Mills and Millers of Ireland Summer Event 2014 ~ 14th & 15th June

The Society of Mills and Millers of Ireland was launched in 2001 to encourage and assist in the preservation and appreciation of mills as part of our industrial, architectural and landscape heritage. There are hundreds of mills and mill sites spread across the country and while many are beautifully refurbished or put to good use, there are also many others which could be restored or renovated while preserving their traditional context. The society aims to promote interest and awareness in this aspect of Ireland’s industrial heritage by building up knowledge and expertise in areas such as law, architecture, renewable energy and manufacturing and making information available through publications, lectures and events.

Mills and Millers Summer Event 2014This year’s Summer event is a two day event taking place on the 14th and 15th June in the lovely countryside of County Meath. It’s going to be a very active two days with visits to several local mills, Slane Castle, Kells Monastic tour, lectures, baking demonstration and much, much more. Take a look at the timetable to see the list of interesting events that have been organised.

Saturday 14th June:

summer event 2014 Sunday 15th June:

Summer Event 2014

Cost of the two day event – €35 per person  or €25 for one day
Includes: Bus transfers, Saturday lunch, visits, coffees and closing food event at Annesbrook Mill.
Dinner on Saturday evening – €25 per person

To book your place:
(A) Download a booking form and return to: Hon. Treasurer Mr John Delaney Ballingard Road, Roscommon, County Roscommon (Cheques payable to MMOI)
(B) Pay for the event using the PayPal secure online payment option button. Please select the number of places and the number of days from the drop down menu.

Telephone enquiries: S. Bourke (087) 9699387



summer event 6

Medieval Water Mills in Ireland

A  presentation on Medieval Water Mills in Ireland will take place on Monday 10th March at 7.30pm at Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4.

This is a free event hosted by the Heritage Society, in association with the Civil division and the Local Government division.

Old Mill and Mill Wheel

Ireland currently has the largest corpus of pre-10th century water-mill sites (both horizontal and vertical-wheeled) in the world. These provide vital insights into the development of water-powered prime movers elsewhere in Europe, where sites of similar date are generally rare. Indeed, while the precursors of the modern reaction turbine can be found in late Roman Tunisia, the earliest excavated examples of horizontal water wheels with dished or scooped paddles (as found in Pelton wheels) have been excavated in Ireland.

Using recent archaeological evidence from Ireland, this talk will seek to re-evaluate the relationship between mills employing horizontal and vertical water-wheels, and will challenge the notion that vertical wheeled grain mills were necessarily more efficient and productive than mills with horizontal waterwheels.

Water wheel

Dr Colin Rynne BA PhD – Senior Lecturer at UCC’s Archaeology Department.

Dr Rynne has widely published on water power in medieval Ireland and Europe and on the post-medieval and industrial archaeology of Ireland.  His research interests include medieval agriculture, medieval and post-medieval iron working in Ireland and Irish industrial archaeology.  Current research interests include a study of the 17th-century colonial landscapes created in south east Munster by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork.  He is also completing a major publication on the archaeology of waterpower in early medieval Ireland and Europe, c. AD 600-1100.

Medieval Water Mill excavated at Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon.

One of the best preserved early Medieval Water Mills in Europe was excavated in Kilbegley, Co. Roscommon in 2007. The  beautifully preserved horizontal watermill dates back to between 650–850 AD. During the excavation the remains of the whole lower floor of the mill, with its flume (the chute that carries the water), undercroft, wheel-hub, paddles and a number of other features largely intact were discovered. Artefacts that tell us about the lives of the monks and millers, like ringed-pins, bracelet fragments and leather were also found.

The excavation revealed that the millwrights and monks had an incredibly sophisticated and talented ability to survey and understand hydrological techniques, as the water from the mill came from small springs and local ground water rather than a river.

All of the structural timbers from the mill have been preserved and are currently stored with the National Museum of Ireland until a suitable location to house and display them can be found close to the place they were discovered.

Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of 'The Mill at Kilbegley'

Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill ~ Photo Credit Neil Jackman author of ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’

A book on the excavation ‘The Mill at Kilbegley’  authored by Neil Jackman with Caitríona Moore and Colin Rynne and edited by Tadhg O’Keefe is now available.

You can also hear the story of the mill, and all the other fascinating archaeological sites discovered in advance of the construction of the M6 by downloading the FREE audioguide – The M6 A Route Through Time.

Thank you to Neil Jackman who very kindly allowed me to include the information and photo of the excavation of Kilbegley Medieval Water Mill.

Hydropower generation at Brett’s Sion Mill on the river Nore

Bretts Mill on the River Nore, dates back to the 14th Century. The mill has been in the Brett family since the 1800s and the present owner John is carrying on a proud tradition, except that his operation, making the finest native Irish hardwood flooring, uses hydroelectric and biomass energy on-site, with surplus exported to the national grid. The clean production of electricity at Brett’s saves approximately 5,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) annually.

Bretts Sion Mills

The hydro turbine generating clean green energy

The undershot mill wheel, the oldest one of its type continually in use in Ireland  is a satisfactory solution to low-head hydropower in terms of construction, reliability and ease of maintenance. In addition, it is benign to fish movements and provides excellent aeration which is necessary for life in the river.  The paddles of the waterwheel are flat and are simply dragged round by the flowing water.

Bretts Sion Mills

Undershot waterwheel one of the oldest in continuous use in Ireland

By 1850, Ireland had around 6,400 watermills, according to the EU-funded SPLASH (Spatial Plans and Local Arrangement for Small Hydro) report. Nearly all of the old watermills have long since fallen into disuse, but the potential they represent is still there. Cost is a factor, but the report emphasises that small scale hydro schemes are a secure and reliable form of energy that should be used as part of the drive to promote renewable energy.

Old mill sites are ideal sites for hydropower because  in most cases the original structures are still insitu which in turn cuts down on the cost of civil work which greatly reduces the cost of a new install. The Irish Hydropower Association estimates, for example, that up to 600 old mill sites around the country could be redeveloped into hydropower generation sites.

Bretts Sion Mills

Kilkenny hurley on display

On the day we visited the mill John discovered that we were from Wexford and took great pride in showing us the gigantic hurley he had on display in one of his many workshops.  He makes the hurleys for the Kilkenny team and in his words “this is why they are winners” !! 🙂