August 28, 2012
Blarney Woollen Mills History
Blarney Woollen MillsToday we are posting our blog for this last week as we were away for a lovely family reunion. I apologize to my followers for not being on time. This weekend we will post again for this week. While I will share with you some off the history of the Blarney Woollen Mills, just can't bring myself to spoil the book for you!
"Cead Míle Fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes to the charming little village of Blarney and to Blarney Woollen Mills. Nestled in the breathtaking scenery, the village, with its traditional square, lies in the shadow of Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone."
Right in the heart of Blarney you will find Blarney Woollen Mills. Over the years the Kelleher family have taken great care to convert these huge rambling old Mill buildings into one of the world’s greatest gift and craft centres. Millions of visitors have passed through these doors from all over the world to be greeted with a warm Irish welcome and the very best of Irish products. Products that have been created by the finest craftsmen and women throughout the country, whose skills may be measured, not in decades, but in countless generations.
The name Blarney Woollen Mills has become synonymous with the quality Irish products including our world famous hand knit sweaters made in Ireland.
We will introduce you to a new experience incorporating the unique village atmosphere which developed in Blarney largely because of the Woollen Mills, the historic castle and Christy Kelleher whose great vision started it all.
The Blarney Mill was opened in 1824 by Timothy Mahony’s grandson Martin and named Martin Mahony & Bros. Ltd. By 1835 it is recorded that 120 people worked at the mill, this rose to 200 by 1860 and most were housed in the new housing Millstream Row, smart modern housing built for the workers by the Mahonys.
Water was the power source for this expanding mill and the Mahonys went to considerable lengths to develop the abundant source. A large dam was built on the Martin River near Waterloo in order to form a mill pond. This gave the additional pressure required to drive the huge Millwheel at Blarney via the Millstream and Millrace.
During the mid 1800’s the devastating famine swept through Ireland. This was caused by the failure of the potato crop, Ireland’s staple diet, and was responsible for the loss of 3 million souls, almost half the population. In Blarney however, there were no recorded deaths by starvation during this period. The Mahonys were responsible for the employment of many desperate people during the famine which greatly helped the village survive this period of extreme hardship.
With the fullest co-operation of a grateful workforce, Martin Mahony and Bros. thrived during this time, producing serges and tweeds of an extremely high quality and competing successfully with English and Scottish counterparts.
In 1928, a boy of 13, like most of his friends in Blarney, began to work at the mill. His name was Christy Kelleher.
Young Christy began work at the mill as an apprentice machinist and worked there for 22 years. During these formative and impressionable years Christy developed a great knowledge and awareness of the textile industry – qualities that would be put to good use in later years.
He became a supervisor with responsibility for the day to day running and maintenance of the heavy industrial machinery and was always very proud of the fact that during the war years when machine parts were not available, he improvised so well that “his” machines never stopped.
For two years the great mill lay silent and derelict. Nobody wanted it. Christy visited the site many times and slowly a germ of an idea began to grow – he would buy the buildings he had worked in as a boy and turn the mill into a visitor centre!
There was a family conference and Christy persuaded his wife and children that this was an opportunity not to be missed.
He “did a deal” with the auctioneers and placed a deposit on the Mill only to discover that the financial institutions did not share his enthusiasm.
Christy and Freda met with the banks and had their request for funds refused. What a dilemma! The price was agreed, the deposit was paid and Christy was convinced he was absolutely right.
Christy Kelleher achieved success against all the odds and he was proud of it. He took a fierce pride in his contribution to Blarney and the economy of Ireland. He instilled in his family a pride in their Irishness and a faith in the future of the nation.
Contents above were taken from direct materials sent to me by Darren Smyth, executive at Blarney Woollen Mills, in order to preserve the facts as they actually are and accurately."
Most of us know the story of Walt Disney and love what he left as a legacy. Today, millions also enjoy the legacy that Christy Kelleher left behind for his family and the world.
For more of this story, you may order a signed copy of my Book "Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler" at: www.ExtraordinaryIreland.com or e-Book version from:
Check out my many other links on my web site and/or follow oon my Twitter address: http://twitter.com/adkinsmamie
Thank you for following!
Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins
Tuned in next week for another human interest story about Aine Knitwear an accomplished Irish designer!