The practice of quarrying stone in Co. Clare stretches back over 6,000 years when the great monoliths were lifted from the limestone bedrock to construct the dolmens and portal-tombs of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Eras. During the Iron Age thousands of tons of loose stone was cleared from the surface or dug from shallow quarries to construct the numerous, circular stone forts found throughout County Clare.
The Early Christian Period to the late Mediaeval saw quarries opened up in practically every townland, to build churches, abbeys, round towers, castles and tower houses and this industry continued to expand, with time, as Georgian Houses, Bridges, Schools, Quays, Workhouses and many public works projects were completed into the twentieth century.
Slate quarries also operated from the mediaeval period, the most important being those at Doolin, Liscannor, Knockerra near Kilrush and Broadford in East Clare. These produced very high quality roofing slates during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, much of them for export to England and Scotland, where Killaloe slates were known as “Penny Greens” due to their colour and standard cost.
With the expansion of the railway systems, cheaper “Blue Bangor” slates from Wales became more popular during the late 19th century, resulting in the gradual demise of our local slate quarries. With the growing popularity of natural slate and the rising cost of oil, maybe some day our local slate quarries will again become profitable and replace the huge amount of slate presently imported from as far away as China and Brazil.
Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 16/04/09