Leitrim Folklore: Old Industries

Obviously 80 years ago in Leitrim, farming was the main source of income and the majority of families survived solely on it’s produce and profit. But there were also local industries that men worked at either for part of the year or year round. With the average wage of just 4 pence per day, the salary would have been low but the work heavy and hard with very long hours.

Obviously 80 years ago in Leitrim, farming was the main source of income and the majority of families survived solely on it’s produce and profit.

But there were also local industries that men worked at either for part of the year or year round. With the average wage of just 4 pence per day, the salary would have been low but the work heavy and hard with very long hours.

Remnants of these industries can still be seen around the county, in places such as the courthouse in Manorhamilton, old buildings and walls and in the land.

From animal bones to white lime and soft quality stones, this week we look back at three of the industries that played a big part in some of the communities they worked in.

Killea Quarry

It is now about seventy five years since Killea quarry was worked.

Pat Dillon who was the grandfather of Paddy Dillon who is living at present in the Dillon home was ganger over the men.

The Dillon family were natives of Tyrone but were evicted from there.

About 20 men used to work in this quarry.

They made a house from stones for themselves in the quarry where they lived at night and took their meals in the day time.

The quality of stone quarried there was called ‘freestone’ and it was sent to Sligo, Belfast and other places in Ireland.

The town hall in Sligo, the courthouse in Manorhamilton and the four corner houses in Kiltyclogher were built from this stone.

After some time these stones were condemned as they were a soft quality of stones. The road from the school to the quarry was made from them scythe-stones.

Collected from Scoil Coilte Clochair, Cluain Cláir by Kellie Gallagher, Glenkeel, Kiltyclogher from James McGrath, Derragoon, Kiltyclogher.

The Bonehouse

In the townland of Kinlough stands the remains of an old Bonehouse which, it is locally said, was established about the time of the famine as a relief work to aid the poor people of the vicinity.

A man name Philip the Boneman used to go through this district buying the bones of old horses and cows and afterwards he sold them to the Johnstons of Kinlough who owned the factory.

This old factory was worked like a horse churning machine and the people of the district worked there for 4 pence per day.

The bones were ground up and sold as artificial manure for the land.

The ruins of this old factory are still to be seen on the southern shore of Lake Melvin and it is about a quarter of a mile from Kinlough.

It is said that no meal was made after the year eighteen hundred and sixty two.

Collected from Buckode NS, by Bernard Haran, Bomahis, Kinlough. Told by Owen Meehan (Seanachie) 76 year old, Buckode, Kinlough.

Lime Kilns

In this district there are a good many lime kilns. Some of them are still used and others were not used this ten years.

The nearest one to us now is on Michael Kerrigan’s land.

Lime is not burned now as often as it used because long ago there was no cement to be found and lime was used instead.

Now there is plenty of cement and not as much lime used.

This is how the lime is burned: First a supply of stone and turf are brought to the kiln.

Then a layer of stones are put into the kiln, and then a layer of turf on top of that and this is continued until the kiln is full.

The turf are then lighted and the stones are burned into lime.

The lime is taken out and it is used for many purposes.

It is very white lime and it is used for whitewashing houses and it is used for building houses when it is mixed with sand.

Since the people started getting money for setting potatoes they put some lime on them to help them.

Lime is burned especially in the winter months when nothing else is to be done.

There is always a good store of lime kept because it is of great value.

Collected from Scoil Glasdrumman, Kilasnett by Pat Rooney, Curglass, Glencar, Sligo.

Leitrim School’s Folklore archive (1937-38) is available in Leitrim County Library and is the property of the National Folklore Collection UCD.