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Arigna (where I was raised) is a thriving little village situated in the Arigna mountains in Co Roscommon,
The village lies close to the shores of the Lough Allen, the first lake on the Shannon. Formerly a thriving coal mining village, Arigna has had a long and proud tradition of mining through the centuries with the industry dating back to the 1600's(over 400 years)arigna coal was mined in what were the first and last coalmines in Ireland, it still bears the remnants of coal mines closed in the 1980's.
Located in Arigna is the Coal Briquette Factory
smokeless coal briquettes and is the main source of employment in the village.
Until recently a focal point of the Arigna area was the ESB Generating Station chimney,
demolished in February 1999.
The Arigna Mining Experience
The village of Arigna is located in North Roscommon, on the Leitrim borders, overlooking scenic Lough Allen. It is an area with a tradition of mining that stretches back to 1600 when Charles Coote established iron works in Arigna. Charcoal, made from local timber, was used in the smelting process; however, as local timber supplies reduced, it was necessary to find an alternative fuel. It was through this search that coal was discovered in the area. In 1788 the O'Reilly brothers founded an iron foundry where, for the first time in Ireland, coal was used in the smelting process.
Iron mining actually turned out to be less than successful in Arigna
and, following many attempts to salvage it, the iron works closed permanently
in 1838. Coal mining, however, continued to provide employment in Arigna.
In fact, Arigna became a relatively affluent area through times of extreme
poverty elsewhere, because of the constant availability of employment for
all the men of the area and indeed surrounding areas. The ESB opened the
Arigna Power Station in 1958, the first major power generating station
By this period the supply of top grade coal in Arigna was used and the station was built specifically to burn the semi bituminous coal with its high ash content. At its height, the power station burned 55,000 tons of coal annually and employed 60 people directly.
However, from the outset, one of the primary reasons behind its construction
was to secure hundreds of jobs in the local mining industry. By the 1970's
65% of the coal mined in Arigna was burned at the Power Station. In the
1980's, the government promised a Crow Coal (the name given to the lower
grade coal being mined) burning Power Station; this however failed to materialise.
With the winding down of the existing Power Station, Arigna's
main source of employment was no longer required and in 1990 the Mines closed for the final time.
Last year the Arigna Mining Experience opened as an interpretative
centre - of sorts.
The experience is different in that it is devoted to our very recent history.
It includes a tour of what was once a working mine, deep beneath a mountain
with all the sounds such a visit entails.
The tour guides are themselves former miners.
The demolition of the chimney at the
former power station in Arigna
symbolically closed a chapter in the history of this small mining area in north Co Roscommon.
The Arigna area of Roscommon and the adjacent mountains of Co. Leitrim were famous for coal and
iron mining. Froirt as early as the 15th century iron was mined in the area.
Coal mining became more prominent in the 19th century. In July 1990, centuries of a mining tradition ended with the closure of the last of the coal mines. Arigna, was Ireland's only coal-mining centre
The Arigna Valley is green and beautiful,and not in any way the kind of bleak and dusty place
one associates with coal-mining activity.
The Arigna, river , rising in county Sligo, flows south-east into Lough Allen. The district is rich in minerals, including coal, iron, and limestone. Ironworks on an extensive scale were established here 1788, but, proving unprofitable under various managements, were discontinued in 1808
The conditions the men worked in were deplorable.
Sometimes the coal seams were only 18 in high and they had to lie on their sides
and shovel the coal out onto the main pathways, where it could be loaded onto carriages."
Over the long history of the mines, there were no major disasters - probably because the tunnels were driven horizontally into the hills, sometimes to a distance of three miles.
A section of one of these pits will be opened up to develop the "underground experience", providing visitors with a half-hour tour to see what life was like for the workers underground.
This spot in the Arigna Mountains now
offers a scenic route to be enjoyed.
The most spectacular section of a scenic drive here is from Drumshanbo via Arigna over the ridge-back of Kilronan Mountain, and down to Ballyfarnon, with great views on either side. The roads are narrrow and winding but the views offered by this journey through the Kilronan Mountain is well worth the effort.
Cutting across the spectacular Kilronan Mountain
is an uncut gem of a tourist attraction - the 25 mile Arigna Drive, from
Cootehall to Boyle. It leads along narrow, winding and often bumpy
roads that pass through tiny, immaculate villages like Keadue and some
of the most magnificent scenery in Ireland. Red squirrels, stoats,
fallow deer, badgers, rabbits and hares can be seen along the route, and
among the birds to be spotted are goldcrests and pheasants.
on the Arigna Mountains
Wind turbine propellers revolve lazily on the mountain ridge above
of Arigna in north Roscommon.
They are a potent reminder of how times have changed
for what was the main coal mining village of Ireland for generations.
Coal mining sustained the community for some 250 years, including the Famine years.
The sleek, aerodynamic wind turbines which generate electricity are a stark
contrast to traditional coal generation
The electricity generated by the turbines is fed into the national grid.
Today, although many millions of tons of low-grade, or "crow", coal
remain unexploited in the hills, the only active continuation of the coal tradition
lies in the production locally of high-grade smokeless briquettes by the Arigna Fuels factory.
Ironically, this enterprise imports its raw material, coal,
then much of the output is exported to Wales - a classic double case of "
bringing coals to Newcastle".
Lough Allen,The first lake on the Shannon,and the third largest,
has an international reputation for coarse fishing and anglers from
Britain and Continental Europe come in great numbers each year
to test their skills and enjoy the peaceful surroundings it lies between the
heather covered Arigna hills and Slieve Anierin.
The beautiful Lough Key is located just 2 miles east of the town of Boyle.
Its location is in the area known as Moylurg and the lands were once the
property of the MacDermotts, princes of this ancient kingdom.
Martin and Margaret Gaffney footing turf on Kilronan Mountain,
Arigna, Co Roscommon
Martin spent most of his younger life mining coal under the mountain.
With the closure of the mine he now saves turf on the mountain
while behind him lies the third and alternative source of power,
the wind farm designed to generate electricity and sold into the national grid.
I remember trains in Arigna
The Cavan and Leitrim Railway
The 11.20 to Arigna at Ballinamore
The History Of The Cavan and Leitrim Railway In Brief The Cavan &
Leitrim Railway was one of the
most fascinating and at one time busiest of Ireland's narrow-gauge railways.
Originally the Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon Light Railway and Tramway Co. registered on 3/2/1883. First section from Dromod to Belturbet (34 miles) opened on 17/10/1887. The branch from Ballinamore to Arigna was opened on 2/5/1888. Became the Cavan and Leitrim in 1895. 48 1/2 route miles in 1911.The wartime shortage of coal in Ireland forced the Goverment in 1920 to build an extension to the coalmines at Arigna and its 3½ miles were completed in June 1920 at a cost of £60,000.. Closed 31/3/1959,
At the outset, livestock carriage was the backbone of the operation
Later the Arigna coalmines kept the wagons rolling
The narrow gauge of 3 ft connected Dromod to Belturbet in Co Cavan via Ballinamore, Co Leitrim.
A branch ran to Drumshanbo and was later extended to serve the Arigna coalfields.
The Cavan and Leitrim Railway ran on narrow gauge tracks measuring 3ft.
This difference in gauge caused difficulties at Belturbet in facilitating the transfer
of passengers, goods and livestock, but especially the transhipment of Arigna coal from the C&L to the GNR.
This arduous and dirty task was performed throughout the entire history of the line by local men using only shovels.
Through the accident of its serving a coal field it remained open many years after most of the other 3 ft gauge lines closed, and in its last days made use of engines and rolling stock sent from these other closed systems.
But though the railway had a long career, the predominant theme throughout its life was struggle.
In the early years directors faced hostile public opinion and struggle vainly to extend their line to
the Arigna coal fields. When the extension was finally built - at a time when the political
temperature in Ireland was rising, the initiative was taken by the Government. Changes in
the constitution of the Board in 1904 led to friction and some decisions were taken on 'party
lines', not always to the best advantage of the Cavan & Leitrim.
When the ESB built its generating station to burn Arigna coal, the fate of the line was sealed.
The narrow gauge line's days were deemed to be over, and on
31 March 1959
one long last train panted into Ballinmore station, there to debouch its human load. Soon both tramway and main lines were demolished, and local residents learned to resign themselves to the tender mercies of one-man buses.
Lorries, once despised by Cavan & Leitrim men, assumed the handling of all freight
and one more epoch in Ireland's narrow gauge railway history was over.
(left to right):- Catherine, Griffith, Donal-Barney O'Reilly of Ballyconnell
Train crossing the road in Kiltubrid, County Leitrim.
The station was situated midway on the Ballinamore to Arigna route.
One of the last tramways in Ireland, that was
worked entirely by steam locomotives until it's closure.
The station buildings at Arigna,
20th March 1959
The lone carriage of the branch train sits in the platform.
JOHN'S STRONG WILL
by Elizabeth Gallagher McManus, Arigna, Ireland.
Master of the Concert Flute
John McKenna was born on January 6th 1880.
His father, Pat, was from Arigna; his mother Cecily Ward, was from
Tents, Tarmon, midway between Drumshanbo and Drumkeeran,
small towns in north County Leitrim, and here, on the shores of Lough Allen,
was where the McKenna family lived and where John was born.
'The last place that God made' is how that scenic and rugged area
is described by the farmers who struggled with its rocky land.
One feature, unusual for rural Ireland, which gave an economic viability
to this locality which nestles among the Arigna Mountains
it had for centuries been a coal mining area.
It was with the local coal mining company that McKenna found his first job.
he was weighmaster for Arigna Collieries.
Musical Traditions Article
|KILRONAN PARISH||Arigna Minersway||The Miners Bar||
|Kilronan Wind Farm|
|Peter Tim Lynch||Drumshanbo on Line||John Flynn Page|
|Packie Duignan||Arigna Mining Experience||Local Towns|
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