and roads in this barony are the worst in the county, or, I
believe, in the Province. The whole road-tax raised in the barony
is always expended on the colliery road. Enormous as this tax is,
it is not half-sufficient to keep this road in repair, and
(therefore) every other road in the barony is neglected. A turnpike
road would certainly produce a revenue equal to any sum required to
keep it in the best possible repair.
One thousand five hundred cars have been
counted in one day, passing on the Cooper-hill road. From
Carlow to Doonane a road might be made three miles
shorter than the present one. The carrier, for two pence
per day toll, could make two journeys from the low
collieries to Carlow, instead of one, (but) a stranger
viewing the road in its present state, must suppose that
the cost of the entire load would be too little to defray
the cost of carriage alone.
A remarkable place, called
"The Cut of Killeshin" about three miles
from Carlow, is perhaps as great ill artificial curiosity
as can be produced in this or any other county. This pass
runs through a lofty hill for about half-a-mile in length,
and is from ten to forty feet deep, according to the
ascent of the ground. It is only four feet four inches
wide, cut-through the solid quarry, and so narrow that
the car has barely room to pass, the wheels scraping
either side of the rock, and were the axle-tree but half-an-inch
wider than four feet four inches, it never could pass
through. This extraordinary excavation has been reduced
to its present great depth in the short space of thirty
years, as at that period such another cut was abandoned,
and this new road given to the colliers by the late Mr.
Fitzmaurice. The carrier, as he approaches the gap,
hallows loudly, to prevent a meeting, which sometimes
occurs, in which case the driver must back out his horse
over the roughest, worst possible road, which all their
horses are used to. It often occurs that drivers, being
drunk, omit to hallow, and a battle surely takes place,
when the vanquished gives the way.16
years the Cut has been widened by the County Council in order that two cars
- A section of an 1898 map of Queens County
showing the approximate location of the Cut of
- Map supplied by Peter Walker.
- This picture taken recently
by Peter Walker in 2010 shows only a part of
what used to be known as the Cut of Killeshin.
- Most of the original road has
In England, market forces
operated, so that coal was raised only to meet demand.
Introduction of the "English method" began with
the Lordship Collieries at Castlecomer and proved a
source of bitter conflict. Shutting down the entire
operation for a period during 1831. With the
consolidation of mining interests, the disappearance of
the middleman and the introduction of better techniques
mechanisation began to make progress, and the struggle to
improve the miner's lot began.
We have already quoted Jacob on
the value of the three-foot seam and the unfortunately
wasteful manner in which it was worked. The Contact
article which mentioned the Dromagh mines tells us that
the coal mined there was "the Newtown three-foot"
and that it was highly valued for its heating quality and
its low sulphur content; Apparently it was extensively
used by the hand-forgers of the day and so keenly sought
after that it might have monopolised the Irish market. So
superior was it considered to be to the best Welsh and
English coal, that its value was estimated at three
guineas the cubic yard. At the time, the early nineteenth
century, output at the Doonane, Newtown and Dromagh mines
was so great that as many as nine hundred coal carts per
week used the Killeshin road on their way to the market
at Carlow. In that town what is now Kennedy Street was
then the Coal market. another instance, where a Local
Authority discarded its sense of: history in favour of
Transport was a major
difficulty over terrain so rough as ours, with all the
bigger markets outside our saucer's rim. As may be
imagined so much heavily-laden traffic worked havoc on
the road system, so that at times the ruts on the Carlow
road went as deep as two feet, becoming elongated pot-holes,
dangerous to foot, wheel and axle-tree.
16. Coote, op.
cit., pp. 185 & 192-193.
Slievemargy's Brow", a book by Brother Linus Walker
who was born Tourtane in the parish of Clough, Co.
Kilkenny, in 1930. He entered the Patrician Brothers in
1944 and after forty- three years in the classroom took
up parochial work in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
Previous books dealt with the work of his Congregation
and with historical and religious topics
Brow" ISBN 0 86335 042 9 The Leinster Express price
thanks to "Carloman" & Peter Walker for their contributions)
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