Bells Heap


Bells heap (Bells Monument Proper name is the McClean Tip Head )  is a big heap of slack, dirt and coal, 350ft high on a 3 acre base.  If some one were standing on the top of it they would be like a dot. All the rocks, slates, gum and anything of no value that came out of the mines  was drawn in trams for years and years and dumped on top of the heap. 

When the miners were shoveling the waste into the trams for the heap plenty of good coal would be thrown in also. If there was an section of coal that had a lot of stones in it for example, this would be dumped as it would have been too expensive to separate the good from the bad. There was a rail track up along the heap and as the trams of slack came out of the mine they ran up along the heap. When they reached the top there was a little gadget that made the tram tip over and empty out the slack. The tram then went back down for another load. As the heap got higher extra track was added.

There were many poor people in the mining area. Many of these people, especially the women made a living from "picking the heap". They climbed up the heap each day and searched for good nuggets of coal. They filled their sacks and either used the coal in their own fires or sold them to supplement their incomes.

When the mines closed everybody thought that Bells Heap would be there forever, a monument to the past. After all it was just useless slack and with an improvement in general living standards no one would be bothered crawling around the heap looking for lumps of coal.

However, a business man from Kilkenny, Mr. Lanigan figured out that there was some value in that heap of dirt. It could be used in the making of cement. First of all we were told that if oil was sprayed on the slack it would actually burn well in a furnace. Later we were told that the slack was actually used as an ingredient in the cement which appears to be the correct use.

Bells Heap was taken, little by little, lorry load by lorry load to a  cement factory in Limerick by Mr. Lanigan. Lorries were drawing  out of it for 15 years at a rate of 5 lorry loads a day and it is still not gone. There remains about a quarter of the heap to this day. 

Mr. Lanigan made plenty of money out of that heap of dirt. Mr. Ward who owned the heap also made a tidy sum and no doubt the cement factory did well also.

It was pity they sold it as it was indeed a great monument but at the time it was just looked upon as being a great big black eyesore with no value. The miners who had just lost their jobs certainly didn't mourn the loss of the slack heap as it was just a bleak reminder to them of the hardship days.


  Aerial view of the heap shortly before it was taken away to Limerick!

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