Leitrim Observer Snapshots: An iconic picture of an Arigna miner

Claire McGovern


Claire McGovern

Leitrim Observer Snapshots: An iconic picture of an Arigna miner

The iconic image of Charlie Hopkins, who worked at a miner at Arigna Mines. Charlie was to the fore in the fight to keep the mines open and went on to be a county councillor in Roscommon

The closure of the Arigna Mines was a huge blow for the local community and the image of miner Charlie Hopkins became known the length and breath of the country.

As a young reporter, having left the Meath Chronicle to come and work for the Leitrim Observer, the closure of the mines was the first big campaign I worked on here.

There was a huge outcry when it was announced the mines and the power station were due to close in 1990. Over 200 people faced unemployment and for many it rang the death knell for the area.
The mines were run by the Leyden family with Michael Leyden being the last of six generations. The family faced the end of 200 years of mining in the area but the workers themselves were adamant at the time that they would fight to keep the mines open.

And they did fight... doing everything and anything to try and keep their jobs.
There was a long tradition of mining among local families with son following father into the mines.
However as time went on younger people were also emigrating and many of the workers were older in years.

The community of Arigna was built as result of the mines and was and remains a hugely tight knit village.
Everyone supported each other.
For them the closure of the mines was devastating. I recall the public meetings held in the Mayflower in Drumshanbo where thousands attended.

Myself and Willie Donnellan spent hours sitting at these meetings hearing personal story after personal story.
If the mines were going to close well what was the alternative... where would they get jobs?
Protests took place on the streets and the miners fought until the very last.

Many politicians made promises at the time and a task force was created to look at an alternative industry.
However at the end of the day the miners received their notice and finally accepted that the fight had been lost.
However years later what did come out of those meetings and proposals was the development of the Arigna Mining Museum, one of the most iconic and popular tourist attractions in the country.
A sad end but the mines will always be remembered.

The Leitrim Observer invites you to open up that old photo album, take out the cherished black and white picture from the frame and tear open that old showbox of photos because one of those photos could win you a fantastic prize!

Send us your photos

We want you to dust off the golden oldies, take a picture of your old picture and email it to us.

We will feature your pictures in both our print and online editions. In addition to running your images on leitrimobserver.ie and our social media pages we will also carry two pages of your images every week in the Leitrim Observer.


We will run a poll every week on leitrimobserver.ie and our weekly online readers can vote for their favourite image of the week.

Two winners will go forward every week, leaving six of our readers images going forward to the grand finale with a chance to win our amazing prize package.

The overall winner as voted by the public will win the fantastic prize.

To enter, all you have to do send your photos to pictures@leitrimobserver.ie with some details of who, what, where and when - we will do the rest!

Don’t delay!

Also read: Leitrim Observer Snashots: The road to nowhere - Leitrim's closed border