Limerick Chronicle files: Digging up the past as Canadian company sees mining potential

Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian


Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian


Erection of the drilling works at Michael O'Grady's farm, Oola Hills, Oola in 1962

Erection of the drilling works at Michael O'Grady's farm, Oola Hills, Oola in 1962

IN 1962, Priority Drilling, a Canadian mining company spent twenty-four hours drilling into Oola Hills, Oola, in search of ore.

The borehole was located a short distance away from the old copper mine, which had closed in the 1890s.

In 1854, The Oola, Silver, Lead and Copper Mining Company was established. In an attempt to raise a capital of £12,000 a prospectus was sent far and wide looking for those willing to pay £1 for each of the individual 12,000.

This company was set up to reopen a mine in Oola that had closed in 1847.

The company prospectus described the ground in the area as “highly mineralised throughout: every feature that could be desired to insure success is here indicated in the most extraordinary manner, as the annexed reports abundantly prove, and there is little doubt but that this property is one of the most promising mining investments known.”

This mine opened and operated for about forty years. The mine once housed an iron waterwheel, which was forty foot in diameter. Following the closure of the mine this was sold to Frongoch Mine, near Aberystwyth, Wales.

On July 13, 1962, a Limerick Leader reporter and photographer visited the farm of Michael O’Grady where the mining was taking place. At this stage in the operation, O’Grady was not put out by drilling on his land agreeing that it would be good for the area if ore were struck.

He told the reporters that for a few months prior to this a number of government officials had arrived on his farm to take “soundings and samples of the soil in the area and during the week the drilling apparatus arrived and was quickly erected.”

The government officials were from the offices of the Minister for Industry and Commerce who were surveying the land under the Mineral Development Acts of 1940 and 1960. The surveying extended far beyond Oola Hills, extending to almost all the surrounding townlands.

Richard McCarthy, was in charge of the drilling operation. He was a native of Skibbereen, Co. Cork had worked for Priority Drilling in Canada for six years.

When he was asked what the prospects were of fining mineral wealth in the area McCarthy replied that it would be months before they would know anything.

On April 19, 1963, the mining company arrived once more onto Michael O’Grady’s land setting up a drill which bore into the ground to a depth of 200 feet with a further 300 feet expected.

Unfortunately for the local economy but fortunately for the local environment, a large band of ore was not found in the Oola Hills.