Monday, August 16, 2021

The Commons Colliery & Village

Historic 6" Map of the Commons Colliery and Village

The Commons Colliery is in the north of the Coalfield

By 1835 The Mining Company of Ireland began to acquire leases to mine coal in the north of the coalfield. It developed and worked The Commons Colliery till the late 1880's.

In 1837 Samuel Lewis documented that there were 100 newly built houses in the Ballingarry area inhabited chiefly by people connected with the mines. 

The population kept growing, the census of 1851 recorded that The Commons was the most populated village in the area.  The school built in 1877 for the local population of children many from mining families, is now used as a community centre and Old School Mining Museum and is a good two story building. 

Commons Colliery Engine House

The ruins of the engine house and two shafts, possibly one for bringing up coal and the other for pumping water and  are all still on the colliery site. 

Entrance hall of the Mine Managers House at the Commons Colliery
The Colliery managers house, living quarters, an office, a blacksmiths, and other small workshops or houses are also still here, mostly in ruin. 


Michael 'King' Cleere visits the site of The Commons Colliery. Here he observes that like Mardyke The Commons was also a mining village. 

The Commons Village

The Commons Village is home of The National Flag monument, the flag is raised every morning and lowered each evening. The Tricolour was first raised in the Commons in 1848. 

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. 

Men from the Commons Village worked in the Slieveardagh Coalfield right up to the closing of the last mine. The Commons village prospered with the miners pay keeping several shops and pubs, a petrol pump, a  small cinema and a local bakery all operational alongside the village blacksmiths forge and local creamery. 
At the close of the last mine many of miners then traveled daily to work in Silvermines at the other end of the county or found work in England. 

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. 

More interesting information and images were shared with us yesterday:

Might your family have lived in the first mining Village in Ireland?

In 1848 these families were occupying the houses in Mardyke village: Carroll, Condon, Delaney, Gleeson, Gorman, Hackett, Heffernan, Hogan, Hunt, Morris, Pemberty, Power, Russell, Rochford, St John, Stapleton, Sweeney and Walsh,

More information can be found on
The website which was originated by Bill Martin and has a comprehensive and really well researched section on the history of the mines in the area. 

Bill also shared the story of Mardyke with, look it up and type 'tipperary miners' into the search bar. Here you will find the full list of the 'head of household' for 30 of the 33 houses in Mardyke village.

While these families were living and working in the southern end of the coalfield, a young boy living at the northern end would go on to be famous worldwide. 
Aileen Cooke told us that 'a great grand uncle of mine......  born in Knoctatoreen near Grange'  was Richard Suthcliffe, he worked in mines in Ireland before going on to England and in 1892 famously invented the first coal cutting machine. He is a great son of the area.

And Kelvin O'Brien sent us on this picture of another useful invention!

Telephone used in Gurteen Mine 1957 to 1973
Kelvin tells that there was one phone at the pit bottom and some on the various roads. All the phones had to connect to the switchboard overground, manned by someone who would take the calls and make the connection to another part of the mines for the caller.
The ear piece is on the left of the body of the phone and the caller would speak into the receiver on the front of the phone. 

Andy Lawlor who started work as an apprentice electrician in 1964 in Gurteen and carried a phone with him underground remembers that at that time that Gurteen was one of just eight phone lines in the whole of Balingarry. Times have changed!


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...