Larry Power's


Larry Power & his young friend Sean Geoghegan working on the "Landing" of his mine

About 1985, a man called Larry Power was walking in Glenmullen woods. He knew that previously coal had been mined in these woods. He was interested in coal as he used to work in the Deerpark mines before they closed. He spotted a few lumps of coal by the river, so he decided to start mining. He asked a friend to join him. After a short length of time they found it successful. They struggled on changing places from time to time trying to find a location that would be profitable. They actually tried about four places in the wood. 


Now at last Larry has found quite a successful mine at the upper end of Glenmullen woods. Mr. Power has  eight men employed. Some of these are his own sons. His daughters also work at the mine when it is busy. They can turn their hand to any of the jobs and they are as good as any of the men at their work.  Larry draws about 30 tons a week from the mine. 

The Week

The miners work underground during the week making roads and getting out the coal. When the coal comes to "bank" (surface) it is broken and screened. Larry sells the coal every Saturday morning. You would have to be at the pit early if you wanted coal as customers come from far and near looking for the "black gold". There could be a Queue of maybe 20 cars & trailers, tractors & lorries waiting outside the pit at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. All the coal would be sold out at noon. The coal from these pits was so good that if you bedded down a fire at a given time today and closed the "dampers" the fire would still be lighting at the same time tomorrow.

Our Visit to the Mines

All the pupils in our school visited Larry Powers' Mine. It was the experience of our lives. Our parents brought us out in cars. The pit is about 6 miles from our school by road. It is about 2 miles "as the crow flies". When we arrived we had to walk down a long lane. The lane was black, covered in coal dust and coal particles. One day we met a "Black Pig" on the way down.

When we arrived at the mine, we were amazed at what we saw. It was like a smaller version of the Deerpark Mine. We had seen photographs of the Deerpark. The first thing we noticed was the "Tram Track" coming out of the mine. It had to cross a stream and so was like a bridge. On top of the track were a number of "Trams". Some were full and others were empty. They were hauled from the mine by a steel rope which was attached to a tractors back wheel. The wheel had no tyre and the tractor was up on blocks so that when it was driven the wheel turned and wound up the steel rope, pulling the trams out of the mine. This was a typical example of a miners "resourcefulness".

Larry and John getting ready to empty a few trams into the breaker

Waiting for a "Load"

The Landing

The trams were hauled up on to an area known as the "Landing". Here we saw where the trams were tipped over and the coal emptied into the breaker. The coal was then broken into smaller pieces, as it could have come out of the mine in lumps measuring maybe 2 or 3 foot square. From the breaker the coal traveled  to the screening machine on a conveyor belt to be sorted.


The screening machine was similar to a number of "sieves" (a kitchen utensil with a mesh  used for sifting flour when making a cake ) positioned one over the other. They would each have a mesh of different diameters. The larger one on the top might be a 6 inch mesh grading down to a  1\4 inch mesh on the bottom. This machine vibrated, the smaller coal falling to the bottom. The coal then from each screen passed down along a funnel to ground level where the bags were filled. Customers backed in their trailers under the funnel of whatever grade they wanted. For more information on the different grades of coal "click here"  There was plenty of "culm" (coal dust) in heaps around the yard. People could take this for free to make "Coal Bumbs". If you want to find out about coal bumbs then "click here"

The Yard

Around Larrys' yard there were all sorts of interesting objects. There were broken trams, wheels, water pumps, electric cable, wooden mine props, broken tools and much more. We even saw a "plunge detonator" used for blasting the mine with explosives. In one corner of the yard was a heap of "slack" (stones, rock, slate, culm) which was waste from the mine. This was like a mini-"Bells Heap" (Deerpark). When we looked in the stream we noticed that some of the water and sediment was "rust" coloured. This was actually iron. As well as coal, there is also a lot of iron in the ground around Castlecomer.

Here we Go !

Down and Down


Our greatest adventure was yet to come. We traveled about 500 yards further down the woods to a worked-out  mine. This was brilliant because we were allowed down the mine. The first 50 yards was cut out in solid rock. We had to bend down in case we hit our heads off the roof. It was pitch black and even with several strong lamps it was still dark. The ground underfoot was wet and sticky. The walls were wet and the roof was seeping water. To be honest we were rather nervous especially when "Sir" (our Teacher) told us to turn off all lights. It was darker than we had ever imagined. You could not see your hand if you put it up to your face.

We traveled down the mine for about 100 yards. When we looked back we could barely see a light at the entrance. On the way down we noticed some sections of coal in the wall. This was the "coal face" and if it was large enough the miners would have dug it out. We also saw round holes of about 2" in diameter. These had sticks stuck in them to mark their positions. They were holes that had been drilled to put explosives into and to make roads off the "main road". They were never used, presumably because it must not have been worthwhile.


When we got down as far as we could go we got a bit of a shock. Up to now the mine was about 4 ft. high and reasonably dry. Now however, it branched off into two roads that were about 3 ft. high and had surely a foot of water in them.  We could see with our lights how they meandered off into the bowels of the earth to a place that we did not want to go. We saw a lovely big rat having his daily swim. Down here there were fine examples of the coalface and where the miners extracted the "gum" before knocking down a lump of coal. We could see the wooden props and some old tram rails. It was an experience never to be forgotten. When we got back to "bank" (surface) we were happy to see daylight, to breathe fresh air. We had just been down for 30 minutes. We did not have to lie in the water or breathe coal dust following an explosion, shovel coal in a two foot space or push heavy trams along two miles of roadway.

We went down there!

When we got this far we had to stop!

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