A mill in Ballylongford Village has been home to steel trusses from a section of the original stand in Croke Park since 1960. They were put on display this week after restoration work exposed the priceless GAA artefacts for the first time in over 60 years.
Restoration on a dilapidated roof covering the old courtyard of an 1840s mill in Ballylongford Village has revealed a rare peek at GAA history – the steel trusses from the original stand at Croke Park.
The priceless pieces of GAA heritage are making way for an exciting new era at the mill that will attract visitors to the tourism-struggling North Kerry village.
In 1949, the GAA commenced a sequence of renovations at the famous stadium. In 1959 the O’Sullivan family purchased the trusses, thought to have come from a section of the stand where the old Cusack Stand was situated.
The O’Sullivan family brought them to Ballylongford where they were used in the construction of the storehouse that is now under demolition to bring new life back to the original courtyard.
Local man Michael Finucane was there to witness the trusses being taken down on Thursday. Michael was also there on that day in 1960 when the trusses arrived in the village to much excitement.
“I was only seven-years of age when they arrived in Bally. I remember them putting them up,” said Michael.
“There was fierce excitement. People knew the trusses were coming from Croke Park, which only added to the excitement. They [trusses] would have witnessed Bloody Sunday and all the All-Ireland’s Kerry won up to that time. That would have meant a lot to the people around here,” he added.
Michael said he is not sad to see the trusses moving on as the renovations will restore the mill and ‘give it new life’.
In recent years the corrugated iron sheeting on the roof posed a threat to public safety during storms.
It’s rumoured the trusses are being used to construct a cow shed in the locality, which pleases Michael as they will be kept in Bally.
“We are looking forward to the mill’s new future. It means everything to us here in Bally. It is only lying there disintegrating, so isn’t it better to see it revived? Events will be held there and it’s better to have it restored and attracting people than watching it fall asunder.”
Michael explains how the mill is the only one of its kind remaining in Ireland and the British Isles. Originally built as a storehouse in the 1840s, it was turned into a mill in the 1930s.
Former Taoiseach Seán Lemass, who served as Minister for Supplies in the early 1940s, was charged with controlling the production, distribution and pricing of vital supplies during the Emergency (1939-45). Minister Lemass secured funding for the mill.
“There was 38 people employed in the mill at one time. It has always been a major part of the village. It is the centre piece of the community. It’s great to see it coming back into life again. It’s a massive undertaking,” said Michael.
O’Sullivan’s mill was purchased in 2020 by an International Heritage Project Developer for €81,000 – down from its price of €1.4 million in 2004.
The restored building will host social and cultural events with the aim of attracting visitors to Ballylongford.
In just a few weeks from now the restored courtyard will facilitate the Irish Traditional Trade Fair from July 30-31.
This will be a family-friendly weekend with old-fashioned fairground games for the kids, food, and entertainment and lots of traditional crafts for sale.
There will also be a wide variety of trades and crafts on display, from longbow makers to coppersmiths, felt makers to musical instrument makers, basket makers to blacksmiths.