THE owners of a 500-year-old cornmill, which was recently showcased as part of the European Heritage Open Day, have raised their “very great fears” that the building and surrounding area is under serious threat of damage.
Maginn’s Corn Mill is situated on the Mill Road in Kilcoo. Its owners, James Brennan and his daughter Gail, alerted the Mourne Observer that the road is under regular pressure as it carries heavy traffic every day. They also explained that beneath the road runs a high-pressure water pipe running to Fofanny dam from Loughislandreavy. Their fear is that the pressure on the road could compromise the safety of the pipes. They believe that if the water pipes were damaged the outpouring would wash away their mill race – the channel carrying the swift current of water that drives a mill wheel – in addition to the centuries-old building, and flood much of the surroundings. Maginn’s Cornmill dates from the mid16th century and remained active until the death of the last miller in the 1930s.
The stonework that was built along the mill race has been in situ for 500 years and is, the family explained, as important as the cornmill itself. But as it sits beneath road level, if there was any damage to the road then the historic structure would be under threat. The family are appealing for help and support to alleviate the issue. They see heavy tractors and lorries pass along the road and can “feel the vibrations”. They fear that at any moment the road could be damaged and then dread to think how much damage it could cause. “The family is very concerned,” James said. “It doesn’t bear thinking about what could happen. Because of the pressure of those pipes, if they were damaged at all they would cause a disaster, and they could wash the mill away.” This is an issue they were told about many years ago, but the Brennans feel it is getting more serious because of the increase in traffic along the road. Back in 2004 the family were contacted by the then MP for the area, Mr Eddie McGrady. He told them that he had been warned that traffic on the road was putting it under stress and that water pipes running beneath the road could be damaged. If this were to happen, Jim and Gail are certain this would destroy the mill race and the corn mill, which has great historical significance in the area.
Eddie McGrady told the family that he had made representations to the Divisional Roads Manager to ensure that the issue was addressed as soon as possible. In 2010 the family contacted the NIEA Built Heritage Historic Monuments Unit. The department said they consider the site ‘as a locally significant industrial heritage feature’, and as a result they included it in their industrial heritage record. That same year, the Roads Service inspected a wall along the Mill Road and they provided a kerb line along the stretch of road with the purpose of protecting the wall from damage caused by vehicles over running the road verge.
The Brennan family believe that after over a decade the kerb can no longer provide enough protection from the large lorries which travel up the road, and they believe that unless the road is moved, or precautions are taken then it is only a matter of time before the road is damaged which could lead to further damage to their corn mill. The Mourne Observer contacted the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) for further information, including being asked if they were aware of any safety concerns on the Mill Road. The department said it is not aware of any road safety issues on Mill Road, nor is it aware of any injury collision history the road within the last three years. The Mourne Observer asked how often its checks the roads where water pipes are carried, DfI said it is checked every six months and that “there is no particular inspection requirement relating to the inspection of roads with pipes running underneath” and that “roads are not reinforced over pipes or culverts that may lie under the road surface.” A spokeswoman added: “It is normal practice for pipes to be laid at a depth that is sufficient to ensure that the pressure of traffic is dissipated through the structure of the road and surrounding ground.”
NI Water were also contacted about the issue, with a spokesperson stating: “NI They added that NI Water has areas where the flow is monitored on a daily basis, and that if there is a change from the normal flow then NI Water will inspect this area for any defects.