The Oxford Companion to Irish History

By S. J. Connolly | Go to book overview
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quarrying in Ireland has mainly produced slate, granite, and limestone. Irish slate stood at a huge commercial disadvantage to the mass outpouring from north Wales, especially of the omnipresent 'Bangor Blue'. Nevertheless Clasnasmuth quarry, near Carrick-on-Suir, was famed for the decorative effect of its rich green slate. Similar slate was quarried at Kilmoganny, Co. Kilkenny. Killaloe, near Limerick, provided a rich supply of roofing slates. 'Carlow Flags', from the extremely durable, fine-grained bedded sandstones of the Upper Carboniferous age, were quarried in south-west Clare and Co. Kilkenny. Carboniferous slate was also raised near Clonakilty, Co. Cork. A particularly firm, tough slate, quarried at Valentia Island, was used for large flags and slabs.

Sandstone was used in main buildings in the cities, some of the very best being quarried in Cos. Donegal and Fermanagh. Mount Charles stone, from Co. Donegal, could be used in delicate moulded work. However, soft Triassic sandstone was not suitable in the corrosive atmosphere of big cities. Nevertheless the sandstone quarry at Scrabo, Co. Down, was an important working, which provided stone for * Belfast in the late 1880s, notably in the Robinson Cleaver building.

The problem of atmospheric corrosion in cities was solved by the use of granite and other hard igneous rocks. Granite, from the Leinster chain, was used in the basement-course of many dwellings in * Dublin, which were completed in brick. It also provided façades and ornamentation in the construction of more prestigious buildings. In the 19th century granite from the Newry-Bessbrook area competed successfully, in the London building market, with the better-known Aberdeen and Peterhead granite. The quarry, on the estate of Viscount Charlemont, supplied granite blocks, not only to the nearby model linen village of Bessbrook, but also the town hall in Manchester and the great steps of St George's Hall, Liverpool.

Limestone is widely available in Ireland. Its main ingredient is calcite. Deposits of high purity are not so common. Lime is a by-product after kilning. Most limestone is used for aggregate, roadstone, and cement manufacture. This has increased massively this century. Ground limestone is used in agriculture. Almost all quarries are in the carboniferous limestone areas, although chalk is exploited in Ulster. Limestone was traditionally used for building. The grey carboniferous type, best exemplified by the uniform, fine-grained variety of Roscommon, was used for large structures and decoration. The shaly black limestone, known as 'calp', was only suitable for common walls, as it did not weather out equally along its planes of stratification. More recently, the building industry has used hydrated lime. Smaller amounts of limestone have been used in a wide variety of industries, from glass and chemicals to foodstuffs.

Bauxite, which is an important ore of aluminium, is usually mined. It was discovered in Co. Antrim and as the only source in the British Isles was mined extensively at Clinty, near Ballymena, from the outbreak of the * Second World War.

Nowadays most quarrying is for road building. PC

quarterage dispute. Although Catholics were not eligible to become freemen of boroughs, they were permitted to become 'quarter brothers' of *guilds, and practise the relevant trade or profession, on payment of a fee. By the 1760s Catholic merchants and manufacturers had begun to refuse these fees, and the courts refused to uphold the demand for their payment. Seven quarterage bills, all unsuccessful, were introduced in the House of Commons between 1768 and 1778. The campaign against these impositions has been seen as an important stage in the rise of a more assertive Catholic middle class.

Queen's Colleges, created by * Peel's government in 1845 as one of a series of reforms intended


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The Oxford Companion to Irish History


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