Lord Bandon Inspected the Barytes Mines, Dereenlomane, Ballydehob, on his Property on August 1868. He had been staying at Durrus Court, Carrigbue where the High Sheriff and his sister Lady Mary Aldworth were residing.
Dereenlomane Barytes Mine
Installation of Steam Engine on Lord Bandon’s Barytes Mines (Dereenlomane),1867, and local Road Damage. At the time roads were maintained on contract for a period usual three years approved by the Grand Jury at presentments. At one of these the Rev. Pratt, the local Church of Ireland Minister, pointed out the the road between Durrus and the Mines was in a dreadful state due to the operation of the mines. He felt it unfair that the local population should bear the cost of rehabilitation.
This was originally worked as a copper mine by the Rev. Traill of Schull, assisted by Captain William Thomas in 1840 and they sold 19 tons of copper. They discovered barytes or barium sulphate, a heavy white mineral, used for paint, papermaking for which in the 1850s there was a limited market. An early use was by Josiah Wedgwood in the making of pottery. In 1863 Captain Thomas was chartering boats c 160 tons and shipping the barytes to Messrs Martyn Dennis Liverpool and around 150 people were employed. That year there was a serious flood which resulted in the mine being non operational for a period. In 1867 the mine at what was described as Cahirolickaney Mountain was inaccessible and Captain Thomas built a road from the mine to the Dunbeacon Road nearly a mile long in three weeks. It was marked by a celebration with ‘creature comforts’ in abundance, followed by a dance. Before the road was built the farmers had to carry sea sand and manure along the line of the rocky bed of a river and scramble up the mountain as best they could with back load on horses, men and women. The road was called Wilson’s after one of the promoters by Father O’Regan. There were quite a number of fatalities in the operation of the mine which were mentioned in the local press.
In 1851, 2,500 tons were raised compared to only 800 tons in three other centres in the former United Kingdom. The material was washed, dried, crushed and milled. It was then produced as barytes flour; this was packed into bags and sent to an island jetty in Dunmanus Bay by an aerial ropeway 1.23 miles long. From 1909, the boats carried coal to Dunbeacon and left with barytes. During the War men dived there looking for remnants of coal. Prior to that the ore went by horse and cart to Schull pier. The mine also produced a small tonnage of copper (bornite) and approx 22,000 tons of fine barytes. It was worked by a Liverpool Company controlled by the Roe Brothers; one of the assistant Managers was Mr. Barton. The mine used to be all lit up at night and it looked like a city. At its height up to 500 were employed, supervised by Welsh miners. The numbers employed in 1915 were 150 described as highly paid. Among those who worked there were the father and uncles of Danno Mahony of nearby Derreenlomane the World Wrestling Champion. Bells rang to call the labourers to work in the morning. A report in 1923 described the treatment of the ore as ‘washing, drying, in a revolving furnace, crushing, rolling between steel rollers and milling’. In 1917 a major fire caused extensive damage, including the underground workings. Although repairs were carried out, the mine never recovered its former level of activity. In 1922 the then Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction reviewed the recent history of the mine and commented on it being burnt down in July 1920. Mr Lynburn of the Department expressed a hope that in time with a more relaxed regime re explosives it might re open.
A line of timber pylons ran from the mine site down the steep hillside all the way to Dunmanus Bay. The pylons, anchored to triangular concrete-and-stone foundations, supported a continuous aerial rope and a number of cable cars. The system was powered by a gas engine. The foundations are all still in situ and can be followed to the sea. The ships which carried away the ore landed coal and during the War people dived in the area seeking lumps of coal.
Five hundred men had worked at the mine between 1917-18. Mine water was pumped by a ‘balanced bob’ with the engine house being sited over the main shaft. The gas engine house was located adjacent to the pump house. The mining company entrusted the job of making ore-bearing cable-cars to a local carpenter cum pit-sawyer named Willie Coakley. He seems to have played a considerable role in erecting the aerial ropeway system and in weaving wicker cable-cars to transport ore from mine to sea.
On the first trial of the aerial ropeway, a number of baskets were laden with barytes and sent down the steep hill to their destination, a pier at Dunmanus Bay. From there it was exported to Liverpool, London or Glasgow. However, on releasing the baskets it was discovered that the braking mechanism on the aerial ropeway had failed. On reaching journey’s end, the run-away cable-cars demolished a portion of the aerial rope and caused extensive damage to the system, presumably several pylons were torn from their foundations.
A local wit composed a poem to commemorate the event – the poem was titled ‘Willie Coakley’s Apparatus’ One line of the poem describes the wicker basket in euphemism as ‘a donkey who would never have a foal’
Boats landed at a pier of which a buoy still survives. The Atridge, Shannon and Hegarty families from Rossmore across the Bay jointly owned a fishing boat. They would regularly cross to trade potatoes, vegetables and meat for tobacco and brandy. The Captain was Captain was generally Captain Bousy and afterwards the Attridges were known as the Bousys. It was the custom for the miners to play football at a field near the mine every Saturday afternoon.
In the records of Carrigbui (Durrus) schools there are frequent reference to the parents of the children being miners and often coming in from outside areas often abandoning earlier occupations.
When the mines closed many of the men went to South Wales to work in the coal mine sother to mines in the USA.
At the Dunbeacon side there was an area of houses now derelict which in the early 20th century was a hive of activity and centre of music and dancing known as the ‘Station Heights’. Many of the families were associated with the mines.
When the mines closed many of the miners went to the coal mines of South Wales or to the USA. One of them was Denis John L O’Sullivan, his father originally from Kilcrohane ran a pub in Durrus, who went to the USA and returned. He had a pub in Durrus Village which is still run by his son Danny.
My paternal grandfather, Cornelius Leo Daly worked at this mine up until it was ultimately consumed by fire. The Daly family lived in the Station Heights, a series of attached houses just to the west of the foot of the Mine road where it intersects Dunbeacon Road at Dunmannus Bay. There was little work to be had after the fire and my grandfather eventually immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts to find work and support his wife and four children back home in Ireland. My late father, Cornelius Patrick Daly was just shy of five years old when his father left in 1925 and he often told the story of watching his father leaving in a cart being pulled by a black horse headed off to Cobh and America. Sadly his father died around 1930 as the result of injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. He’s buried in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. These were very hard times for the family back home but they managed with hard work and the generosity of others. Until the day he passed my father considered himself a proud American but always an Irishman first. His and his siblings optimism though the hardest of times inspires me each day. God bless the people of Ireland. There are none finer.
I grew up in Station Heights and recall; your uncle Corney & Aunt Marie (A) either living or (B) visiting when I was a wee lad!