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Copper mines at Tankardstown and Knockmahon

28 December 2013

The 19th century Temperance Movement is an interesting, if brief, piece of history. When I drive to my daughter's house we go through the old part of the town of Chesham (based around an old manor farm) and where the street narrows there is a prominent building, a former temperance meeting hall. I always supposed the Temperance movement was a peculiarity of non-conformist Christianity, a sort of off-shoot of the Quakers. It seems there was an Irish variant on the movement – see www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/digging-into-the-copper-coast-s-1.16… … which begins with the discovery of copper in Co Waterford and the rapid expansion two mining towns during the boom years. People came from far and wide to work in the mines, from both sides of the Irish Sea. There were copper mines in N Wales and their expertise was useful. However, miners worked hard and played hard – lots of alehouses appearedand lots of drunken behaviour, violence and loose women, and so forth. Basically, they were lawless and the local priest, Fr Foley, decided to to set up a militant temperance movement and this led to abstinence, increased productivity in the mines, and even a dry christmas. Amazing.

When the boom years subsided, by the 1870s, the population of the area fell as many of the miners moved on to new fields of endeavour. This included emigrating across the Atlantic to such places as Montana, Utah and Nebraska.

Staying on the Irish theme, at www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/archaeological-find-shines-light-on-… … which involves pilgrimage in the Early Christian era. Now, Ireland has a long pilgrimage tradion, from before Christianity was established and after it was established and one distinct aspect revolved around Croagh Patrick, a conical hill that overlooks the flat plain on the Co Mayo sea coast, where the hill was venerated as a place of safety during what appears to have been a major tsunami event at some point in the past. An annual pilgrimage to the top of the hill has been going on for years – and years. Now, it seems, a marine based pilgrimage route has been discovered in the same general area, a circuit of the Mayo island of Caher. An arc of altars, or 'leachts' has been found by archaeological field work, just nosing around. These are now mostly invisible and lost from local folk memory as a result of thd humans abandoning the island in 1838 (possibly as a result of bad weather at this time or due to the famine).

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