The recent clearing by Coillte of a forestry plantation at Macreddin East near Aughrim revealed a long stretch of stone built walls, with subdivided walls. These are ruins of buildings once used by the stonecutters who worked the local granite which give Aughrim the title of ‘The Stonecutters Village’. Long forgotten by most, Colm O Byrne who grew up within view of the hillside, remembers playing around the ruins as a child. The description below was recorded by Colm’s father Eddie O Byrne in his diaries and also in a school project by his daughter Anne Marie in 1981.
Eddie O Byrne, Cronawinna, Aughrim 23 May 1925 – 7th Feb 2012. Eddie was a local historian , lover of community, GAA , drama, president of Anne Devlin Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Eireann for many years. Eddie was born and raised on a farm in Cronawinna.
The Stonecutters of Macreddin and Tinakilly
Between Macreddin and Tinakilly there was about 50 stonemasons working. They were from various parts, invcluding Drogheda, Wales, Cornwall, Kildare, Dublin. They stayed in various houses around, including at Cronawinna.
After a hard days work at the stone they would play cards all night, so there wouldn’t be much sleep. Different stoneworkers would often meet up in one of the houses for a night of music and song. Some Cannons and Reddins from north and west Wicklow stayed in Cronawinna while they were working.
Stone cutting had gone on in Macreddin and Tinakilly since the Stone Age, but the main cutting went on from the 1840’s to the 1950’s.
In the 1600’s Fogarthy’s Mill was constructed out of granite and later lots of local houses and walls were built out of the local stone, also gate pillars and agricultural rollers were made, also local churches and chapels.
In the 1920’s when they were looking for the right stone for the Ardnacrusha Station project, the state geologists came to Aughrim to test the local granite and they discovered it was ideal for the job as it was porous yet waterproof.
The ruins on Macreddin Rock were sheds for working on the granite in the bad weather, they weren’t for accommodation.
The granite slabs were pulled down the front of the rock with horses and they were left where the entrance to the Macreddin Golf Club is now. The slabes were worked on here before they were transported to the train in Aughrim or on lorries to Dublin.
The headstones in the famous Whaley Abbey were expertly carved by local tradesmen in the 1700’s using Tinakilly granite. The sea wall and promenade in Bray were built using coping stones from Tinakilly in 1880. Some of the railway station in Aughrim was also constructed out of granite and it was used later during the construction of the Woodenbridge to Shillelagh line. It was also used to bring a line from the station in Aughrim to Fogarthy’s mill so they could send flour and other products to Dublin. This was in 1864.
Some of the major jobs the local granite was used on was the Customs House in Dublin, House of Lords in London, Templerainey Chapel in Arklow.
In 1834 a major contract for the foundations of Liverpool Cathedral was got. 450 tonnes was used in this. It was hoped to get the full contract for the whole cathedral but a trade dispute in the Liverpool docks meant that it couldn’t be go in so vastly inferior granite from Devon was used to finish the job.