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Blennerville, County Kerry

The old port of Blennerville
Leaving Certificate Report on Blennerville, County Kerry
by James Ryle, 6th year student at Tralee Technical College.

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    The village of Blennerville lies just south of Tralee, the main town of County Kerry, on the edge of Tralee Bay. It is located on the main Tralee-Dingle Road (N86/R555). The Tralee and Blennerville area is easily accessible from Kerry Airport, and by car, bus or train.
    The Slieve Mish mountains sweeping down almost to the sea and the view from Blennerville past the Maharees peninsula to Brandon Head and the Dingle Peninsula make this an area of outstanding beauty, ideally suited for holidays. The renowned hikers trail, the Dingle Way begins in Blennerville and stretches along the coast, crossing the Brandon mountains before dropping down to the port of Dingle.

     In the year 1800 there were over 100 working windmills in Ireland, now only 3 survive - Blennerville, and its sister nills at Ballycopeland, Co. Down, and Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. The introduction of steam power marked the death of the traditional wind-powered windmill in the middle of the last century. Blennerville windmill was built about 1800 by Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, an English settler, after whom Blennerville vilage is named. The mill was a thriving concern with granaries and storehouses nearby. In its heyday, the windmill was used for grinding corn for both the local population and for export to Britain. It was ideally placed near to the quayside of the canal from the mouth of Tralee Bay to the edge of the town.
     But tragedy befell Blennerhassett's wife Milicent, who was killed by a blow from the sails. The sails employ canvas to catch the wind, but can turn too quickly if over-set.
    Blennerville was at one time the port of Tralee, but the estuary suffers from heavy silting and in the 1830's the Tralee Ship Canal was built to bring boats of up to 300 tons to the town's Prince's Quay. This area is now being renovated and Tralee Marina is being built at Prince's Quay.
    The windmill fell into disuse about 1850 and became the victim of the many storms sweeping in from the Atlantic.
    The windmill was purchased in 1982 by Tralee Urban Council, but had by this time become completely derelict and sfructurally unsound. The Council had to decide whether to demolish it or stabilise it. Fortunately for our tourist industry in the area, the Council and the newly-formed Blennerville Committee decided to stabilise and restore it, with the primary aim of restoring it as a tourist attraction.
    Dr. Fred Hamond, an industrial archeologist based at Queen's University, Belfast, an expert on mill restoration, was engaged by the Committee to report on the viability and scope of the restoration project in 1983. After visiting Blennerville, Dr. Hamond concluded that although badly deteriorated, a full restoration was possible. He suggested 4 stages of restoration:
  1. consolidation of the existing structure.
  2. rehabilitation and utilisation of the shell.
  3. reconstruction of the cap and sails.
  4. fitting of all internal machinery such that the mill would once again grind corn.
    This work was begun in June 1984 and completed in 1990. The Windmill Centre now comprises a Craft Centre, exhibition gallery, audio-visual presentation and restaurant adjoining the now-working windmill.
     The painstaking restoration was undertaken by ANCO as a community youth training scheme. Work on the windmill itself included the replacement of all 19 windows and door arches, fitting of new pitch-pine floors, exterior rendering, manufacturing of the elm wall plate and winding wheel, turning of the massive 24 inch diameter wind and main shafts and the erection of a permanent roof.

Click here to go to the following page
where you will find some historical pictures of the windmill
before restoration began, during the restoration work,
and as it is now.