The Firoda Pit

"Committee meeting" at the Firoda Shaft in 1960 Frank Devlin, Willie Hetherington, Mick Lawlor,
Seamus Walsh, James McKay

Re-opening of Firoda Collieries April 1960

Firoda Coal to be Mined Again
From an article in Deenside May 1960 by Mr. T.P. Lyng

Mr. Peter McKay, of Blantoire,Lanarkshire, who has been associated with coalmining for 35 years, was working but a few months as foreman in Deerpark Colleries when he realised the possibilities of un-worked Firoda coal. He investigated the possibilities locally ant at the Geological Office got such encouraging reports that he has decided to re-open the old shaft on the lands of Mr. Martin Purcell, which are situated in Lower Firoda (Glenmagoo) near the junction of Lower Firoda, Upper Firoda and Byrensgrove. Mr. McKay is undertaking the re-opening in association with his son, James and locals, Messrs. Frank Devlin, Moneenroe, William Hetherington, do., and William Stone, Loon, all of whom have experience of mining.

On Thursday 29th. April, the shaft site was formally blessed and the first sod was cut by Very Rev. W. O'Keeffe, P.P.., Castlecomer, assisted by Rev. J. Cleary, C.C. Fr. O' Keeffe said that the purpose of the blessing was to ask God's blessing on the work and on the men who would work there. He added that he and all Castlecomer people, who had the welfare of the people at heart, were very pleased that the work was being undertaken, and he was very sincere in calling down a blessing on this enterprise, which would help to keep our people at home. He welcomed the people of another country who were starting this enterprise and prayed that they would succeed in their venture. Attending the opening ceremony with Mr. McKay were his wife, Mrs. Margaret McKay: his son, James, with his Castlecomer wife, Mrs. M. McKay (nee McNulty): his daughter, Miss Catherine McKay: Messrs Frank Devlin, Wm. Hetherington, Wm. Stone and a large number of interested miners and well wishers.

Mr. McKay thanked the local farmers for their ready concent to development work and thanked all those, including Mr. John Conway and myself, who helped in preliminary investigation. My contribution to the investigation is summarised below and is based on public information which, however, might not be readily accessible to a newcomer to our locality.

As Fr. Cleary was interested in the name Firoda, we can begin at that point. FIR is the same term as FEER which is applied to a small townland that adjoins Firoda. The first form is the Gaelic spelling and the second is the Gaelic sound of FIR, which means a "boundary." ODA is a contraction of O DUACH, which gives UÍ DUACH or Edough which was the ancient tribe-land of the O Brenans. Speakers of Kilkenny Irish used to pronounce the FIR as FREEZE. Hence the district FIRODA was the boundary of Edough at the time of the plantation of Castlecomer (1635) and hence also Firoda and it's coal were not part of the Lordship of Castlecomer. If the name Firoda contains the key to the history of our district the name GLENMAGOO, i.e. Lower Firoda, contains the key to the industry of our district.

Glenmagoo means The Glen of the Smith's Valley, and the very earliest reference to Castlecomer coal concerns this place. Castlecomer coal was originally known as "smith's coal," as it was used only by blacksmiths and not for domestic use. Richard Blacknall of Macroom Co. Cork, worked a smelting furnace, iron mines, and "coal places" in Glenmagoo in 1631. The vicinity of these works was, until recently, known as GLANGOOL, i.e., Coal Valley. Tighe says there were iron works here up to 1730. Firoda colliery was opened on a commercial scale in 1796.

There were six pits working in 1800, there being about a dozen men in each pit, working to a maximum dept of about 20 yards. Culm for "bombs" from 2 shillings to 3 shillings a kish, which held from 3 to 5 barrells. Colliers were paid 2/2 a day: "hurriers" 1/7: pullers 1/1, and watchmen 6/6 a week. (6/6 refers to 6 shillings and 6 pence in old money). The men sat on hassocks of straw while working. There were at that time separate landlords for Upper and Lower Firoda: The Earl of Carrick and Sir John Trene. The colliery was rented by Mr. Billing of Doonane.

In the 1820's Isaac Bradley had a lease of 120 acres for mining in Lower Firoda. (John Bradley was at that time living in "The Little Castle," Coolbawn). Isaac Bradley worked the coal until about 1850, but then abandoned the working owing to financial difficulties. The tenants of Upper and Lower Firoda purchased under the Ashbourne Act 1885,which gave them, unlike the Castlecomer tenants, full mineral rights. The new proprietors set about exploiting their coal seams and a small company started a sinking, but gave up after a few yards.

In 1913, Mr. Parkinson got a lease on the mines on condition that he worked them. World War I came in 1914 and with it a Minister of Mines Veto which stopped the proposed mining. Meantime Castlecomer Collieries bored and worked very successfully the adjoining Skehana Colliery and convinced local people that the Firoda project was well worth while. Interest was kept alive by the enquiries of our native government in 1922, and more recently the project was kept in the mining picture by the Castlecomer Development Association. Irishmen have a soft spot for Scotchmen. We wish Mr. McKay a successful conclusion to the wishful thinking of over a century.

Frank Devlin -today at his home in Donaguile with the same shovel that he used in the pit all those years ago.

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