Bright future for Valentia Slate as a new owner takes the helm

Sinead Kelleher

Valentia Slate has graced unique and iconic buildings around the world including Westminster and St Paul's Cathedral, and famous homes in Ireland belonging to the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Bono.

It is now hoped that Valentia Slate will become even better known word-wide as a new owner, Aidan Forde, from Killarney, takes over the business.

The Killarney businessman is involved in Torc Brewing and in windfarm energy around the country, including through his company, Saorgus Energy. Now he's turning his hand to Valentia Slate. A geologist by trade, Aidan hopes to develop the business, which is more than 200 years old.

"We are keen to develop it sustainably and leverage the uses that Valentia slate can be put to," he told The Kerryman this week.

"We want to continue the international business and develop the Irish business, and we are very keen that Valentia Slate plays a role in the UNESCO project. The first message was sent from the slate yard; that's where the quarry is, and we hope the company plays a role into the 21st century."

Valentia Slate dates back to the early 1800s, and in the 1850s it employed over 450 people. It closed in 1911, and more than 80 years later it was re-opened in 1998 by three local business men - Micheál Lyne, Mike O'Donoghue (RIP) and Pat O'Driscoll.

The plan by the three local men had been to reopen Valentia slate to bring much-needed employment to the area in the 1980s, but it took longer than anticipated to get the quarry re-opened.

The location had to be purchased from the Knight of Kerry, and then geological surveys were undertaken before any works could take place.

Quarry equipment also had to be financed.

Three men from the Ukraine were hired to come to Valentia to oversee the quarry when it re-opened.

One of the biggest contracts Valentia Slate received was for the Palace of Westminster, which since 2004 has been using Valentia Slate for their refurbishment, and a major project is due to get underway in the coming years at Westminster, which will use more of the product.

Micheál Lyne said this week that it is sad to say goodbye to the company but added that he and his business partners had never intended to run the company for so long.

However, he said it is in good hands for the future.

"He is a geologist and he loves the story," said Micheál.