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The town of Darkley.

County Armagh.

Look for other towns in County Armagh.

Darkley Village.

The 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.

The 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.

A 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 in Ireland.

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.

William Kirk was born in Larne in 1795 he served as member of parliament from 1852-59 and again from 1868 until his death in 1871. Soon after a memorial was erected in the town of Keady. William's business interests were inherited by his eldest son John, when he died in 1873 the business passed to the second son William M Kirk, when he died in 1884 the company passed to his trustees.

See also the Linen Industry and images of County Armagh.

Tourist Information
Armagh City
Co Armagh
Tel +28 (0)3752 1800
E Mail
Web Site

Contact Armagh City tourist office for more information.