Model research and build funded with assistance from The Heritage Council
In 2018 the Mining Interest Group identified that while the stories and histories of the miners and being underground had been gathered there were also many men that had worked for the mines but had stayed ‘Topside’. These men had not been afforded the opportunity to share their stories. It was decided that it was time to research as much as possible about the Gurteen mine site: the buildings, the trades and occupations needed to support the underground miners in extracting and processing coal and the working day at during the 1950’s 60’s and up till its closure in 1973.
Gurteen was the largest and longest running local coal mine in the mid-20th Century. At its height of operation over 600 men and a few women were working there. All that is left at the Gurteen Mine site is the mass concrete structure of the ‘Gantry’, two derelict offices, an air shaft, the top of the ‘Crank’, some concrete yards, and the settling tanks. A winch wheel is still in situ on the sizeable spoil heap. All the other buildings were reconstructed for the model from the research undertaken.
A group of men who had worked either ‘topside’ or underground at Gurteen: Paddy O’Connell, Dan Doheny, Michael ‘King’ Cleere and Kelvin O’Brien worked with Katy Goodhue to interpret the site of Gurteen Mine and to realise the model.
Over the summer the group visited the site, recalling the physical space and the structures, measured the ruins still standing, named the buildings and their uses. They also remembered the men who worked at Gurteen and the variety of work above ground that were essential to the underground extraction and processing of the coal; and in doing so recorded much more about the working life of a mine. Information was also gathered when the group met and worked on the layout of the model in the Old School and from old photographs and some film made at Gurteen. This history and scaled drawings were all used to inform the build of the model of both the buildings and site.
The buildings and features named and reconstructed are : The Gantry, Settling Tanks, The Crank, The Landing, The Washery, The Bank, The Winch Wheels, The Winch House, Bunkers, Electrics, The Clock House, Showers, Open Shed – The Saw House, The Powder House, The Lamp House, The Compressor Shed, The Oil Shed, The Garage, The Bagging Yard, An Air Shaft, The Offices and The Weighbridge Office.
The initial model was exhibited during Heritage Week 2018 and more men who worked at Gurteen described their memories of the physical space and their work there. Family members also recalled and talked about their visits ‘Top-Side’ to Gurteen. From this additional information the model was reworked to include more detail and now is on permanent display in the Old School Mining Museum, The Commons.
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