Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Castles and Spades


Carrickfergis Castle is the best preserved remaining Norman castle in Ireland. It was built by John de Courcy around 1177 , starting out as a simple Keep but gradually expanding over the years until it was a proper Castle by 1250. In 1760 it was heroically defended against the French who greatly outnumbered the English soldiers, who used their tunic buttons as ammunition, and eventually, surrendered. In the early 19th century it was again rearmed to do battle with the French. This time they added 22 cannons!

The location for the castle is spectacular, being built on a rock point that sticks out into the bay of Carrickfergis.

This being the end of the school year, there were several bus loads of school children on field trips. The children here wear uniforms, complete with ties and jackets for both boys and girls. The girls had skirts with matching knee socks, while the boys wore trousers. The only non uniform item were their backpacks or bookbags, some plain, others quite fancy.

On the way to Carrickfergis, we passed a sign for Patterson's Spade Mill. Since it is a National Trust property, we decided to take a look. What a pleasant surprise.

This is the last surviving spade mill, not just in Ireland or even the UK, but in all of Europe! The tour took us through the entire production of a spade, but there are 170 different styles in Ireland alone!

Each type of spade has it's own handle style, with the length of the handle made to the correct height for the person who will be using it.

There are two spade makers working in the mill. They are looking for younger people to teach the trade secrets to, so the skill does not die.

The mill is run by a water turbine which was built in Connecticut.

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