Before I worked in Ballybeg, I worked for a while in C.I.E on the lines. I also spent a few years at Furney McCay’s in Buttevant. They were the local millers of the time.
I went to work in Ballybeg in 1958. The work in the beginning was seasonal. I drew a lot of stone from Copstown to the sugar factory in Mallow. The stone was burnt in the proc-ess of extracting sugar. The stone from Ballybeg was not suitable for the kiln. It may have been too hard to burn. There were thousands of tons needed during the campaign. There was a product that was produced after the stone was burnt called sludge lime. It was a very sticky product to handle. In order to get it out of the tipper a layer of cinders would be put on the floor of the lorry, which would make it slide out easier.
The extraction of the stone from quarries has changed a lot. In earlier years many of the big rocks that shifted with blasting had to be bored and blasted again. There were no pneumatic drills in those days. There is a certain knowledge needed in the direction of the bore drill. The rock had a certain grain and the idea was to use the grain to the best advantage.
The manufacturing of ground limestone marked the end for the lime kiln. With crushers the ground limestone was easier and quicker to make. Then the lime spreaders came along. The first of these was imported into Cork. These were four-wheel drive vehicles. They were probably based on the design of army vehicles of the time. They had single wheels and there were chains put on for field work. These worked with a transporter. This was a big lorry able to take twenty tons. The earlier ones were Foden manufacture. They had a conveyer to load the small truck for spreading. This was the beginning of me-chanical spreading.
In the middle of Ballybeg quarry there is a large lake. It must be twenty feet deep. There is a big spring feeding this lake. The water is very cold and never goes dry. There is a hole through the bank and the water comes through the pipe where it flows along the side of the road. It keeps the level of the water from rising. When the work first started in Bal-lybeg, there were some headstones found from the monks across the way. They were un-finished.
When the quarry was at it’s busiest, there were up to ninety drivers. Even though there were many more limestone quarries in Co Cork, Ballybeg seemed to be supplying lime to all parts of the country. In time to come, when the new road will be made, the traffic will be driving through the middle of the quarry. Motorists will be able to see where all the work was pulled out. Across the road, where the land rises above the road lived a man called Bill Hutch. He lived alone in a primitive little hut in the early fifties.
In recent times there were huge quantities of stone from the quarry to the new Cork road beyond the Roundabout bar. There were very big rocks as the road had to be raised by fourteen feet . While man will be on earth, stone will always be needed. We must admire all the men of days gone by who dressed these stones.