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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

"The Cut of Killeshin"

Co Laois

From Sir Charles Coote's, in his Statistical Survey of the Queen's County 1801.

Bridges 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

Note:  In recent years the Cut has been widened by the Co. Council in order that two cars may pass.
A section of an 1898 map of  Queens County showing the approximate location of the Cut of Killeshin.
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 long disappeared'

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 transient sentiment!

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.

From "Beneath 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

"Beneath Slievemargy's Brow" ISBN 0 86335 042 9 The Leinster Express price €12.70

(Special thanks to "Carloman" & Peter Walker for their contributions)

Killeshin Round Tower

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