Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Tullyratty Lead Mine

Further to my previous article about Tullyratty last week, I have discovered yet another piece of local folklore written by Brian Fitzsimons in 1999:-

"In the late 1820s there were at least 14 lead mines working in the east of Co. Down, from Conlig to Dundrum. One such mine was located in the townland of Tullyratty on the farm of one Thomas Smith. It was first opened in 1827 and the shaft reached a depth of 102 feet. There were several horizontal drifts, which are veins of ore. The mine had both lead and silver but the silver content was small at 10 ounces, pound of silver to one ton of lead. Thirty tons of ore were extracted from the mine and were sold in Liverpool. It was assayed both there and in London to have between 75% and 80% lead content.

The ore would have been shipped from Strangford as the proprietor of the mine was the Right Hon. Lord de Ros of Old Court who also owned Strangford Harbour. It was said that one cargo of ore sank at the bar mouth of Strangford Lough. Whether this happened in 1830 when work stopped, to be resumed in 1842 , is now uncertain.

The mine was working again in 1853 however and this is substantiated by the registration of two children baptized at Christ Church in Ballyculter. A daughter Mary Anne born 11th March 1853 to Nancy and Alexander Hershen a miner and a daughter Elizabeth born 18th March 1853 to Grace and John Patton a labourer at the lead mine in Tullyratty.

I have no idea when the workings ceased but my great uncle Felix Rogan born 1872 from Ballintlieve, who often visited Johnny Lawson at Tullyratty, told Richard Sharvin who is the present owner of the farm where the mine is located, that he remembered the shaft being filled in. The iron ladder in the shaft which was made b a blacksmith was too heavy to be removed and so it was buried. Flooding in the shaft was a problem but as the land there is elevated it was proposed that a horizontal shaft be dug to drain the mine to Cromie's Bog bear Carlin but it was probably too expensive.

The entrance to the mine and the horse walk are in a field called Mine park which is at the rear of Richard Sharvin's farm yard. The horse walk was where one or two horses were harnessed to a horizontal pole and they walked around in a circle The pole turned machinery which was used to pump water from the shaft or to winch the ore to the surface. The remains of the store house , in which the tools and equipment were kept, are still visible.

The powder house in which the explosives for blasting were stores is situated high on the north side of Slieve Triplog at a safe distance from the mine shaft. It is completely constructed of stone with a corbelled roof and when inspected in November 1998, during a very wet spell, the walls and floor were completely dry.

The spoil from the mine may have been dumped at Buttony beside Tullyratty and Ballintlieve. When the ground was cleared about two years ago a large amount of broken stone was found there.

Lead and silver traces can still be found in rocks and stones around Tullyratty to this day. Some years ago, when excavations were being dug for the building of a shed in Richard Sharvin's yard, I remember noticing the rock that was removed had a high quantity of lead in it. I doubt if the Tullyratty mine will ever be worked again, but who knows?"

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