EPISODE 449 IRISH PICTURES 1960…GOING UNDERGROUND
“Alan, would you like to see inside the old mine?”. said Barne Dwan
one afternoon as we had lunch on the cliff edge with the
ruins of the Knockmahon Mine at our back.
“Impossible, the mine was abandoned long
ago in the 1870's.”
“Easy to get inside … right beneath our feet is a hole.”
“We can crawl inside…I've done it many times.”
“A mine shaft…vertical?”
“Nope, a hole …horizontal…think these holes were dug for ventilation.”
“Did you say “these holes”….more than one?”
'There are a number of old entrances along these cliffs…some
were even used as IRA hideouts in the Time of the Troubles..”
“When can “we do it, Barney?'
“how about this evening?
The clifff face was about 200 to 300 feet high … a broken face kind of
cliff. It could be climbed. About halfway up the cliff was a kind of ledge at the back was our first “hole”
“I brought flashlights, matches, candle, hard hats….all we need.”
“Why the candle?”
“Just to check the air a few times…if the candle won't light or
the candle goes out…we've got to get the hell out fast…no
oxygen.” (reminder of the Canary in the Coal Mine)
“Dark…black as the worst nightmare, Barney. The hole
looks so tiny.”
“It will get worse, Alan.”
“If the ceiling collapses who will ever find us?”
“Our disappearance will become a mystery … just another
of the mysteries in Ireland.”
“Sow down…looks like the passage ends here.”
“Bit of a rocka fall…we can squeeze by on our stomachs Alan.”
“Light the candle first…there…air seems fine..bit of a draft.”
“Really tight to squeeze through but seems to open up
on the other side…flash light over the rock fall.”
“We made it…we can now walk in a crouch.”
“The old miners were shorter people.”
“:ladder pitched across a shaft..we have to use it to get across..”
“Must be 100yersold, maybe rotten…we could fall down the shaft.”
“We would not fa'll far…look down.”
:Water…clear clear water…mine must have filled with
“So we would not die…maye drown though…how could
we scale the walls of the shaft.”
“could be done. Let's cross”
“I think this is your ladder, Barney.”
“Could be…could be.”
I do not remember how far we got. I think we reached the
maIn mne shaft but that could be my imagination. What I
do remember are the colours. Lots of green oxidised copper or
and then great patches of bright pink that could have been
cobalt bloom. Just a guess.
I remember that our trusty candle had no trouble
ing lit so the air was good.
“OK, Barney, let's get out of here. That rackfall
back there makes me a little queasy. Maye squeezing out will
be harder than squewzing in.
Outside night was getting ready to fall but the sun
still bravely shone. Easy to breathe.
Nice night. Great adventure. Was that really Barney's ladder or
was it one of the ladders used by the mners of 1870's who climbed
up and down in the dark…down a hundred feet…maybe more and
hacked and exploded copper ore as they tunnelled under
the ocean. Brav? No, wrong word. Desperate is better.
In 1960 those old adits were adventures. Today, in 2021,
I am not sure I would be as brave. Just suppose we fell off
that ladder and died bobbing around in the shaft water.
Or suppose my belt hooked on a loose piece of rock that
triggered a small avalanche trapping us…smothering us.
Perish the thoughts.
That ladder? Was it Barney's? Or was it left there by
a miner long long ago? Rotten…dry rot. Take a close look.
Bunmahon, county Waterford
Barney Dwan led the way.