Ah, beautiful Allihies! I was going to make one blog entry about Allihies, but it is turning out to be impossible.This little seaside village has so many personalities it’s difficult to know where to start. The town is lovely and the beach is stupendous, but you can’t go walking in those inviting hills unless you travel the carefully laid out roadways. Once properly known as Cluin, Allhies was a thriving copper mining town, the landscape now dotted with dangerous, abandoned mine shafts.
We made our way over Knockgour Mountain and drove down through the mist towards the village. If you look carefully at the picture above you will be able to see the beach tucked below Ballydonegan Bay, a lovely bright half-moon in a rugged landscape. The road twists and winds through rocky hills until you come upon a blue sign at the side of the road explaining a bit about the history of the area.
Allihies Copper Mine Trail (Slí Mianaigh Umha Na hAilichí)
Dooneen Mine-Minach Dunin
Copper mining at Allihies started here in 1812 by John Puxley, a local landlord, after the large quartze promontory to the left here was identified as copper bearing as can be seen by its bright Malachite staining.
Initial mining began with a tunnel or adit driven into the quartze lode from the beach below. In 1821 two shafts were sunk as can be seen either side of the road here. Flooding was a continuous problem and in 1823 the engine house was erected to house a steam engine brought over from Cornwall to pump water from the depths. The remains of this building with the base of the chimney can be seen across the road.There is also evidence of a steam powered stamp engine to the left of the chimney and dressing floors in front of the engine house. The high dam further inland is the remaining evidence of a water reservoir which stored the water that was pumped out from the bottom of the mine. It was used for the steam engines and needed to separate the copper from the rock.All the rubble on the cliff at the sea side of the road is the crushed useless quartz rock elft over after the copper was extracted.
This is one of six productive mines in the Allihies area and continued its operation until 1838 when it closed due to failing ore.
John Puxley died in 1860 and in 1868 his son Henry Puxley sold the mines to the new Berehaven Mining Company who reopened the mine and installed a new 22 inch steam engine in 1872. Little ore was produced though in this period and the mine was finally abandoned in 1878.
For further information on the Allihies mining story visit Allihies Copper Mining Museum at the bottom of the village.”
The view from this spot was vertigo inducing as deep crevices were visible plunging into the sea below. One could only imagine the danger and the struggle families went through in the area as they tried to battle nature for her treasures. It’s amazing to note that copper mining in this area had begun before the Bronze age finally reaching its peak in the late 1800’s! After the decline in production,emigration took its toll as miners left the area in search of a new future, leaving Allihies virtually a ghost town for decades.
Haunting looking structures loomed up through the mist, guardians of the past.
From The Allihies Copper Mine Museum Website we learn:
“The Mountain Mine Man Engine House is unique in Ireland and it is the sole remaining purpose-built man engine house anywhere in the world. Like a lonely sentinel, the Cornish design Man Engine House stands guard over the village of Allihies, the surrounding valley, the bay below and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Erected in 1862, it is a potent symbol of the village, the valley and the community, and it is the primary surviving embodiment of what was once a thriving copper mining industry during the 19th Century. It is a monument to the life and times of those copper miners, of trade routes to Swansea, and along with Cornish immigrants, to the diaspora of people to other parts of the world, including Butte, Montana, after the mines eventually closed in the 1880s.”
Allihies not only offers tales rich in history but is also a welcoming town with a beautiful beach and interesting people. It is well worth the visit. (more pictures to come in the next post!)
Would you like to learn more about Copper Mining in Allihies?
Click on the links below for more information:
Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland
The emigration of Allihies miners
The Leadville Irish; Life, Labor and Loss at 10,200 feet
Where is Allihies?