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Coalisland Coal Mines.

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Coal has been mined in Tyrone since the mid 1600's, by the mis 1700's with Dublins population having expanded six fold in the previous 100 years it was decided to build a canal between Lough Neagh and Newry at the head of Carlingford Lough this was begun in 1731 and completed by 1742

The text below is taken from Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster, Blackstaff Press, Belfast 1991, pages 203–5:

"Inland Navigation's and Roads

"During the 1654 Civil Survey it was noted that coal was being mined at Tullyniskan in east Tyrone. More coal deposits were found nearby at Drumglass in 1692 and these were being exploited by somewhat crude techniques for a Dublin consortium soon afterwards. Then in 1723 Francis Seymour, an entrepreneur, leased land from the archbishop of Armagh and began mining by more sophisticated methods at Brackaville, soon to be known as Coalisland. Seymour sank a shaft 156 feet deep at his ‘Engine Pit’ and a few years later a ‘cut’ was begun to connect Coalisland to the Blackwater to take the coal to Lough Neagh [citing W. A. McCutcheon on The Industrial Archeology of Northern Ireland, Belfast, 1980, page 329].

"General George Monck, who restored Charles II to the throne, had suggested constructing a navigation between Lough Neagh and Newry, but it was not till 1703 that Francis Nevil, collector of Her Majesty’s Revenues in Ireland, was asked by the Irish parliament to carry out a survey ‘with a designe of drawing a Canal or making a Passage for Boats from the said Lough to the Sea’ [McCutcheon 52]. No further action was taken until 1729 when parliament set up the Commissioners of Inland Navigation for Ireland and levied duties on luxury goods to provide the new body with funds. The population of Dublin had increased sevenfold since 1660 and it was fast becoming the second city of the empire – a mushroom growth not possible without massive importation of British coal each year. Colliers had to face prevailing westerlies, and supplies of coal were expensive and unreliable. With the optimistic prospect that the Tyrone coalfield could supply the capital’s needs, the Newry Navigation was begun in 1731. Under the direction first of Sir Edward Lovett Pearce and then of his deputy, the Huguenot Richard Cassels, and finally of the English engineer Thomas Steers, the canal was completed in 1742 and on 28 March in the same year the Cope and the Boulter of Lough Neagh sailed into the port of Dublin with cargoes of Tyrone coal.

"The making of the Newry Navigation was a great engineering feat. A canal of fifteen locks, including the first stone lock chamber in Ireland, it crossed eighteen miles of rough country to a height of seventy-eight feet above sea level to connect Lough Neagh with the sea—the earliest true summit-level canal, pre-dating both the Sankey Cut at St. Helens and the Bridgewater Canal to Manchester. Never before in peacetime had so many men been put to work on a single project in Ireland, for it was excavated without machinery at 7d. a day for each man ‘provided with one good working tool, such as spade, pick, stubbing axe or shovel’. Between 1759 and 1769 a ship canal was made at Newry so that larger vessels could take the coal to Dublin [McCutcheon 49, Tony Canavan, Frontier Town: An Illustrated History of Newry, Belfast 1841].

"The Tyrone coalfield never achieved what was expected of it. Severe faulting made mining difficult—not to speak of the dangers run by the men working below, blasting seams with gunpowder and lighting their way with candles stuck in lumps of clay on their caps. A partnership formed in 1740 headed by Primate George Stone, was characterized by gross incompetence and corruption, and another created in 1756 squandered £12,000 of its government grant to little effect [McCutcheon 332]. Yet the Newry canal prospered; it was both a cause and a consequence of eighteenth-century prosperity in Ulster. Without the steadily improving economic prospects of the province’s hinterland the navigation would not have been built, and the new waterway stimulated the domestic linen industry in central Ulster by providing an inexpensive route for imported bleachers’ potash and exported cloth."

Below is an article of 1834 relating to the parish of Drumglass, county Tyrone, by Lieutenant G. Dalton, from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland (The Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast, 1993), volume 20, page 43—Parishes of County Tyrone II 1825, 1833–5, 1840 Mid and East Tyrone:

"The parish is plentifully supplied with bogs in the adjoining parishes of Killyman, Donaghmore and Pomeroy, and coals from the pits in Killybrockey townland are both cheap and abundant. ...

"There is an extensive coalfield in this parish, the principal mine being in Killybrockey townland. It is worked with activity and supplies a large tract of country with good coal at a low rate, being sold at the pit mouth at 9s 2d a ton. The principal pit is worked with 2 steam engines, the largest being employed in clearing it of water and the smaller one in raising coal. The first is 70 and the latter 30 horsepower. The depth from the surface to the top of the coal is 128 yards, the seam is 4 feet high with a parting in it of slate or clearing 12 inches thick, leaving in it about 3 feet of pure coal.

"About the year 1760 a civil engineer named Greatorix stated to a committee of the Irish House of Commons that this coalfield was of sufficient extent to supply Dublin for 60 years, and on this report they subsequently granted the sum of 200,000 pounds to form a ship canal from the colliery to Dublin, taking advantage of Lough Neagh and the coast. The plan and estimate for this canal by Mr. Omer may be seen on the journals of the House. It was commenced but never completed. At a later period, Ducart, an Italian engineer, projected a canal from the colliery to Coalisland, having instead of locks, sleds or inclined plains with rollers, by means of which the empty vessel proceeding to the pit was with some slight mechanical assistance drawn up by the full one leaving it. He obtained a considerable from the House to enable him to put his plans into execution and the unfinished remains of it, principally in Tullyniskan parish, are still to be seen."