction is the ancient fort called An SIDHEAN. This single-ring earthwork, from its name must have been associated with some of the earliest settlers in Ireland, possibly the Tuatha de Danann. 
It is rare to find a Rath on the steep hillside 500 feet up. A reason could be that when superior invaders arrived, they retreated to the security of the wooded hills.  

It is very probable that this ancient fort has given its name to the townland, BAILE in tSIDHEAN corrupted to Baile Shidheain and then to Ballyine. This is the largest townland in the locality and the land varies from bogland, heath and rushes at 1000 feet on the bleak hilltop to some excellent grazing land 700 feet lower down at the Old Mill. This was excellent tillage country too, and corn was grown intensively in the district.  

The Old Mill Bridge had been included in all the O.S. 6inch maps since they were first published in 1857 and the tradition of its existence had always been strong. In 1959 Jim Heffernan discovered on his land the original Old Mill or mills, about 200 yards upstream from the bridge. The water mill was discovered near the bank of a stream and further investigation revealed what may have been the Mill Race.  

Adjacent to the remains of the Mill and to the nearby stream was a shallow depression approximately 940 sq. metres in an area which may have been the Mill Pond. Two hundred metres away in the same field and on the same stream bank a 2nd stone structure was discovered. This also may have been part of the mill. The stone foundations and numerous parts of the Mill wheels and millstones of two mills were excavated under the supervision of Prof. M.J. Kelly of Cork Public museum. All the wooden parts and several pivot stones are now preserved in the Museum in Cork.  

It appears that the Mill was dismantled when it fell into disuse. Its gears must have been taken away and its stone work used for building purposes elsewhere. An unique feature of the Mill was the fact that the waterpower was derived from two different streams, one beside the Mill, the other an incredible one and half miles away. An explanation would suggest that on a dry year, the nearby stream failed to drive the Mill. Rather than admit failure and abandon the mills the determined people turned to the Dually stream one and half miles away. With spade and shovel they dug a trench to divert the stream into the Millpond. No mean achievement in those far off days.  

From the five crossroads at the Old Mill Bridge the huge rock which named the townland stands in a field about a half a mile away. A narrow boreen on the right takes one to a small circular fort. It is known as Bohernabreena, the road of hospitality. No doubt a welcome road and a well-known road to the traveller of yore going to visit the fort. 

 

SWEET OLD MILL.  

As I sit beside the fireside, 
My day’s work it being through 
My memories do wander back 
When I was a lad like you 
My poor old heart it skips a beat 
When I think of the thrill 
Of those happy days 
When a youth like you 
I spent round sweet Old Mill 

The above lines were written by Tony Geoghegan of Glensharrold in 1989 describing the happy times he spent around Sweet Old Mill. It is the song most associated with the area and takes pride of place on the front page of the Sports Club’s Calendar for 2000. “Lovely Glenagowan” written by Bridget Woulfe is another lovely song about the surrounding area. The songs capture the times, places and people to good effect, giving a sense of pride and loyalty to one’s own place. The Old Mill is a crossroads joining Newcastle west, Carrickerry, Ardagh, Rooskagh, etc. It is not listed on many maps but the people located there have put it to the forefront of affairs through their efforts and special skills and talents.  

Its name comes from the Mill that was in operation there in times past. It is set in the quite countryside adorned with green pastures linking it to mainly agricultural activities. The people mix freely from surrounding townlands similar to the neighboring areas which has no boundaries either. In times past its great attractions included the dance hall, handball alley, Mulcahy’s pub, Creamery Mill and Forge. Sadly, over the years all of the above have fallen by the wayside apart from the pub which is still the focal point of community life. The memories of happy times spent there are fondly recalled when people gather to recall past times, the visits to the creamery and Forge by the farming community, the games of handball played in the long hot summer evenings when the locals gathered around the bridge.  

The weekly dances and Lenten plays in the hall by the river where all the big bands of the time played. A lot of people met their partners there and the row of bicycles lined up outside was a scene from the Ballroom of Romance. 

OLD MILL PUB - Kate Mulcahy’s pub at the Old Mill was always very popular with people of the district. It was well situated for the surrounding trade and catered for passers by also. It was a great place for dances and card playing. It was also a place to converse and enjoy the Woodbine and Guinness in a relaxed manner. Katie was a great sort who got on very well with her customers. It was later owned by the Hurley and the O’Connor family. Bill and Nora O’Connell are the present owners and it remains the popular social outlet in the locality.  Since this article was written the Pub has changed hands twice, it was owned by Eamon and Mary O’Neill from September 2000 until 2004. Now it is owned by John & Amanda Kinsella, natives of Dublin.   

ENTERTAINMENT - Paddy Burns and his father before him had a forge at Ballyine and were known as great Blacksmiths. It was a popular venue for children and adults alike. It was the hub of farming life where all repairs were carried out. It was always crowded on a wet day and the crack was always good. It was a learning experience for the children to see such a variety of work being carried out. They marvelled at the shoeing of a colt and the paring of a hoof. The work of the bellows in bringing dark coals to life and the sparks as they soared towards the roof. The hiss of the water as it cooled a hot object. The old forge is now gone and the ring of the anvil heard no more beside the bridge near Sweet Old Mill. 

DANCE HALL - The dance hall enjoyed great popularity in the fifties. Music was supplied by the Glenside Ceile Band amongst others and the dance was the highlight of the week. Admission cost was 4 old pence and dancing was from 8 until late and the only way home was on the trusty Raleigh bike. It was all ceile and old time music with “The Northern Lights” and “The old Rustic Bridge by the Mill” in great demand. 
HAND BALL - In the Summer time it was the turn of the Handball Alley to attract attention. The locals gathered to converse and play the games of their lands. Happy evenings were spent there after the day’s work was done.  On Sundays it was off to Glenastar Waterfall and the Bathing hole to swim and splash the time away. Hunting and fishing were other pastimes to be pursued by sporting folk in the good old days. 

PEOPLE - Joseph Kennedy, Ballyine got 10 years penal servitude for his part in the attack on Ardagh Barracks in 1867 as part of the Fenian Rising. He is buried in Ardagh Cemetery underneath a headstone bearing the inscription praising his heroic devotion to the cause of Irelands national Independence. 

The first time the thresher came to the district was in 1913 when it came to Ned Heffernan’s farm at Ballyine. The road from Old Mill to Ballyine was being made at that time and when the thresher came its wheels cut two furrows in the road, such was the weight. The road was made by Maurice Barrett who was contracted to do the work. People from all over the district came to see the thresher at work. It was operated by William Cott from Banteer in Cork, and his fee for the work was £1.  

Edward Buckingham owner of Glenastar Lodge sailed solo around Ireland in 1995. It took him 26 days to cover the 917 nautical miles and he pulled into 23 different points along the way. He generated electricity from Glenastar Waterfall after taking ownership of the Lodge and was also a past administrator of Rathfredagh Cheshire Home.  

Thomas Mulvihill, Ballinabearna won County Student of the year Award in Farming in 1998. He received his Teagasc Farm Certificate from Senator Mary Jackman, Chairperson of Limerick County Council. 

 Gerry O’Neill, a native of the Old Mill, has enjoyed a very successful career in racing. He has won numerous races in Ireland and England with his win on Chance Coffey at Chelternam in 1995 a particular highlight for owner P.J. O’Donnell, trainer Pat O’Donnell and himself. He is now retired from riding but still involved as a trainer. 

 Father Bob Ambrose was born in Dunganville. He took part (with his brother Stephen) in the attack on Ardagh Barracks on March 5th 1867. Stephen was wounded and they both went on the run. Stephen made his way to America and Bob joined the Priesthood. He served as curate with Farther Casey P.P, Abbeyfeale. He took a prominent role in the struggle against the Landlords when Curate of Ardagh/Carrickerry and helped during the plan of Campaign at Glensharrold. He played a prominent role of the birth of Ardagh creamery. He died as Parish Priest of Glenroe on the 8th of April 1926 and is buried in the Churchyard of Glenroe. 

 The late Moss Hurley played a big part in community life in around Old Mill. He excelled on the playing fields of West Limerick winning honours with Kilcolman/Ardagh, Newcastle West and a County senior football medal with Western Gaels in 1960. He was an officer and selector with Newcastle West and Chairman of the Old Mill Sports club providing a field for their games. He was also associated with the Old Mill and Ardagh Creamery and a member of the all-conquering Old Mill Tug O War team. He also excelled in quizzes and was a gentleman through and through. He was called home on December 30th 1995. 
Joan O’Riordan has been at the forefront of ICA Affairs locally and nationally for a long number of years. A great promoter of the federation she was County Limerick President in 1994 and was also the National Secretary of the  

Bernard McCoy and the Old Mill Foxhounds have travelled the fields of limerick and beyond for the last 15 years or so. The service they provide is vital in keeping the number of predators at bay. Bernard has been rewarded with the title of Master of the Hounds and Huntsman with the County Limerick Hunt. 

 On the musical front Margaret Heffernan launched a tape of her songs a number of years ago and took part in the gay Byrne Show Gala Concert at the National Concert hall in Dublin in 1993. 

 Jim Heffernan was a historian of note who provided a lot of information for publication about his own locality. 
Seamus Upton has been involved in go-cart racing over the years and also took part in car rallying. 
Liam O’Sullivan has been making a name for himself on the golf circuit and was a winner of the Musgrave Cup at Newcastle west. 

 The Kelly brothers from the Old Mill were the talk of west Limerick for many a day. They had a chequered sporting career that spanned many decades. Their feats on the playing fields have long since entered the Gaelic games Hall of Fame. They assisted both Killcolman, Ardagh and Newcastle West in hurling and football. Willie, Jack, Jim and tom helped Western Gaels to win the 1960 limerick Senior Football Championship. Jack was captain and was also the Limerick Footballer of the Year. The tales associated with their exploits, be it sport or every day life, should be recorded for posterity. Greyhounds and tug O War were other great passions of the foursome best summed up by the Bard of Dually in his poem: - 

All over West Limerick they talk of them still 
The footballing Kelly brothers out from the Old Mil 
In goal there was Willie, so eagle of eye 
Not a maybe would pass that custodian by 
Was there ever a full-back of such vigour and vim? 
As the Kelly who’s known far and wide as Big Jim 
At centre half forward was playmaker Jack 
How I pitied his opponents at centre half back 
They say Galway’s Frank Stockwell was full forward supreme 
But that’s cause no writer Tom Kelly had seen 

So here’s to the Kellys out from the Old Mill 
In my footballing memories they’re ne’er over the hill 
And when I spin the reel of my memory back 
I see Willie and Big Jim and Big Tom and Jack 
If you were football gurrier seeking someone to kill 
You didn’t pick on the Kellys out from the Old Mill 

SPORTS CLUB - The Old Mill Sports Club came into being in 1991 to cater for the needs of boys and girls in the catchment area. It has been an outstanding success story to date. They have won major honours in Community Games, under age soccer and ladies football. County and All Ireland titles have been won and players from the club have captained and represented the county. They have also acted as selectors and managers. They have held positions on various boards and refereed at the highest levels. It would take a separate article to deal in depth with the club. 

CENTENUARY RE-UNION - On August 12th, 1962, open air Mass was celebrated in Ballyine. The occasion was the centenary re-union of Ballyloughane School, a half mile south of the Marian Shrine. Built exactly 100 years ago, and still in excellent shape, the school was opened by the then Earl of Devon, Landlord of the district and one of the good landlords. His Lordship, not very sure of his geography, incorrectly named the school Ballyloughane. This hillside centre of learning was of course in Ballyine but the wrong name stuck and was never changed. Mass was celebrated by the late Canon O’Brien P.P., assisted by Fr. O’Connor, C.C., both Ardagh/Carrickerry. A total of 300 past and present pupils attended and joined in the celebrations. No less than ten octogenarians attended, all hale and hearty. Among them came one from Philadelphia, Mrs. Hannah Heffernan, a nonagenarian and all enjoyed the occasion. The school continued to serve the district until it closed its doors on June 30th 1969 after 107 years of service. 

PRESENT TIMES -  In the past couple of years Old Mill village has received a facelift thanks to the FAS project in conjunction with Carrickerry village. A general clean up has taken place around the bridge. Stone walls have been built incorporating the place name and mill stone in a prominent place and new footpaths laid. The Jehovah Witnesses erected a Kingdom Hall over a weekend in the Autumn of 1968. A number of new houses have been built close by. New industry has taken the place of agriculture and emigration by choice only. The millennium candle burned ever so brightly around the Old Mill on New Year’s eve as they looked ahead to a bright future. 
Thanks to all who helped me to compile this article to commemorate and I dedicate it to all the lovely people who reside there. Apologies for omissions as none was intended. I hope some local person will write the history of the district in the near future as it deserves. 

So now to conclude my story 
And bid you all adieu 
And leave you with one thought in mind 
Of a comrade loyal and true 
God be with you, Noel my friend 
Your memory haunts me still 
And those happy days we worked side by side  
In the fields around Sweet Old Mill 

___________________________________ 

Photo: Beautifully carved Mural at the Old Mill Bridge - Courtesy of Liam Downes. 

Article above was wrote by Tom Aherne, featured in the Weekly Observer 05/January/2000 and transcribed by the Old Mill Facebook Page 

Posted on IrelandXO by:  

St Kieran's Heritage Association 

Website https://www.facebook.com/Old-Mill-1392500560992955/
Parish(es) Ardagh (Limerick)
Category (ies) Heritage/Culture Local Organisation