Gypsum mining and the Shirley estate in south Monaghan, 1800–1936

Micheál McDermott

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-059-5
September 2009. 64pp.

In the early 1800s a fruitless pursuit of coal on the Shirley estate in south Monaghan led to the discovery and the intermittent exploitation of gypsum on the estate lands. In portraying the inter-related fortunes of the Shirley family, the mines and their community, the study places this trinity on a journey which is signposted by significant political, social and economic developments. The changing balance of power between landlord and tenant, as crystallised by the Land Acts and a growing nationalist democracy, had profound implications for this industry. The establishment of the Farney Development Company (1921-27) at Lisnabo, Co. Meath, in the southern section of the gypsum field, was the major result of these changes. Despite the collapse of this company and further initial setbacks, the gypsum enterprise, Gypsum and Bricks, was eventually relaunched in the 1930s.

This study owes its compilation to a broad range of sources but it is chiefly indebted to the estate papers of the Shirley family, the records of the Geological Survey of Ireland and the National Archives, Dublin.

Micheál McDermott, a resident of Navan, is a native of the Kilmainhamwood district of north Meath, parish of Kingscourt. Over many years his work has embraced a broad spectrum of primary education. He is currently attached to Saint Mochta’s National School, Clonsilla, Dublin.