Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The brick story from Ber's house

A further little bit of history from Ber Coleman's refurbishing of her Hillside house relates to the bricks used along with the stone, writes Brian Byrne.

Ber told the Diary that while the very interesting stonework is sound, she needs to replace the bricks, and is trying to source similar ones to the original.

And the originals were made in a long-defunct brickyard at Ballysax, as the picture above shows.

Thanks to my friend and avid historian Liam Kenny, for many years a journalist with the Leinster Leader, we have some details of that Ballysax Brick Works.

Liam has a special interest in old bricks of Kildare, particularly from Athy, and has some research on the Ballysax operation, mainly via trawls through the Kildare Observer, which preceded the Leinster Leader.

"The first mention I find of Ballysax brick is in 23 June 1904 edition," he told the Diary. "Then there's a reference in the issue of 24 June 1905 when the then County Surveyor Mr Glover gives a very complimentary report of the quality of bricks displayed by the Ballysax brickyard in an industrial exhibition organised as part of the Co Kildare Feis Ceoil."

He subsequently found an advertisement in the issue of 12 December 1908, on behalf of the representatives of William Pallin recently deceased. "Goffs advertise the sale of the brick-works and associated land-holdings. The notice details the equipment inventory including 3 kilns, crusher, press, wire-cut machines, aggregate handling equipment, etc. It seems as if the premises is being offered on a going-concern basis."

However, a further advertisement on 12 December 1908 describes a 'closing down sale'. "This suggests that a buyer willing to keep the business going might not have been found."

Liam says the brickyard's existence may have been prompted by the vast brick-built construction of the Curragh Camp mostly in the years between 1880 and 1910. "There were brickyards also at Morristown Biller and Great Connell, but I do not think they were of the same scale as Ballysax. That said, the Curragh project was so vast that the bricks probably came from a multitude of producers including Ballysax, Athy, other Irish yards and UK brickyards."