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Grist to the mill in Bunadober

South of the border

Grist to the mill in Bunadober

Willie McHugh

SEEING as milling is our topic this week we’ll start by separating the wheat from the chaff. This column has developed a slight aversion to heritage days. We’re talking the street carnival phenomenon here that pays homage to a bygone era. It surfaces as a festival highlight every other summer in towns across the region.
SOTB has seen all the dog-eared publications of Old Moore’s Almanac (he must be a great age now), rationing books, pamphlets on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack, old vinyl recordings by Mario Lanza, turf sleans, John Wayne’s jerry can and other such memorabilia. We tasted enough homemade butter churned from Tesco double cream, and exchanged pleasantries with every jodhpur-wearing Lord Fauntleroy and pinafore clad maiden we’ve encountered, to last us a lifetime.
And we’ve held every sliothar purported to be the original ball used in the Battle of Moytura. If ever a combat was proof that the row is never what the row is about then Moytura is surely it. A hurling match outside Cross between The Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danann was the catalyst for the infamous skirmish. A lot of loose pulling went unchecked and, having lost control of the game, the referee abandoned it early in the second half with The Firbolgs leading by five points and the aid of a freshening breeze.
It flared again that evening over Ballymagibbon direction when a young buck of the De Danann’s renowned for his loose tongue shouted, “You are what you eat” at one of The Firbolgs. One word borrowed another and, after a bit of inept jostling, a Firbolgs decked the young De Dannan chap who spoke out of turn.
An unholy fracas broke out and Gardai in Cross needed back up reinforcements from Cong, Gortjordan, Ballyrourke and the night watchman from Ballycurrin Lighthouse before the dust settled. That’s just a “dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi” umpteenth overhead swing version of events. For a more accurate account, Cowboy Jack Holian is your man. He’ll furnish you as near an eyewitness narrative of the whole brouhaha as you’ll get around here.
But we’re a tad more enamoured by the heritage of Bunadober Mill, or Moran’s Mill as it’s more commonly known, a few miles outside Ballinrobe.
A hard-working committee comprising of John Maye, Martin Browne, Mary Ann and Elaine Naughton, Darren Lydon, Timmy Kelly, Mary McGovern, Bernie Lydon, Gerry Coakley and John Francis Burke, among others, have been putting their shoulder to the wheel with a view to having the mill reopened to the public.
Moran’s Mill is a rare example of the only horizontal waterwheel in Ireland. It dates back to 1866 when it was operated by a man named William Walsh.
At the turn of the century it changed hands and was run by John Moran and his wife Bridget. John passed away in 1916 and Bridget continued the business until their son John took over. He renovated it and built a corn drying kiln. The mill was operational until 1980 and in 1996 it was taken into State care and protected under the National Monuments Act.
Now John Maye and his cohorts hope to advance it further. They pulled a big ace from the pack this week when Brian Hayes, Minister of State at The Office of Public Works and his entourage gave a commitment to visit the site on Monday, April 22.
The committee hope to obtain permission from the Office of Works to hold an open day later in the year. Martin Browne has also made land available for the widening of the approach road and the provision of parking facilities.
There’s a devilish glint in John Maye’s eye when he peddles the notion of chartered flights arriving in Knock and a shuttle service bringing tourists to see this significant and preserved vestige but his vision is backed up by determination. Already they’ve enlisted for the long haul. The big wheel is turning.
Now there’s heritage for ya!

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