A simple ceremony took place in Durrus Village recently, which highlighted an important aspect of life in the area in times gone by. In an age when almost every farm, irrespective of size, grew some cereals, the processing of this grain into a usable product, be it flour for baking or feed for livestock, was an absolute necessity. A corn mill was needed for this purpose but the means of powering the mill was a crucial consideration. Few choices of doing this existed in 1860 when the O’Sullivan family proposed the establishment of a corn mill in Durrus. Water power was the only option which was available in those times.
Erecting the mill behind the village, near the entrance to the modern day Sruth Mhuileann estate, necessitated the construction of a mill race from where Wiseman’s Garden is now situated, to take water, diverted from the Four Mile Water river, to drive the mill. The millstone, which ground the corn, is believed to have been manufactured in Belfast.
Undoubtedly, the installation would have been considered to be a ‘state of the art’ facility at that time. For many years, grain was drawn to the mill by horses and donkeys from a very wide area. Older members of the community can remember the mill being operated by the late John D O’Sullivan, who was better known as ‘Big John.’
In the 1930s, it was being superseded by newer mills and it ceased operations. However, fuel to drive the more modern plants was in short supply during World War Two and the water mill started up again, as water was not subject to rationing! Following the ending of the war, it finally closed down in 1948.
In an initiative of Durrus Tidy Towns Committee and the Muintir Bháire Men’s Group, the abandoned millstone has now been salvaged and installed on the small green in the centre of the village. Both groups are to be commended for their initiative in preserving an aspect of the area’s history and giving the village a new landmark.
The unveiling of the mill stone was performed by recently-elected members of Cork County Council, Katie Murphy and Holly McKeever Cairns. Afterwards, everyone was treated to a lavish array of refreshments at the Philip’s Green Centre.