image on the right is taken from the tourist information board,
originally it was promotional material it is set beside a mill chimney
seen in the middle of the picture, the mill workers houses are to
the right, with the mill buildings in the foreground, stretching
down the valley to the Callan river.
image is testament to the importance of the linen industry in this
part of County Armagh. The ordnance survey map of 1834 showed twenty
textile mills on the Callan between Darkley and Tassagh.
Henry McClean owned a spinning
mill, and one William Kirk a beetling on the site destined to become
the thriving village of Darkley. In 1845 McClean died and his ownership
of the mill passed to Kirk who had married Ann McClean in 1820.
Kirk obviously an energetic
and ambitious man set about improving the business, he pioneered
the use of water turbines and around 1850 installed a waterwheel
which at 70ft (21.34 Metres )in diameter made it the largest in
Ireland. See Water Power
Regarding the diameter of the
above waterwheel, I can't remember where I acquired the information.
In William E Hog's book 'The Millers & The Mills of Ireland
about 1850' he list Kirk as having a wheel of 15 feet in diameter,
3 feet wide with a fall of 10 ft.
Two other mills are listed at
Darkly in the same book, the first belonging to Henry McKane a spinning
mill with a wheel diameter of 30 ft, 5 ft wide with a fall of 25
ft. The second belonging to S A Kidd a beetling mill with a wheel
diameter of 30 ft, 5 ft wide with a fall of 24 ft.
As the business expanded so
did the need for workers, Kirk began building the village together
with a school, which provided night classes for adults as well as
a dairy and cooperative shop
In 1888 Basset's directory noted
that the mill was used for flax spinning and linen weaving. A workforce
of seven hundred operated two hundred power looms and eight thousand
spindles. The company also had an imposing warehouse at 11 Donegal
square West in Belfast.
The factory no doubt contributed
to the prosperity
of ancillary industries the surrounding area. Bassett notes that
the company had outlets in London, Manchester, Paris and New York.
The census of 1901 lists employees from Wicklow, Wexford, England
and Scotland. Even in those far off days the linen industry was
in decline, both world wars supplied temporary booms, but the company
closed in 1959.