Report from Brian Walsh formerly of Castlecomer

Top of the Shaft at Firoda Pit

My Father got involved in trying to keep the venture going. A new partnership was arranged with Nixi Boran (my uncle) and Willie Stone. Nixi's son Martin (my cousin at Massford) also worked down this mine for a while. I think Mr. McKay went to the UK but was entitled to a royalty for any subsequent coal extracted. My father owned the Central Bar in Comer at the time. He lost a lot of money in the mine and the closing of the Deerpark was the final blow.

Nixi Boran's interest had been to hopefully get more work for local men due to his involvement in the Unions. Between the age of 12 and 13 I used to go up to the mine a lot. My mother would make up boxes of Sandwiches and I would cycle up from 'Comer. Very often when I would arrive at the mine there would be difficulties of one kind or another. Water was a major problem and bigger and better pumps would be required to deal with it. They were electric pumps and accordingly there was a big expense for Electric power.

My father for a number of years after we left 'Comer had to deal with outstanding bills for this which had been secured by Guarantees. In the photos you might notice a stream near the Lift shaft at the end of the Bogey run. I remember this stream had to be lined with waterproof Concrete to stop the water seeping back to the Shaft. Very often the pumps might break down and the tunnels would fill up very quickly with water.

After Mr. McKay left the level of Engineering was not as good and the tunnels were not level or drained very well. The communications with the surface also were not good - no radios etc then. Communication to the surface was via a cord and bell from the bottom of the shaft I think. Sometimes the miners including my Dad would have to wade or swim through a section of submerged tunnel and if the pumps were down this could be very dangerous. Water could even flood the bottom of the shaft very quickly. I remember my father had a few lucky escapes. Although he was a big strong man he did not have the years of mining experience.

You notice a large bucket in the shaft for bringing up coal and excavations. Also a Platform for lowering and raising which the Miners travelled on. You see the Miners cleaning loose rock from the shaft as any rock falling from a height was extremely dangerous. Later I remember the shaft was lined with timber for safety.

There was a large Diesel Tractor mounted in a shed near the shaft with a large wire rope drum winch at the back of it for raising and lowering the containers and platform to the base. I remember sometimes this tractor might breakdown and men would have to climb up the timber of the shaft. I remember the starting up of the tractor was a big thing. It was a large machine. I have this memory that it was started using an explosive cartridge but I might be wrong on this. I would love to get a photo of this tractor. I suppose the size and noise of it fascinated me at the time.

The coal extracted was of very good quality. I have a test report from Castlecomer Colleries. I'm not sure how much was extracted but it cannot have been more than a few hundred tons. Agreements were in place for royalties with the landowners, approximately 1 shilling per tonne - I have originals of the agreements.

After the mine shut down another firm called Youngs explored this area and adjoining for mineral prospects. I have some correspondence with the Goverment Department in this regard as Firoda Colleries Ltd. still had an interest in the licence granted to them. I remember being fascinated by all this. I remember the use of Brass Carbide lamps and the smell of the gas and the filling of the lamps. The food I brought up from 'Comer would be wolfed down as the men often just forgot about eating and were then ravenous. I would also be hungry from my cycle up and eat with them in sympathy.

The day the pumps were shut off must have been very sad and upsetting for all involved. I can sympathize with the heartache of the Deerpark closing down. In some ways perhaps it was for the best. It was no life for a mineworker. Lung diseases and the prospect of a short life from all the effects of working down mines is not something we would be encouraging our young people to take up now.

Seamus (Jim) Walsh discussing an important letter with Mick Lawlor

Firoda Pit

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