Munster Express September 1 2015
BONMAHON village is steeped in mining history and is a jewel in the crown of our fantastic Copper Coast.
As part of Heritage Week 2015, Bruce Macdonald conducted a fascinating walk on Saturday last which brought participants around Knockmahon and Tankardstown in the footsteps of the Copper Coast miners.
During the 1800s, when copper was mined in the area, the population of Bonmahon surpassed the 2,000 mark.
The village was a thriving hub which was home to a large number of shops and pubs.
While Bonmahon no longer has industry on such a scale, the village is using its mining heritage to its advantage and is strongly marketing its tourism potential.
Last Saturday’s walk began in the impressive Geopark Visitor Centre which is located in the beautifully renovated Monksland Church.
The renovation project was a huge undertaking which benefitted from the invaluable contributions of local enthusiastic volunteers.
The centre is hugely impressive and explains the mining history of Bonmahon in a very accessible way.
Commissioned by the Metal Links project at the Copper Coast European Geopark, the short films were produced by Copper Coast Productions at The Art Hand.
The centre also has a dedicated area which explains the village’s mining history through a reconstructed model of a mining site and descriptions of key figures in the mining era such as Rev. Doudney and Captain Petherick.
The centre also acts as a space for promoting locally made products such as jewellery and handbags and books with a local interest.
A huge voluntary effort was involved in developing the visitor centre and the finished product is a testament to the hard work of the community.
Our guide for Saturday’s walk was the knowledgeable Bruce Macdonald who provided a fantastic insight into the lives of miners in Bonmahon during the 1800s.
After leaving the centre, we strolled along Osborne Terrace where Bruce explained the association of these houses and other nearby structures with the village’s mining heritage.
We proceeded to the Geological Garden which displays various rock samples along with detailed descriptions.
The garden is a wonderful addition to the village and further illustrates the importance of the entire Copper Coast area.
The next stop was Stage Cove, also referred to locally as ‘The Slip’, from where copper was shipped to Wales.
Here, we observed walls of the copper storage yard, with blocks of white quartz containing green copper; adits (horizontal tunnels) in the cliffs; shafts (vertical tunnels) on the headland; and a number of other features associated with the mining activity which took place in the area.
Further east is arguably one of the most scenic areas of the entire Copper Coast at Tankardstown.
The Tankardstown Engine House site, built around 1860 to pump water out of the copper mines and to wind ore up from the depths, is situated in a stunning area of the Copper Coast which offers panoramic views of the nearby Comeragh Mountains.
The site has a beautiful amphitheatre at the back which allows visitors to sit and reflect on the area’s history while enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
Bruce explained the workings of Tankardstown and brought to life the activity which would have taken place in this area during the height of the mining boom.
Helping to recreate the days of the miners, Bruce read an extract from a publication by local historian Des Cowman who has undertaken considerable research into the mining heritage of Bonmahon and the Copper Coast.
After a thoroughly enjoyable walk, we returned to the Visitor Centre for a much needed coffee fix.
Along with tea and coffee and a selection of savoury treats, visitors can also choose from a mouth-watering selection of light lunches.
Promotion of Bonmahon’s mining heritage has certainly provided the village with a new lease of life.
Interestingly, new enterprises associated with the Copper Coast are continuing to emerge.
Local woman Michelle Vagg, who also participated in Saturday’s walk, makes beautiful jewellery from copper and has developed Copper Coast Craft (www.coppercoastartcraft.com).
The Visitor Centre is a wonderful addition to Bonmahon village and the Copper Coast area and well worth a visit – so get out and explore what’s on your own doorstep!
To keep up to date with events at the Copper Coast Geopark Visitor Centre, visit www.coppercoastgeopark.com or check out the Copper Coast Geopark Facebook page.