Friday, March 4, 2022

Remembering Patrick Keating and Kealy Mines Ltd.


Michael and Paul Keating

At the beginning of February Michael and Paul Keating visited the Commons and spent the afternoon in the Old School. They are the sons of Patrick Keating who along with business partner Gilbert Howely established Kealy Mines Ltd. in 1978.

Michael and Paul shared their memories of Kealy Mines and their fathers fascination with mines and mining and the difficulties that he and the mines encountered. As young teenagers the Kealy boys went to work with their father during their school holidays, both worked above ground. Michael being the elder also worked underground over a couple of summers. Like all young miners he started off hurrying or pushing the tubs to the bottom of the crank and was well supervised when he was underground. They also remembered that their mother like most miners wives fully supported her husband but had little idea of the dangerous and extremely hard work that he and the miners did.
Michael lights the carbide lamp in 2012
In 2012 the Keating family presented a carbide lamp to the Old School in memory of the miners and their fathers involvement in the area. This generous gesture was the start of the collection of artefacts now kept on display in the Old School. They also brought their fathers theodolite, with lights- specially designed for underground use to the gathering. That evening and since other ex-miners and their families also brought artefacts from their times in the mines and these objects help give an actual link to this fascinating and dangerous heritage. 
Lamp and other artefacts in The Old School

In time we will bring you more of the Keating family stories of mining in Slieveardagh.
More about Kealy Mines Ltd can be found in the Tipperary Coalmines website:

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Geological Survey Ireland shares link to Tipperary Coalmines Website


This month has got off to a good start for our coal mining heritage. Geological Survey Ireland has included the Tipperary Coalmines Website in their online Events and News section.

While assembling the material for the blog and website  we were in contact with Geological Survey Ireland for permissions to use images of old abandonment plans and material about the mines in the Slieveardagh Coalfield given to us in 2013. Geologist Siobhan Power of the Information Programme offered to promote our site through a link to it and on their social media. 

This is the introduction to the Tipperary Coalmines website in the Geological Survey Ireland ‘Latest News’ page 

02 February 2022

The Tipperary Coalmines Website acts as a virtual museum for the historic coal mining of the Slieveardagh Coalfield, Co Tipperary, which operated into the 1980's. The website has been released on behalf of the Slieveardagh Mining Interest Group, and has many engaging features including: Virtual Tours; information on mining artefacts; and details on the mining history and heritage that still exists in the local communities today. 

The human stories and heritage surrounding the collieries are the core focus of the website….. Accounts from miners that worked across the Slieveardagh Coalfield are a website highlight and give an insight into the gruelling yet rewarding work that was done.

 The Tipperary Coalmines Website can be found here

This is a great recognition of the importance of the mining history, we only have the coal mining heritage because of geology and we thank Geological Survey Ireland in helping us spread the awareness of this history.  

Saturday, January 8, 2022

100 years ago, Slieveardagh Miners in the Transport Union Newspaper


This article on the miners of the Commons and Ballingarry was published on the 7th of Janurary 1922
  Thank you to Terry Dunne of Peelers and Sheep who tweeted this article from 100 years ago. 

Transcription of the article in the Transport Union Newspaper the 'Voice of Labour'

All power to the Soviets. The miners here, whose patience is exhausted waiting for the much-lauded mining company to come to their relief, have bravely taken into their own hands the working of some of the mines. All power to them. They are the first of the boys of sweet Slieveardagh to do the proper thing- namely, to keep themselves and their wives and children from dying with hunger and want when the way and the means were at their hands. Those fine Irishmen are miners who can work, and are willing to work, still work is denied to them. What are they to do? If the bloated capitalist was to answer, he’d tell them “ Wait until the Free State would function, and then there would be plenty of work for all in mines and factories.” But the bloated, idle parasite, while giving such an answer wouldn’t feel the want of anything himself. Go on, brave workers of the Commons and Ballingarry, work the mine. What the Lord put at your feet for your benefit, stoop down and pick it up. Allow no enemy to stop you without knowing the reason why? Where does the Free State come in if men are still to be slaves? But we won’t be slaves. He who would be free himself must strike the blow: labour’s arm alone can labour free. Up, the Commons’ Soviet and the O.B.U.!

The O.B.U (One Big Union) was a radical labour union formed in Western Canada in 1919 and dissolved in 1956. 

 As was the way, the arrival of the new Free State did not improve the life of the miners, post first World War it was recorded that there was no dynamite and commercial mining had stopped. During the 1920's the small basset mines became the dominate way of reaching coal in the Slieveardagh hills for the next twenty years until the arrival of the State mining Company Mianrai Teoranta. See website Mines Sites / Virtual Tour page Mianrai Teoranta 1941- 1952

Another record of the Commons and Ballingarry miners being in difficulty was in 1848. This piece is from the website Mines Sites / Virtual Tour page The Commons Colliery 19th Century

During the Young Irelanders' Rebellion of 1848, colliers from the Commons and Ballingarry joined the insurgency. In response to the situation the Mining Company of Ireland, fired a quarter of the workforce, and put the rest on half-time. 

The company's half yearly reports from 1842 on recorded that there was too great a quantity of unsold coal, more culm than coal was being purchased by farmers for lime kilns. In 1844 the miners were on a four day week with full pay but from 1846 to 1852 (during the great famine) there was very little demand for coal. The miners involvement in the Young Irelanders' Rebellion gave the Mining Company of Ireland an excuse to fire a quarter of the workforce and reduce the remaining workers hours. It seems that they did not need the miners to work as they had more product than they were able to sell. In 1853 Guinness's bought coal from the Mining Company of Ireland and the Colliery and miners did work on, with the Commons Colliery abandonment plan dated 1887. 

Does anyone have any information about a miners strike at Copper Colliery in the late 1950's probably 1957

The strike was broken on the eve of a settlement that would have provided for safety measures including masks and wet boring. The two Union leaders (brothers from The Commons) elected to represent the striking miners were blacklisted and no longer had jobs in the reopened mines. They and their families emigrated in the early 1960's. Sadly both men died young from 'Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease'. Does anyone have any recollections of this strike or any records, reports or newspaper articles from the time, any information will be added to the website

Look in the Related Projects page of to find out about a project from 2017 The Commons Ghost Village all about the Commons Village in the 1960's


Saturday, January 1, 2022 website goes live!

Welcome to the launch of the Tipperary Coalmines Website created on behalf of the Slieveardagh Mining Interest Group. We have been working on projects relating the mining in Slieveardagh for ten years. These years saw us gathering information, holding get-togethers and culm dancing sessions;  working on numerous and varied projects enabling ex-miners to record and share their stories of the mines, hosting field trips to the now disused mine sites and making many pots of tea. We have met the most honourable, entertaining, interesting, intelligent, loyal and memorable people since we started on this journey. To say we were happy to have undertaken this project is an understatement. We feel honoured to have had the opportunity to work with such great people, and about this most important heritage. We hope you will enjoy journeying with us and that you too will share our admiration of the brave miners of the Slieveardagh Hills.

Margaret (Grace) O' Brien and Katy Goodhue.

The Mine Sites/Virtual Tour page uses the material from the National Heritage Week county award winning blog and Virtual Tour of the Slieveardagh Coalfield that received funding from the Heritage Council Community Heritage Grant Scheme. Each site included has a history of that site, images, maps and the Michael ‘King’ Cleere  short site specific video. For those of you who followed the Heritage Week blog there are two new pieces ‘A Short History’ of the mining activity from the 1820’s to the 1980’s, and the visit to Foilacamin Colliery and Mine Shaft in the north of the coalfield. The Foilacamin video features Michael and Andy Lawlor, the last man we know to have gone to work at the bottom of the Foilacamin Shaft.

The Gallery page allows you to scroll through a selection of photographs taken at gatherings and events run at and from The Old School since 2012. There is a page of images of   Artefacts from the Old School Mining Museum, which will see more items added and a Genealogy page with an introduction to how to go about finding your ancestors, miners or not by geneaologist Noreen Maher of hiberniaroots

All three of these pages are just a start and will be added to over time. The genealogy page is a place that histories of Slieveardagh miners and mining families can be stored and that individuals who have researched families can share their findings.The first additions to the genealogy page will include the interesting history of Slieveardagh native Richard Sutcliffe miner and inventor of the first underground belt conveyor. And we'll blog to let you know when we have it in the web page! 

There is a page featuring Related Projects that have either been undertaken in the Old School or have been influential in the development of the website. Here you can watch ‘T’was a Terrible Hard Work’, or find out more about the specially prepared map on the Coalmining Heritage of Slieveardagh.

The website was designed by Sarah Loh of White Setter Design. We thank Sarah for all the work she put into the development of the site and especially for her creative solutions to all the requests made during that time.

If you want to see one of Sarah’s clever solutions look at Dr Richard Clutterbuck’s map Slieveardagh Coal Mining Heritage. This map was specially prepared for the Old School Mining Museum in 2020 and when we wanted to include it in the website we asked Sarah for a way of zooming in on the map and she came up with the magnifying glass effect!

We are very grateful to Tommy and Alma Cooke of Ballincurry Windfarm who followed the Heritage Week blog project and have given sponsorship towards preparing the website, thus ensuring that this really important history is recorded for the future. Roisin O’Grady, Tipperary Heritage Officer also helped us realise this project with support through the Creative Ireland Programme.

The Covid pandemic has impacted on the whole world, and we have really missed all the in-person events we took for granted. Our answer was to try and find other ways to connect and are pleased that this website will be there for the future and easy to access but still wait and hope for a time when we can meet in person safely again

Please enjoy visiting this new website, it will be added to it over time and we’ll let you know through the blog when new material is added.

And finally, The Slieveardagh Mining Interest Group wish all a Happy New Year. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

TIPPERARY STAR ARTICLE and Foilacamin Colliery and Mine Shaft

Tipperary Star full page feature 30.12.2021
After our busy summer of virtual events we submitted this article to the Tipperary Star about the important coal mining heritage of the Slieveardagh Hills. Included are  photographs of some of the people who shared their histories and memories with us during the last year. Our thanks to the Star for publishing it today.

Since Heritage Week we are pleased to have secured sponsorship from Ballincurry Windfarm and the Creative Ireland Programme to put all the information, images, videos and maps into a new website tipperarycoalmines to be launched this coming Saturday 1st January 2022. 

In the meantime here is one more virtual site visit, this time to Foilacamin, where the 300 ft deep shaft was used in both the 19th and 20th Centuries. And the video this time features Michael 'King' Cleere and fitter Andy Lawlor who worked on pumps at the pit bottom.
The remaining structure on the Foilacamin Colliery site is the closed off entrance to the mine shaft. 

Foilacamin is at the North of the coalfield

We know that Foilacamin Colliery was leased by the Mining Company of Ireland in 1835 and was worked by them until the late 1880's.

Through cross referencing the Ordnance Survey Ireland Historic Maps we have found out some more information. Foilacamin Colliery and the road the mine site is beside are not on the historic 6" colour map (created some time between 1829 and 1842).

25" Historic Map showing Foilacamin as being Coal Mine (Disused)

On the later 25” historic map (produced between 1888 and 1913) the Foilacamin site is marked as 'Coalmine Disused'. So between the two mapping times the mine has been worked and abandoned. The road that it is on this later map was probably built as part of the Mining Company of Ireland’s infrastructure plan for the coal field. It makes access to the Commons colliery, leased at the same time quite easy; and also connects to the main road towards the central area of the coalfield.  Today there are still low stone walls running the length of the road in addition to the more usual ditches and hedges. 

The mine shaft at Foilacamin is 300ft deep and was also an important coalfield site in the 20th Century. When Ballingarry Collieries opened the mine at Gurteen in the 1950’s the vertical shaft at Foilacamin was used to house a powerful water pump operated using three phase electricity (with a backup generator in case of mains power cuts). It was manned 24/7 and water was pumped out of the old workings and kept away from the new underground workings at Gurteen. 

Pipes and Valve at the top of the shaft

The men who manned the pump were ‘fitters’ or electricians who mostly worked underground for the mining companies. In this era of mining electricity was central to all the operations, the tools the miners used were powered using compressed air, there were powerful electric ventilation fans in use to draw through air and ventilate the workings, and electric pumps used to remove water to the surface or to underground adits. The coal cutter introduced late in the working of Gurteen Mine also used electricity.

Christy Lawlor, an electrician working for the mines was at Foilacamin the night in 1964 when the water broke through from the old workings to an area being worked for coal at Gurteen. Seven miners were trapped by the influx of water and tragically the mine manager on duty, Mr Gannon was drowned. Christy realised there was a problem when the water stopped coming up from the pump, there was a phone on the site and he rang over to Gurteen to alert them that something had happened. 

Christy’s son Andy Lawlor was born across the road from the Clashduff mine site the same year as it was opened in the 20th Century. Like many sons he followed his father into the mines as a fitter apprenticed at and then working for Ballingarry Colliery from 1964 to it’s closure. He is the last man we know to have gone down the Foilacamin shaft, his task was to maintain the pump. 

Andy vividly recalls going down the 100 yard deep shaft (91.4 meters). The section above ground was stone and below that it was ‘squared off’ with big timbers all the way to the bottom, some of the timbers were from the 19th Century and some had been replaced in the 1960’s. To reach the pit bottom the men were individually winched down the shaft standing in a specially made 2’ wide half barrel, a long stick was used to push against the wall of the shaft to keep the barrel from spinning as it went down. There was a ‘false bottom’ about half way down the shaft with four ‘roads’ going off it, one of them may be an adit, or tunnel to drain water. The heavy wooden floor of the false bottom had a trap door below which the shaft continued down vertically with no more roads off it until the actual pit bottom where there were more roads again. Andy also remembers in addition to the electric pumps he worked on there was also a big steel steam pump from an earlier period still in situ at the bottom of the shaft. The spanners use to maintain the steam pump were wrapped in canvas and stored up in the timbers above the pump, Andy took them down and looked at them then put them back where they had been left many decades before. The most striking memory Andy recalled was that there were five small wooden tubs full of coal still at the bottom of the shaft. The wood was still quite sound as the carpenter with him sawed into one and sawdust came out. We have no idea why five full tubs would have been abandoned at the pit bottom at the end of the 18th century.  

Michael ‘King’ Cleere introduces Foilacamin Shaft and Andy Lawlor recalls being winched to the Pit Bottom.

Foilacamin Mine Shaft in the 1980's
The disused mine at Foilacamin still has a large spoil heap on the site. A small mine house or office has been incorporated into a bigger house. The shaft has been capped with concrete and the entrance bricked up using stone from other small buildings that were on the site.

This mine area is an interesting example of the cyclical activity of mining. It, like many of the other colliery sites in the area was returned to on more than one occasion. Today except for the presence of the shaft and spoil heap it would be difficult to realise that it had ever been a busy industrial site.

All the mine sites are on private property and are not open to the public. Annually during Heritage Week our Mining Interest Group have sought permission from the landowners to visit. Derelict buildings can be dangerous, please do not trespass. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021


The Award Certificate
The Slieveardagh Mining Interest Group received the Award Certificate in the post following the online award ceremony. 

Margaret O'Brien, Michael 'King' Cleere & Katy Goodhue

We are delighted to be the National Heritage Week Tipperary County Award Winner. 
Margaret O'Brien steers the efforts we make to have our mining heritage remembered and saved for future generations, she has been instrumental in organising all the projects we have undertaken to date at the Old School and in the community. We thank Margaret for always being ready to  encourage and support all the Mining Interest Group's ventures.
We send special thanks to Michael who featured in all the videos and has so much knowledge of and interest in sharing the mining history and heritage of Slieveardagh. 
Katy Goodhue put together the blog and video pieces for the Old School Mining Museum and we thank her for her continued interest and her ability to find ways of interpreting our mining history. 
Daniel Quin & Kelvin O'Brien

We also thank Daniel Quin who provided additional voice for some of the video pieces and said that even he found the different ways the mines were accessed was clever and interesting. 
We thank Kelvin O'Brien for all the history he has shared with us about Ballingarry Collieries and his uncle Tommy O'Brien and family. He also has made links on behalf of the Slieveardagh Coalfield area with mining areas in Britain.
We also remember Kelvin's cousin Billy O'Brien RIP, who was always there for the Mining Interest Group and ex-miners, he would have worked tirelessly to on this project and encouraged Kelvin and the group to keep gathering and sharing this history.

We thank the Mining Interest Group who helped behind the scenes, preparing the sites and  checking facts, and all the people who responded to the posts especially those of you who shared memories, photographs and facts that we can save for the future.

This was a busy summer for the Old School Mining Museum, even if everything was virtual. We want this very small coalfield to be recorded as part of international coal mining history. We want the men who worked underground to be remembered with respect for doing their dangerous life limiting work of extracting coal from under the hills. There are more blogs to come and plans for both new virtual and in-person events. We are determined to raise the profile of our mining heritage, locally, nationally and internationally and this project for Heritage Week 2021 has moved us forward, the award gives us added official recognition for our local history.

If you are interested in contributing to this heritage by sharing your memories of mining times, old photographs or equipment or objects used in the mines please get in touch with us either through the blog or at   

Finally, we thank the Heritage Council for the Award, send congratulations to all the groups who took the time to put together projects and participated in Heritage Week. We also send our huge congratulations to another Tipperary Project who was the overall winner of the Heritage Sharing Award, the Cahir Women's History Group with the excellent Daughter's of DĂșn Iascaigh Walking Tour. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Celebrating Engaging Projects


Virtual Field Trip of Slieveardagh Coalfield shortlisted for the Tipperary County Award
We are delighted to let everyone who followed our Heritage Week 2021 virtual tour of the local mine sites know that we have just got word that we are shortlisted for the Tipperary Local Authority Area award.

The National Heritage Council's National Heritage Week Awards celebrate the most engaging projects organised by National Heritage Week participants. There were over 1500 projects submitted this year. And our project is shortlisted!

The Awards Ceremony will be hosted by Journalist and TV Presenter Anne Cassin on Wednesday 20th October at 12.30. The Ceremony will be broadcast live at  www.heritageweek/awards 

Recording and sharing the history of Tipperary's Coal Mining Heritage continues to be very important. 
The Virtual Tour engaged with interested people all over the world, and we thank all the people who followed the tour and especially those of you who shared stories and photographs, and the people we have interviewed who have yet to see their stories online. 

Over 30 years after the last mine closed is is more important than ever that we ensure that  Tipperary's Coal Mining Heritage is remembered and honoured.  The success of this project comes from the engagement of everyone who joined the Old School Mining Interest Group, ex-miner Michael 'King' Cleere and artist Katy Goodhue on the virtual tour. Thank you everyone. This award shortlist recognition is really appreciated.

And finally today: It is a matter of urgency that Copper Steeple is saved.

There is still lots to do for this important Heritage. Copper Steeple is the landmark feature of  the entire Slieveardagh area. It needs a conservation assessment to see what is required to consolidate the damage at both the top and bottom of the structure. Being 96' high this means using a lot of scaffolding as well as the experts to do the assessment and the subsequent work. 
The blog post on the steeple will explain more: 

Remembering Patrick Keating and Kealy Mines Ltd.

  Michael and Paul Keating At the beginning of February Michael and Paul Keating visited the Commons and spent the afternoon in the Old Scho...