Home » Posts tagged 'peadar mcardle'

Tag Archives: peadar mcardle

IMC Exploration – Irish Landscape – Vale of Avoca

IrishLandscapeAn excerpt from The Irish Landscape, a book by Dr Peadar McArdle, geologist and former director of the Geological Society of Ireland.

Wicklow – Mountain -Building in Seven Easy Stages.

Stage 3:

 

This stage spotlights the rocks surrounding the Vale of Avoca, which developed as part of a chain of volcanic islands on the Iapetus Ocean floor. Imagine an explosive eruption where the ashes fall into the surrounding sea and are then disturbed by storms or seismic activity. The ashes would move down slope as turbidity currents and then spread out over considerable areas of the deeper seafloor. The eruptions on Montserrat in the Caribbean during the 1990’s were probably similar in scale and impact. hot circling water beneath Avoca’s seafloor dissolved metals from its surroundings and, when convected back to the seafloor, precipitated its metals in those ashes. The Avoca copper deposits formed from such seafloor emissions.

The Vale of Avoca became a popular visitor destination following publication in the early 19th century of Thomas Moore’s (1779-1852) familiar ballad, “The Meeting of the Waters”.

This was not the first time, however, that this district came to public attention, because little more than a decade earlier, a remarkable gold rush took place in the valley to southwest of Woodenbridge. Between diggers and spectators, perhaps thousands were present some days. But talk of national good fortune was premature and most of the readily accessible lucrative deposits were exhausted, without valuable bedrock source being discovered. Nevertheless, its fame was such that the popular Irish playwright, John O’Keeffe (1747-1833) produced a successful play on the West London stage, ‘The Lad o’ the Hills’, based on events surrounding it.

 

IMC Exploration (IMCP) – Avoca, Our Mining Heritage

AvocaVale1Excerpts from a brief history of metal mining in the Vale of Avoca, County Wicklow – by Alan Thomas and Peadar McArdle.

The Vale of Avoca is a beautiful part of County Wicklow, deservedly know as the “Garden of Ireland”. It features on the earliest known map of Ireland by the geographer Ptolemy who is said to have visited the area in 150AD. The mineral wealth of the valley has been known for centuries and prominent people have been involved in its exploration. Among the most celebrated, (although not the most successful), was the 19th century nationalist leader Charles Stuart Parnell, who was said to be obsessed by exploration progress.

An eminent geologist Sir William Smyth visiting the area in 1853 wrote of his impressions.

“There is perhaps no tract in these islands which exhibits, even to the uninitiated, an appearance so strongly stamped with the characteristics of the presence of metallic minerals. For a considerable distance on both sides of the deeply cut valley of the Avoca the face of nature appears changed and instead of the grassy or wooded slopes, or the grey rocks which beautify the rest if its course, we see a broken surface of chasms. ridges and hillocks, glowing with tints of bright red and brown, or assuming shades of yellow or livid green, which the boldest artist would scarcely dare to transfer to his canvas.”

“Here and there from among the ruins peers the white stack and house of a steam engine; or water wheels stand boldly projected against the hillside, some still neglected, WestAvocaBallymurtaghothers whirling around in full activity; long iron pump rods ascend the acclivities to do their work at distinct shafts, and as long as the daylight lasts, the rattle of chains for raising the ore, and the clink of the separating hammers attest the vigour of the operations. In truth quite independently of the geological or mining interest of the place, a walk through this series of mines, especially on a sunny evening, will yield a harvest of novel and striking scenes, the effect partly of the features of the mineral ground and partly the fine distant prospects which the higher workings command.”

Today the beauty of the valley has reached a much wider audience, due in no small way to the success of the BBC TV series ‘Ballykissangel’ which was filmed on location in Avoca.

To be continued….

Where is the Gold in Wicklow’s Goldmine River district? – IMC Exploration

IMC2Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 12 – Where is the Gold in Wicklow’s Goldmine River district?

Where is the gold in the Goldmine River district? This was well illustrated on a map published in 1971 by Tom Reeves, a professional geologist by training, but better known to Irish consumers, until his recent retirement, as the Commissioner for Energy Regulation. The main focus of placer gold was along the Goldmine River itself, downstream of Ballinagore Bridge and there are additional occurrences reported from the stream at Knockmiller further east, here called the Eastern Goldmine River. These occur both east and ESE of the Ballycoog-Moneyteige ridge. There are further showings along the Coolbawn River wich flows northwest from Croghan Kinshelagh towards Annacurragh as well as along the Aughrim River and its tributaries immediately north and ENE of the Ballycoog-Moneyteige ridge. Further away, and less directly relevant to our story, are gold placer occurrences along the Avoca and Ow Rivers. The occurrences, as well as bedrock gold, all occur in close association with the outline of the zone of volcanic rocks which extends from Avoca district. Yes, even in 1801 Fraser really did get it right: there is indeed a link between volcanic bedrock and placer gold in this area.

We have an accurate knowledge of the extent of the original gold workings in the Goldmine River area because Thomas Harding, Surveyor, and his assistant undertook an arduous survey of the river, its tributaries and surrounding mountainous terrain. Harding was an accomplished and successful surveyor, residing on Prussia Street in Dublin, but he had to share the credit for his labours with several others. The resulting Mineralogical Map, published in December 1801, gives a fascinating insight into the extent of alluvial gold and workings, as well as the old (even then!) mine workings on Ballycoog-Moneyteige ridge. But then this was no ordinary map, being executed by command of His Excellency, Philip Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland. It was done under the direction of Richard Kirwan, who was Inspector General of Mines, and the Directors of His Majesty’s Goldmine: Abraham Mills, Thomas King and Thomas Weaver. Kirwan had visited its location back in 1796 and now, five years later, it was being published. It was certainly a good basis for presenting the new exploration strategy being proposed by the directors. It may have been intended for official eyes only – uneducated peasants could not be expected to glean much information from such a technical document. But then they wouldn’t have desired it either, all they would have wanted was free access to the workings again!

IMCGoldFrenzyIn the aftermath of any gold rush there is an understandable concentration on finding the bedrock source of the alluvial wealth. There will be references to the ‘Mother Lode’, suggesting that the bedrock source may be even more bountiful than the daughter alluvium. However in many cases this is not the case at all. The bedrock source may have been entirely eroded during the placer formation so that no bedrock ore remains. Alternatively, the main bedrock source may be buried below surface in a position that remains inaccessible – and undiscovered. For example, the placers of the Klondyke yielded over 12 million fine ounces of gold but the bedrock there has only produced 1,000 fine ounces. This has led, and not only in the Klondyke, to a frantic search for a myriad of alternative bedrock sources: a similar situation quickly developed in the Goldmine River valley....

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 11 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 11 – Pocket history of Avoca’s volcanic history

We cannot identify the specific volcano responsible for the region’s volcanic rocks: it is either buried deep underground and out of sight or it was destroyed by subsequent geological events. But we do know it dominantly spewed out ashes, because plentiful evidence of them remains in the rocks around Avoca. Low viscosity magma like basalt will usually give rise to lavas that flow downhill with the speed and consistency of thick broth. Rhyolitic and similar high-viscosity magma, on the other hand, is generally very gas-rich and erupts explosively. Avoca’s magma was predominantly of rhyolitic composition and so gave rise to ashes. Ash clouds would have billowed skywards from the volcanic crater and spread out over the surrounding seas, dropping their ash loads onto the sea floor. The ashes became incorporated into seabed-hugging and sediment-charged water currents called turbidity currents, which surged rapidly downslope and lost their sediment load when they reached flat-lying seafloor in water depths of about 200 metres. Thus developed the sediments that now form the bulk of the Avoca rock sequence.

So where would Avoca’s volcano fall on the scale of recent volcanic eruptions? Probably somewhere in the middle, outshone by examples such as Mount St Helen’s and Krakatoa. Think of the 1990’s Montserrat eruptions in the Caribbean in order to imagine the overall scale and setting.

But where are the metals for which Avoca (and indeed Croghan Kinshelagh) is famous? We know that mining took place in the vicinity of the Vale of Avoca since at least 1720. The suggestions of earlier outputs of metals extend back to Ptolemy’s time but alas are based on speculation, however tantalising. The recorded Avoca production amounts to 16 million tonnes of copper ore containing 0.6 percent copper and 5 percent sulphur. Even more prolonged, but on a smaller scale, was the output of iron ore from the Ballycoog-Moneyteige ridge on the northwest flank of the Goldmine River Valley. These workings are believed to have been operated by the Vikings and I have a suspicion their output may have been used in the Dublin of their era.

IMC2The Avoca mine frequently had but marginal profitability, especially since it re-opened in 1958, and it required Government support in its final years. Most ore was extracted from the intensive workings of West Avoca, which reached a depth of 300m below surface, but the environmental impact was greater in East Avoca where shallower workings were more extensive. The main open pits, which contributed over 30 percent, were in East Avoca.  At least one of the open pits, Cronebane, gave rise to extensive waste which formed a significant dump that was subsequently used to partially backfill the pit itself. The Ballymurtagh Open Pit in West Avoca became a landfill facility for County Wicklow in the 1980’s before finally closing some years ago...

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 10 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 10 – Volcanic Rock Formations

The volcanic rock parallel extending from the Croghan Kinshelagh area to Avoca and Rathdrum has been studied by geologists since Fraser’s map first appeared so that we have a good understanding of their age and how they formed. Mind you, not all rocks are uniformly well exposed so our knowledge of them is a bit uneven. Nevertheless over the last thirty years we have learned how they fit into the global kaleidoscope of changing continental and oceanic shapes and positions, a sequence of patterns which has been predicated by plate tectonics and seismic events. Sadly the consequences are determined as much by the effectiveness of the local construction codes as they are by the intensity of the seismic event itself. The Earth is a truly vibrant organism and we are not always in harmony with it.

One implication of this context is that Wicklow’s landscapes have been far from constant throughout its geological history. The widespread siltstones and sandstones all accumulated at a time when deep sea covered the Wicklow area. Land would not have been visible in any direction over most of the period that sediments formed and yet the influence of the land would have been discerned. For this region was part of an ocean, Iapetus Ocean, which formed here (and was in time destroyed) long before there was any hint of the emergence of the modern-day Atlantic Ocean. The sediments were deposited on the southeast continental margin of this long-vanished Iapetus Ocean and were subsequently churned up and re-deposited in deeper water. This was achieved through the operation of sediment-laden deep-sea currents triggered by earthquakes or major storms. While considerable thicknesses of sediment were thus laid down in a matter of days, there could have been time lapses of centuries between each pulse. The different nature of the rocks formed reflects the different sources tapped for sediment over time.

But inexorably, although imperceptible to an individual observer, the ocean itself was now contracting in size and the continents on opposing margins were approaching each other. They would eventually collide with each other, but before that happened, a series of volcanoes would develop in between, like beads strung out on a gigantic necklace which marked their junction. These volcanoes gave rise to the diversity of associated volcanic rocks, including those in Fraser’s golden zone of southwest Wicklow. The opposing continental margins did crash into each other, with one causing the other to sink deep into the Earth’s interior. All of the pre-existing rocks were stressed and heated, with the finer grained sediments developing a slaty cleavage. As increased heat partially melted the descending rock sequence, the resulting liquid magma buoyantly ascended along fault lines and fractures in the Earth’s crust, forming the considerable bodies of granite for which Wicklow is celebrated. This was the final act in the destruction of the Iapetus Ocean: the forces of plate tectonics would soon be realigned in a new European configuration that would lead to the next phase in Earth’s enthralling history.

IMC2But let us revert to the necklace of volcanoes which will feature prominently in our story. We are now entering the Ordovician Period, a fascinating phase in Earth’s evolution, which lasted from 488 to 444 million years ago, a relatively extensive period of 56 million years. At the global level, the Earth was a very different place than it is today. Continents were all clustered in the Southern Hemisphere, and this is where the northern and southern halves of Ireland would eventually come together as the Iapetus Ocean finally closed. There was a very complex array of volcanoes, which were fed an abundant supply of lavas due to some spectacularly intensive convection, or ‘hot spot’, operating in this part of the Earth’s mantle. It was right in the middle of this fascinating Ordovician Period, about 450 million years ago, that the volcanic rocks of the Croghan Kinshelagh and Avoca district were formed..

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 9 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 9 – Born of Fire & Frost

Within a few short years of its discovery, the public reputation of the Goldmine River had been brought into line with a harsh reality. Yes there certainly was alluvial gold there, and it could be spectacular, but its quantity was limited and no local bedrock source – no Mother Lode – had materialised. Its workings were abandoned, apart from the periodic patrols of the militia stationed there. Perhaps only the surreptitious attention of nocturnal neighbours would preserve its memory for future generations. Would this be the end of the matter or could there yet be other twists to the story? A pessimistic outcome seemed inevitable and would perhaps be in keeping with the depressing disappointment of recent political and military events throughout Ireland.

Yet there had to be a good geological reason to explain the exuberant workings in the first place. At this very time, Robert Fraser was finalising the first geological map of the County of Wicklow, illustrating the distribution of its varied rock types with a variety of colours. Fraser had already prepared reports on agriculture and related aspects of Devon and Cornwall and now he would report to the (Royal) Dublin Society on the current state of County Wicklow. And there in the southwest corner of the county, including the district around the Goldmine River and Avoca, was a distinctive group of rocks for which Fraser had reserved a uniquely golden colour. What could this mean? He was certainly aware of the area’s copper and gold resources, stating that it was “abounding in metallic (sic) productions to an extent not by any means ascertained, but which will in all probability be capable of employing the most extensive capital and an indefinite number of hands.”

To understand the distribution and origin of gold in the sediment of the Goldmine River valley we must first consider its geological context. Many visitors to Dublin will take the time to explore the scenic landscape of the neighbouring Wicklow region, a landscape that many residents may take for granted and which is sculpted from its diversity of rock types. The most extensive rock group, called the Ribband Group from its striped appearance in outcrop, comprises mudstones and siltstones which have been converted to slaty rocks. They form the lower ground, mainly farmland, of eastern Wicklow as well as many of the lower hills, along many of whose forest roads it is exposed. The mountainous spine of Wicklow is formed of a very different rock – Leinster Granite, which extends to the southern suburbs of Dublin City. In the past it was extensively quarried for building stone. Among its most celebrated exposures, between Blackrock and Whiterock Beach are those at Joyce’s Sandycove Martello Tower.

IMC2The green muddy sandstones of the Bray Group are well known to travellers on the M11 / N11 route where they are splendidly exposed between Newtownmountkennedy and Rathnew. Thick creamy-coloured quartzite beds also make their appearance here, but they are best exposed in the surrounding hills where they form ridges with serrated skylines, not to mention the isolated cone of the Sugarloaf Mountain which causes it to be misidentified as a volcano on occasion. Additional impure green sandstones form the Kilcullen Group in west Wicklow and extend into adjoining County Kildare. These can be inspected at the roadside in Glending, west of Blessington town, and also further south, along the N81 near Dunlavin. The final group of rocks, the Duncannon Group is among the most restricted in extent, and forms a relatively narrow zone that extends from the Waterford-Wexford coastline northeastwards to terminate around Arklow Head. It consists of volcanic rocks, the products of lavas and ashes ejected from ancient volcanos whose outlines have long since vanished. There is a second parallel, but subsidiary, zone of these rocks which is very important for our story. It extends from Croghan Kinshelagh area to Avoca, and further northeast to Rathdrum and beyond. Yes, this is Fraser’s golden zone.

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 8 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 8 – A total of just over 944 ounces of gold recovered

Notwithstanding Weaver’s failure to secure funding for the tunnel, he did open 12.8km of trenches down to bedrock, quite an extensive undertaking. The depth of overburden gradually thins upwards towards along the valley slope and at the point where it almost disappears in Ballinvalley (upslope from the Red Hole) and adit was driven into the mountain, but only for 320m. Additional adits and shafts were also opened in the district. The evidence of all these workings still remain in the valley and the occasional radial trench forms the basis of its modern drainage. However it was all to no avail. None of the quartz veins had any gold particles, despite thorough sampling and rigorous chemical analysis, and this suggested there was no local source for the alluvial gold.

Weaver’s efforts were terminated in 1803, with another 12kg of gold recovered since 1800, but the military barracks remained occupied with a party of troops for some years afterwards just in case the neighbours were distracted once more. In 1819 Weaver summarised the outcome of Government operations from 1796 to 1803. A total of just over 944 ounces of gold was recovered. Just 6.3 percent (almost 59 ounces) was sold as specimens at £4 per ounce, melted and cast into ingots by Weaver. The vast bulk, 93.7 percent, or 885 ounces, was sold to the Bank of Ireland, but at a slight premium. Weaver notes that there was a loss of 4.25 percent gold in the process. The total aggregate value of native and ingot gold was over £3,675.

Eminent scientist Richard Kirwan claimed that little or no gold is replenished by modern stream action. He considered that, even where replenishment was taking place, based on eighteenth century European experience, it would be limited to minor quantities of tiny flakes. Accordingly he considered it could “be advantageous to none but the poorest people.” It is unusual for persons to be disdainful of small amounts when they relate to commodities such as gold and in this attitude I suspect that Kirwan was quite different from the neighbours.

IMC2So a dichotomy of views arose and surprisingly would persist to modern times. On the one hand, officialdom saw no potential for a viable operation in Wicklow and, anyway, would not countenance investing taxpayers’ money in a speculative venture involving gold. Feelings towards Goldmine River in Dublin or London would always be ambivalent. On the other hand, local residents and prospectors did not share these opinions. They were not appalled by unruly assemblies and workings, nor were they discouraged by the risk of poor returns. So the interweaving of these opposing views would form the historical tapestry for these gold workings.

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 5 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wickow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 5- Wicklow Gold Mine Bill ends glorious gold rush

Back in the valleys surrounding Croghan Mountain, residents would have become less interested in the machinations of Dublin Castle and no doubt allowed themselves to reflect with quiet satisfaction on recent events in their own neighbourhood. In the space of four weeks they had enthusiastically recovered as much as 80kg of the precious metal – perhaps more than a quarter of all the gold that would eventually be found here. Nevertheless it must be conceded that the glorious gold rush was at an end.

All falls silent now for some time regarding gold mining events. The Dublin authorities had apparently made a submission to Hi Majesty’s ministers in London. By early December 1795 Finn’s Leinster Journal  indicated that now decisive answer had been received, the Cabinet being evidently distracted with more serious matters elsewhere. “In the meantime our Irish Potosi remains unexplored to the great disappointment of many.” The next reference in this newspaper is more prosaic, a report from the House of Commons of the Irish Parliament for Tuesday 14 March 1797. The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented a Bill to enable the Lords of the Treasury to regulate the working of gold mines. He said that the Wicklow gold mine had been productive but expensive to work. Accordingly, it was intended to commit its management to the landowners who would be obliged to return to the Treasury “a quantity of ore equal to what had been found to be the average.”

The Bill sailed through the Irish House of Commons in March-April 1797 without any controversy or dissent. The Bill was read a third time on 23 March and then sent to the Lords for their concurrence. Finally on 24 April the Lord Lieutenant summoned the Commons to the House of Peers where it pleased His Excellency to give the Royal Assent to a series of Bills, including that on the Wicklow old Mine. A good day’s work was recorded and their Lordships adjourned to the next day.

IMC2It is clear from the Chancellor’s remarks that the workings had not lain idle since the diggers were banished by the militia in October 1795. Gold operations on behalf of the Government were operated by the engineers from Avoca. In fact these workings began on 12 August 1796 close to the Red Hole below the bridge at Ballinvalley. The lithograph prepared by Thomas Sautell Roberts for the information of members of the Irish House of Commons shows workings on a scale and with a degree of order that could not have been achieved in the circumstances of the 1795 gold rush. So preparations for the next phase of operations had already been underway for some time in the Goldmine valley itself.

The coverage of the gold rush in the various media shows a remarkable degree of consistency and this no doubt reflects that they tended to use the same information sources. The Wicklow events clearly made an impression in the wider world, as reflected, for example, in the contemporary London play, The Lads of the Hills, or, The Wicklow Gold Mine.

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wicklow’s gold pt 4 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wickow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 4- The mania of gold finding

In the midst of all this optimism, the thought must have struck many, not least those in authority, that whatever gold resources existed could not have been extracted to maximum effect by the unruly and unregulated mass of people who currently occupied the valley of the Goldmine River. It is hardly surprising that rumours of an imminent takeover were commonly heard. A Col. Craddock was reported to have visited the workings on Sunday 11 October. Given the reported presence of 4,000 persons, he must have been startled by what he saw that day, and particularly in the context of the uncertain security situation which faced the country at that time. He must have felt that it was only a small further step to open revolt and his report to Dublin Castle was likely to have been unambiguous. The Castle’s response was rapid and strong. Finn’s Leinster Journal reported that on Friday 16th October, a party of soldiers left Dublin to take possession of the gold workings in His Majesty’s name and force workers to return to their former occupations. The ruins of the small barracks they built and occupied are still visible in the valley. It seems there was genuine concern about public disorder, given the numbers present and the sale on-site of alcohol. This general unease can only have been heightened by rivalries among diggers over possession of the more rewarding stretches of the river. The Freeman’s Journal stated that by the following Tuesday, 200 military personnel were in position. Fifteen of them were on guard at any given time, patrolling the ground and ensuring the “peasantry” were excluded. The purpose of this exercise was explicitly “as well to put an end to the mania of gold finding, and confusion and idleness among the people, as to secure the wealth therein for his majesty, to whom all such so discovered, of right belongs.”

“Idleness” is a curious term, given the frenzy of activity in the workings, but “confusion” even more so – who was confused in the frantic search for what might amount to instant wealth? Not the peasant gold-diggers for sure! Goldmine River was widely seen as a valuable prospect at the time, and the real motivation of the Government must surely have been to secure its perceived wealth for the realm.

The account in Saunder’s News-Letter is both entertaining and authoritative, and indicates that the military took possession of the gold workings on Thursday 15 October 1795, precisely one month after the discovery came to public notice.

IMC2“The mines at Little Peru, otherwise Croghan Mountain, were taken possession of on Thursday last, on behalf of his Majesty. Major Browne, of the Royal Engineer, attended by Mr Coates, Port Surveyor of Wicklow, marched two companies of the Kildare militia from the Barrack of Arklow, towards the place where the gold is got; but with great judgement and propriety, on consultation with that active and spirited Magistrate, Thomas King Esq, it was judged proper to send a constable before them to read a proclamation and advise the crowd to disperse and leave the ground. In an hour afterwards, the Major, accompanied by Mr King, Mr Hayes, Sub-Sheriff, who readily attended, and Mr Coates, marched the army, about 68 men rank and file, to the place, when the crowd, without riot or resistance, dispersed. When men, who conduct themselves with such coolness, judgement and spirit, as those gentlemen did, support the law, there is no danger of opposition. It is much to the credit of the peasantry of the county of Wicklow, that not the slightest opposition had been given to the execution of the law; that country is not cursed with disloyal Defenders.”

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

Gold Frenzy, the story of Wickow’s gold Pt 3 – IMC Exploration

IMCGoldFrenzyGold Frenzy, the story of Wickow’s gold – An excerpt from the book  by Dr Peadar McArdle.

Dr McArdle, who recently retired as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has had a long term interest in the history and origin of the Goldmine River gold deposits.

Text copyright Dr Peadar McArdle 2011.

Pt 3- Gold rush carnival

Nowadays it is hard to envisage the chaotic activity that persisted on the Goldmine River. The gold digging activity was centred on the bridge over the river at Ballinagore, right at the head of the valley. This is just upstream from the Red Hole, the locality where many nuggets were found. The area above the bridge is now forested while below it is a pattern of small, somewhat overgrown meadows, It must have looked very different on the 8th October 1795: over 1000 people were present, 250-300 of them actively digging – and with some success. Gold was still being recovered in considerable quantities. There are many anecdotes of nuggets weighing several ounces being sold and “a single purchaser bought £184 worth” over two days (equivalent to 46 ounces at £4 per ounce). Women were engaged in reworking the gravel using bowls. This was no idle tactic and they were rewarded with small gold grains in plenty – “in general the size of snipe shot”. It would be found profitable to rework the same sediment over again for some years to come.

The men were now digging into the earthen banks flanking the stream and exposing new sections of gravel and subsoil. Interestingly, the gold here was becoming richer in silver – probably 20 karat gold in comparison with the more typical 22 karat gold of earlier finds in the stream bed itself. It is possible that the gold, as released from the bedrock, would have been 20 karat and that subsequently some of its silver would have been preferentially dissolved out in the stream, thus increasing its purity to 22 karats.

By Sunday 11 October 1795 over 4000 persons had assembled, the majority seeking diversion. While the “gold-finders” continued to work in earnest groups by day and night, the majority of those present were less determined. They wished to be entertained on their single day off and “an irregular encampment has been erected” for their “reception and entertainment”. There must have been a real carnival atmosphere, probably with many entertainers soliciting contributions from onlookers. Sellers of food and drink must have done a roaring trade: it is not uncommon in a gold rush for such traders to do at least as well as the gold workers themselves.

IMC2Wicklow was no stranger to mining operations. Ireland’s most extensive mining operation – and it would remain so until 1960 – was only 10km away, on both sides of the Vale of Avoca. Saunders News-Letter tells us: “Vast numbers of the miners of Ballymurtagh have quit their work for the golden prospects of Ballynavally.” And the Ballymurtagh mine, being worked by Camac and Company, and regarded as among Europe’s richest copper mines, survived to thrive at various other times in the future.

To be continued…

Other books by Dr Peadar McArdle can be viewed on Amazon here

I would like to receive Brand Communications updates and news...
Free Stock Updates & News
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.