There’s a derelict three-storey house towering over the road as one drives from Bonmahon Village towards the coast road to Tramore. It’s a building that I’ve passed hundreds of times but have never investigated properly until recently as it has an eerie look about it.
It transpires that it was built in the 19th century for the manager of the copper mine in the area.
It would seem from the plaque on the wall beneath the house that the most notable manager was a man called John Petherick
The fact that the house overlooked the area, now resembling wasteland, where the copper was concentrated by a small army of men, women and boys explains why the house was so tall.
The windows which once provided the view for the mine manager are either boarded up or have wooden frames, cracked glass, and flapping drawn curtains.
Going round to the rear of the house was like walking into a rusty past.
At first, I thought this was an old fireplace but on reflection, I’m not sure. Close by is an old water pump that had me wondering about the domestic arrangements in the big house back in the 19th century.
Even though it’s about two weeks since I was up at the house, the human stories it witnessed at both sides of those twelve windows continue to intrigue and haunt me.
The fact that I am writing this post on Thanksgiving Day in America is not lost on me. The Copper Coast and the mining works at Tankardstown always make me think of America and the many, many miners who moved to America, especially to Butte in Montana. I suspect that as I post this many of their descendants will be celebrating Thanksgiving but seeing this little corner of Ireland out of their eyes. Let us raise a glass together!
I’m hearing that Butte, Montana, the place to which so many of the miners of the Copper Coast here in Co. Waterford emigrated in the late nineteenth century, is freezing and snow-bound.
This very recent photograph of the the cliffs across from the mine-works at Tankardstown is especially for you:
And I would also like to bring you a poem from Leanne O’Sullivan’s wonderful collection The Mining Road (2013) which was inspired by the disused copper mines near Allihies in Co. Cork ~ mines to which some of the Bonmahon miners went before heading for Butte.
Perhaps this is why
I keep returning –
and the light
beyond the shaft.
the engine hauls
in ones and twos,
the darkened galleries,
and wet quartz
and glittering among
the constellations –
your own name
your hands entering
the world again.
( from: Leanne O’Sullivan(2013) The Mining Works, Bloodaxe Books)
Copper Mining was a major industry in Co. Waterford here in Ireland in the 19th century. It was based in the very scenic area around Bonmahon which is at the heart of what is now called the Copper Coast.
Every time I pass the main evidence of the mining works, which are located overlooking the sea at Tankardstown, my mind crosses the ocean to Butte, Montana. We know that many of the miners emigrated to Butte when the mines closed in Bonmahon. I often wonder how it was for those who settled in Butte and if many of their descendants have any real sense of the incredible beauty of the landscape in the area around Bonmahon.
Maybe, just maybe, someone from Butte whose ancestors came from Bonmahon will read this post and let me know how life turned out for their family thousands of miles from their home here in Co. Waterford.