TYRONE INVENTORS

Christy & Martin Mallon, Killeeshil  Photo: © Kevin McSorley

Christy & Martin Mallon, Killeeshil Photo: © Kevin McSorley

A South Tyrone filmmaker has helped to uncover five treasure troves of the area’s hidden history, including the story of how the achievements of two Killeeshil inventors changed the global quarry industry. Over the summer, cameraman Kevin McSorley captured the activities of history buffs from Caledon Regeneration Partnership, Donaghmore Historical Society, Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society, South Lough Neagh Historical Society and the William Carleton Society.

His film was funded by the European Union’s PEACE III programme for PEACE and reconciliation through the ‘Shared History, Shared Future’ project, administered by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council. It reveals the extraordinary story of how two men from Killeeshil, John Finlay and Sylvester Mallon, changed the course of the quarry engineering industry with inventions that are now used around the world. It also features a celebration of the legacy of literary genius William Carleton, born in the Clogher Valley, as well as the history of the Ulster Canal, and South Tyrone’s industrial heritage.

The film shows footage of Finlay and Mallon’s relatives describing the humble origins of both men, and how they were constantly dreaming up new inventions and enterprises on the backs of cigarette packets. The pair, who had great respect for each other, went on to set up factories and companies that employed large numbers of local people, and created the foundations for Tyrone’s world-class engineering industry. Nowadays, approximately 68 percent of the world’s mobile crushing machines is manufactured in the county.

The project was launched at Ranfurly House in February by the Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone. Dr Brian Lambkin, Director of The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, was the guest speaker. In June all five groups were represented at Caledon Courthouse during a visit by the Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to see the work of Caledon Regeneration Partnership. The five historical societies shared with each other an awareness of their own fields of expertise and used it towards a shared understanding of our history and future.

Caledon Regeneration Partnership, formed in 1996, is a not for profit company whose make-up was and continues to be four community representatives, four Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Councillors and three representatives from Caledon Estates Company. In 1997 the Partnership obtained funding from PEACE 1 for the development of a Comprehensive Development Plan for Caledon village. The group has helped to regenerate much of the village including many historically important at-risk buildings, such as Mill Street cottages and the beam engine house at the former mill. Caledon Regeneration Partnership is actively involved in community building initiatives.

Donaghmore Historical Society was formed by a small group of people in 1983 and since then its numbers have swollen. It refurbished what was the National School and is now the Heritage Centre. It built a replica of the Donaghmore High Cross, put Donaghmore Living History on the worldwide web and has, in conjunction with the Heritage Centre, amassed the largest archive of townlands research material in Ireland. Plans are being made to digitize the entire archive and bring townlands research into the 21st century at the touch of a button by providing access to data, using the DHS website.

Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society encourages its membership to take ownership, research, interpret and be informed of the shared history of the area. It is rich in industrial heritage, including the development of machinery for quarry engineering.

South Lough Neagh Historical Society is based on the south shore of Lough Neagh. It is an academically- based society, drawing support from the wider community in their continued search to examine and record the historical and cultural footprint of this diverse area. The project examining the past, present and future of the old Ulster Canal has proved to be both illuminating and beneficial to all the members who participated and their findings are another marker in the history of this old waterway.

The William Carleton Society was re-formed in 2011 and is a cross-community, cross-border group dedicated to promoting the works of the well-known Irish author from County Tyrone and his life and times. It seeks to use his stories of faction-fighting and sectarianism in 19th century Ireland as the basis for talks and discussions on history and literature and the lessons for modern-day society. Since 1992 it has run an annual summer school in the Clogher area, with leading authors, poets and historians among the contributors.

All five groups have contributed to a 100-page booklet, which was published on November at a reception at Ranfurly House in Dungannon on November 19th. The publication printed by Ecclesville Printing Services in Fintona was also funded through the PEACE III project and copies costing £5 will be available from the individual societies from next week. Arcella Films produced the hour-long DVD. For more information and any permission to publish the video pictures contact Kevin McSorley in Cabragh, Dungannon or email the societies. Copyright 2013.

The above article is based on a news release I wrote for the Shared History, Shared Future project and was published in the Tyrone Times on November 22nd.

CAVAN COUNTY MUSEUM

Members of the group at Cavan County Museum  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Members of the group at Cavan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Visit to Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff, by members of the ‘Shared History, Shared Future’ project from South Tyrone. Members of the William Carleton Society joined the other groups on this study trip from Dungannon via Broomfield (coffee break at An Eaglais), the Boyne Valley and Navan to County Cavan. An evening meal was organised at the Lavey Inn.

Coffee Break at An Eaglais, Broomfield Co.Monaghan

Coffee Break at An Eaglais, Broomfield Co.Monaghan

ENNISH FLAX MILL

Howard Bennett at Ennish Scutch Mill

Harold Bennett at Ennish Scutch Mill

For over ten years Harold Bennett from County Tyrone has been devoted to preserving an important part of Ulster’s industrial heritage. Ennish Flax Mill between Aughnacloy and Dungannon is the third generation of his family to own the mill., which closed in 1950. In the early 2000s he decided to renovate the mill, a project which has taken considerable time, money and effort an is still a wok in progress. He has been supported in his efforts by the Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society, which is currently undertaking a project on engineering in the area under the “Shared History, Shared Future” project, of which the William Carleton Society is a member.

Barbeque at Ennish Mill

Barbeque at Ennish Mill

Flax after scutching

Flax after scutching

An open day and barbeque was held at the mill to show it in operation and to give a younger generation an idea of how the mill operated. Ennish started off as a corn mill around 1770 and was owned by the Burges family of Parkanaur Manor near Castlecaulfield. In 1917 William S Bennett purchased the mill from Colonel YS Burges for £255. At that time the flax industry, which was important in Ulster in the 18th and 19th Centuries, was booming. The mill was converted to process flax, which was first scotched in October 1917.

Mill Wheel at Ennish

Mill Wheel at Ennish

Up to 1944 the mill was driven by the mill wheel but because of dry seasons there was insufficient water to turn the wheel. The then owner, William Bennett’s son Hugh John, was obliged to instal an engine to drive the mill. It was installed by AS McKee & Sons of Cranslough, who also carried out a number of renovations in order to accommodate the new engine. Farmers came from surrounding areas such as Crilly, Minteburn, Rehaghey, Brantry, Newmills, Clonavaddy and Castlecaulfield to get their flax scutched. After flowering and ripening in July, the farmers pulled the flax by hand and then soaked it in a water-filled dam for one to two weeks to ret (break down the outer coating). It was then spread on a field to dry before being taken to the mill.

Scutching handles behind the berths

Scutching handles behind the berths

The mill has seven “berths”, the space in front of each flax handle where the scutchers worked. Sometimes they worked in pairs. The first was a “buffer”, who took the rough off the flax, the second was the “cleaner”, who completed the scutching. Good flax could be scutched into long, strong fibres, which could eventually be turned into fine linen cloth. When the scotching was finished, the flax was taken to Union Street in Cookstown for inspection and if it passed the grading process, it was then taken to a linen mill in Belfast and woven int linen fabric. The poorer quality flax containing many shorter fibres was called “tow” and was less valuable. Any cloth made from it was rough and inferior. Usually the mill owner kept the tow as payment or part payment for the scutching.

Ennish Flax Mill

Ennish Flax Mill

Scutching: a dusty process

Scutching: a dusty process

The waste from scutching known as “shoves” or “shows” was a cheap and popular fuel on the hearths of mill workers. A properly lit fire of shoves would burn for hours, emitting an intense heat. It must have been difficult for the seven scutchers working in a confined space and with the noise of the machinery as well as the dust. Harold’s demonstration gave an idea of what conditions must have been like for them, but this picture was with only one blade in action!

According to the mill records for 1945, the workforce consisted of six scutchers, three strickers, one roller and a handyman, whose job it was to remove the shoves from behind the handles. Scutchers were paid by the number of stones scutched and in a good week would earn between £3 and £4. The roller was on a set wage of £2.14.6 and the strickers earned £2.10.0 a week. In 1918 scutchers were paid a bounty of £6.0.0. to secure their services for the next scutching season. The details are taken from an information leaflet kindly provided by Harold Bennett.

Thresher in action

Thresher in action

This is one of only three such flax mills still remaining in Northern Ireland. Another one is at Gorticashel near Gortin, also in Tyrone. The scutching  demonstration was complemented by a display of threshing in the adjoining field. The straw was brought in for the occasion. The thresher carried the name “Boyd” and appeared to come from Maghera.

While researching the history of the linen industry, I discovered a newspaper cutting from the USA which shows that even before the new engine was installed at Ennish, the linen industry was in decline. The Delmarva Star from Wilmington in Delaware carried a report on March 3rd 1935 (p.22) headlined: “Shortage of Flax Threatens Ulster Makers of Linen: Numbers of Mills Face Necessity of Closing Down: Prices Have Made Unexpected Rise“. The news from Belfast (March 2) states that:-

Ulster’s world-famed linen industry today finds itself menaced by an acute shortage of its necessary raw material, flax.

Unless the crisis in the industry is overcome within the next few months, numbers of linen mills in Northern Ireland will be faced with the necessity of closing down.

The outstanding reason for the present crisis is a shortage of flax from Soviet Russia. The linen mills of Northern Ireland, which employ about 85,000 workers, are dependent on Soviet Russia for more than 90 per cent of their raw materials. The Soviet Union itself is the world’s biggest flax producer, growing between 90 and 95 per cent of the world’s total flax supply.

In recent months Germany has bought ever-increasing quantities of Russian flax to take the place of wool and cotton which it has been unable to import owing to exchange restrictions. At the same time the Soviet Union itself has begun to absorb large quantities of its own raw flax to manufacture in its new factories.

The result of these unexpected developments has been a leap upwards in the price of flax. Ulster linen manufacturers state that they have only sufficient flax on hand to meet the needs of the next four or five months, after which they expect the cost of flax to be so prohibitive that it will be impossible to produce linen goods in Northern Ireland at economic prices.

With a steep rise in the price of linen goods expected the next few months, it is understood that United States and other foreign importers of Irish linen have made large purchases in Belfast before prices soar still higher“.

CLOGHER VALLEY RAILWAY

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

The picture shows a train from the Clogher Valley Railway in the Main Street of the border village of Caledon, County Tyrone. In the middle you can see the clock tower of the courthouse. The train is number 6, called Erne.  It was built by Sharp, Stewart No. 3374 of 1887;  0-4-2 tank. It was in service until the railway closed on December 31st 1941 and was scrapped the following year.  The other engines were Caledon (1), Errigal (2), Blackwater (3), Fury (4), Colebrooke (5) and Blessingbourne (7), built by Hudswell, Clarke & co.

Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston

The story of the railway was told at the restored Caledon courthouse this evening by Jack Johnston, who has written extensively about the history of the Clogher Valley. He illustrated the talk with slides, many of them black and white pictures of the operation of the railway which had been taken in the last century. Jack is also President of the William Carleton Society, one of five groups along with Caledon Regeneration Partnership, Donaghmore Historical Society, Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society and South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association taking part in the EU Peace III-funded “Shared History, Shared Future” project.

CVR Coat of Arms

CVR Coat of Arms

The 3ft gauge Clogher Valley Tramway was incorporated on 26th May 1884, the second project under the terms of the 1883 Act.  It opened for traffic on 2nd May 1887 linking Tynan in County Armagh and Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh, both on the broad gauge Great Northern Railway, a distance of 37 miles.  The route covered the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone serving the towns of Caledon, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown.  The railway followed public roads for much of its length and ran down the main streets of Caledon and Fivemiletown.

The railway had a dismal financial performance throughout its lifetime, belying the glowing picture of returns painted in its prospectus.  Nevertheless the Company had extremely ambitious plans for expansion aimed at providing access to the port of Newry and connections with the Cavan and Leitrim line.  None came to fruition however and the CVR remained a local line.

The Clogher Valley Railway lay within the six counties of Northern Ireland when partition occurred in 1922.  The new government in Belfast recommended the takeover of the CVR by the broad gauge Great Northern Railway.  The GNR refused to do this and the CVR retained its independence.  In 1927 however the directors were replaced by a Committee of Management appointed by Tyrone and Fermanagh county councils.

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

The Committee did much to revitalise the line with more and speedier services.  In 1932 a pioneering articulated passenger diesel railcar built by Walkers of Wigan was delivered, along with a diesel tractor unit which could tow a coach or a few wagons.  These were successful in cutting costs and speeding up the service but could only postpone the inevitable end of the basically uneconomic line. For almost all of its existence the railway made a loss and it needed a subsidy from local ratepayers. The greatest profit ever made by the company was in 1904, only £791.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

It was around this time that my great-grandfather John McCann J.P., an auctioneer in Aughnacloy, became a director of the railway. He served on the board for a number of years, under the chairmanship of Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery of Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, I still have a season ticket belonging to him.

ULSTER ENGLISH AGENCY?

St Macartan's Cathedral, Clogher

St Macartan’s Cathedral, Clogher

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald

Much of the discussion about the two communities in Northern Ireland refers to the different backgrounds of the Irish (Gaelic) race and Ulster-Scots. But there is little to be found about a third category that dates back to the time of the Plantation in 1607, Ulster-English. This was the subject of a fascinating talk hosted on St George’s Day at St Macartan’s Cathedral in Clogher, County Tyrone and organised by the William Carleton Society.

The speaker was Dr Paddy Fitzgerald of the Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American folk park in Omagh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Society. Earlier this year he gave an interesting talk about Archbishop John Hughes who came from the Augher area.

Dr Fitzgerald gave an outline of his own family history, which he pointed out had an Ulster-English connection. He explained that this was a different strand than the Ulster Scots. English settlers arrived after 1607 in the Belfast Lough area, moving through the Lagan Valley and South Antrim towards North Armagh and then along the Clogher Valley into Fermanagh. At the end of his talk, he posed the question whether we should have an Ulster-English Agency, because he said the authorities seemed to be promoting Ulster-Scots as the only alternative to the Gaelic and nationalist tradition.

Attendance at St Macartan's Cathedral

Attendance at St Macartan’s Cathedral

The British Museum guide on accents and dialects of Northern Ireland says:-

The Plantation of Ulster…was a planned process of settlement aimed at preventing further rebellion among the population in the north of Ireland. This part of the island was at that time virtually exclusively Gaelic-speaking and had shown the greatest resistance to English colonisation. From the early seventeenth century onwards, Irish lands were confiscated and given to British settlers — or ‘planters’ — who arrived in increasing numbers, bringing the English Language with them. Large numbers of settlers came from southwest Scotland and thus spoke a Scots dialect, while the remaining settlers came predominantly from the north and Midlands of England….

For some considerable time the colonists remained surrounded by Gaelic-speaking communities in County Donegal to the west and the counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan to the south. Thus English in the northeast of the island developed in relative isolation from other English-speaking areas such as Dublin, while the political situation over the course of the twentieth century has meant that Northern Ireland has continued to develop a linguistic tradition that is distinct from the rest of Ireland. Scots, Irish Gaelic, seventeenth century English and Hiberno-English (the English spoken in the Republic of Ireland) have all influenced the development of (Ulster) Northern Irish English, and this mixture explains the very distinctive hybrid that has emerged.”

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald

The William Carleton Society would like to express its thanks to Precentor Noel Regan, for making the Cathedral available for this event. In his absence, the diocesan Curate Reverend Alistair Warke said the Cathedral enjoyed a good relationship with the annual William Carleton summer school and was pleased to be able to host the Society’s first talk in its programme for 2012/13. The talk was part of the “Shared History, Shared Future” project, supported by the EU Peace III programme delivered by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council.      SWPeaceIII_logo_options_2b

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ULSTER ENGLISH

St Macartan's Cathedral, Clogher

St Macartan’s Cathedral, Clogher

Much of the discussion about the two communities in Northern Ireland refers to the different linguistic backgrounds of Irish (Gaelic) and Ulster-Scots. But there is little to be found about a third category that dates back to the time of the Plantation in 1607, Ulster-English. This is the subject of tonight’s talk (7:30pm) hosted on St George’s Day at St Macartan’s Cathedral in Clogher, County Tyrone and organised by the William Carleton Society.  

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald & Malcolm Duffey

Dr Paddy Fitzgerald & Malcolm Duffey

The speaker is Dr Paddy Fitzgerald of the Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American folk park in Omagh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Society. Earlier this year he gave an interesting talk about Archbishop John Hughes who came from the Augher area. The British Museum guide on accents and dialects of Northern Ireland says:-

 “The Plantation of Ulster…was a planned process of settlement aimed at preventing further rebellion among the population in the north of Ireland. This part of the island was at that time virtually exclusively Gaelic-speaking and had shown the greatest resistance to English colonisation. From the early seventeenth century onwards, Irish lands were confiscated and given to British settlers — or ‘planters’ — who arrived in increasing numbers, bringing the English Language with them. Large numbers of settlers came from southwest Scotland and thus spoke a Scots dialect, while the remaining settlers came predominantly from the north and Midlands of England…. 

For some considerable time the colonists remained surrounded by Gaelic-speaking communities in County Donegal to the west and the counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan to the south. Thus English in the northeast of the island developed in relative isolation from other English-speaking areas such as Dublin, while the political situation over the course of the twentieth century has meant that Northern Ireland has continued to develop a linguistic tradition that is distinct from the rest of Ireland. Scots, Irish Gaelic, seventeenth century English and Hiberno-English (the English spoken in the Republic of Ireland) have all influenced the development of (Ulster) Northern Irish English, and this mixture explains the very distinctive hybrid that has emerged.”

Admission to the talk is free. It is part of the “Shared History, Shared Future” project, supported by the EU Peace III programme delivered through Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council.    EU flag2colorsDSTBC LogoSWPeaceIII_logo_options_2bpaddyfitz