Respecting Our Industrial Heritage
The newly restored mill wheel in Tuam, Co. Galway recently began turning again. After many idle years, the wheel on the River Nanny in the town restarted its quiet circular routine. As the only fully preserved corn mill in the west of Ireland the building is an important landmark as well as a unique example of Ireland’s industrial architecture.
When the Irish industrial revolution is compared to that of Britain, it’s often thought to fall short. It’s said in fact that Ireland didn’t really have much of an industrial revolution at all. It’s true that for vast amounts of time the country relied on its rural, agricultural assets. In actual fact at various different times linen and ship building were to the forefront of activity, especially in the north of Ireland. In the west, in the area stretching from Tuam as far as Loughrea and Woodford in the east of Co. Galway, linen was one of the most important industries at one time. The town of Loughrea and other towns too had a brewery, mentioned by Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837. In many places the agricultural and industrial operated side-by-side.
This is especially true when it came to the processing of crops like corn, oats and other grain. Flour and corn mills had to be built close to places that supplied them, and while many are today in a ruinous or derelict state the remaining buildings inform our understanding of what once happened at these sites.