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Blarney Woollen Mills
County Cork, Ireland

[Thursday - 11/14/02] Just down the road from our wonderful Blarney B&B, was a famous local attraction/store called the Blarney Woollen Mills where we did LOTS of shopping. Built in 1824, Blarney Woollen Mills was originally known as Mahony's Mills and employed many of the people of Blarney and surrounding areas. It was a water powered mill and it produced tweeds and woollens for the home and export markets.

In 1928, a boy of 13 named Christy Kelleher, like most of his friends in Blarney, began to work at Blarney Woollen Mills as an apprentice machinist. He worked there for 22 years, becoming a supervisor with responsibility for the day to day running and maintenance of the heavy industrial machinery. To his credit, during the war years, when machine parts were not available, he improvised so well that 'his' machines never stopped. He left in 1951 to work for an insurance company.

Meanwhile, business at the Old Mill had started to decline and it finally wound down production and closed its doors in 1973. The huge stone buildings became bare and empty and the machines were dismantled and removed. Some five hundred people lost their jobs.

Back in 1967, Kelleher had started a small souvenir shop in Blarney with some of his friends. As they didn't have enough money to buy any property, they built a small, thatched wagon to sell their wares. During several visits to the Mill, and about two years after the closed mills had sat empty and derelict, Kelleher had the idea to transfer the souvenir business from the thatched cottage to the Mill. The original, thatched wagon is on display in the center of the store. Creating a tourist center and elaborate gift shop, the remainder of the Mill was converted into an hotel, appropriately called Christy's.

Christy Kelleher died in 1991 aged 76. But he left behind a thriving family company which still retains that Blarney spirit that made it all possible in the first place. Nowadays more than one million visitors pass through the old stone buildings each year.

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Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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