The course of the Arigna river, which runs through a deep and narrow valley, has been adopted as a line of division between the coal field of Bracklieve, on the south, and that of Slieve Curkagh on the north, in both of which the strata are nearly similar, although minor differences, such as the change of soft slate clay into sandstone slate, may be observed within a few yards. A peculiarity of these coal districts is that of the beds of coal all lying at a considerable elevation in the mountains, where their outcrop may be distinctly traced in various places. The coal district to the south of the Arigna river extends in the direction of the mountain, from south-east to north-west, about nine miles, and in breadth about two, comprising an area of 4540 acres; and the coal field to the north of that river comprises about 1940 acres; making a total of about 6480.

The quality of the coal, though not equal to that of Whitehaven or Newcastle, is sufficiently well adapted for culinary or manufacturing purposes, being a medium between the quick blazing coal of Scotland and the coal of Whitehaven. Inconsiderable workings appear to have been made in the borders of the several seams from an early period; but the first important era in the mining history of the district was the establishment of iron-works at Arigna, in 1788, by three brothers of the name of O'Reilly. By these enterprising men, pit coal was for the first time used in Ireland in the smelting of iron-ore; and both bar and pig iron of the best quality were produced. But the speculation proved unsuccessful, and, after passing into other hands, the concern was discontinued in 1808, although it had two coal mines in the southern district for its supply, the Rover colliery, about a mile distant, and the Aughabehy colliery, the largest in the district, about three miles distant.

A report on the mineral wealth of this district, made by Mr. Griffith to the Royal Dublin Society, in 1814, and the repetition of the statements therein contained by that, gentleman before a committee of the House of Commons in 1824, induced the investiture of capital in the working of these mines by several companies, who made the borders of Lough Allen the scene of revived activity and industry. The Irish and the Hibernian Mining Companies began operations in the mountains on the north side of the Arigna river, but suspicions were soon entertained by the agents both as to the reported extent and thickness of the coal; and the Hibernian Company at once abandoned the speculation as unworthy of further attention.

The Irish Mining Company, however, persevered, and opened several pits, the largest of which, at Tullynaha, was worked to advantage for a long time. But the body that engaged most extensively in these works was the Arigna Mining Company, formed in London during the speculating period of 1824 and 1825, whose affairs became the subject of a parliamentary investigation and of a long and expensive chancery suit, which was not terminated until Jan. 1836. In 1824, a lease of the old Arigna works was obtained from Mr. Latouche; a colony of engineers and workmen was brought over from England in the same year; the works were restored, the coal and iron mines reopened, and 230 tons of iron were manufactured between Nov. 1825 and May 1826, at an expense of £8. 4. per ton, when the furnace became choked, in consequence of which the smelting was discontinued and the works were suffered to fall into decay until after the decision in chancery, when Mr. Flattery, in whose favour the decree was made, recommenced the works, which have been since in full operation, producing 18 tons of castings daily and affording employment to 560 men: the metal wrought is said to be equal to the best Swedish iron.

Fine castings of every description are made here and shipped for Dublin, where there is already a great demand for them. In connection with these works are the collieries of Rover and Aughabehy, belonging to the old proprietors, and a new pit, in which the coal is superior in quality and the seam thicker than any of those previously discovered, has been opened at Gubberother by Mr. Flattery, who is about to form a railway from his works to the lake. The same spirited individual is erecting a building for the manufacture of bar, rod, and sheet iron.

The value of these works to the manufacturing industry of the country is much diminished by the want of good roads through this mountainous district. The works are near the shore of Lough Allen and 9 miles from Carrick on Shannon, south of the Arigna river, where the royalties chiefly belong to Mr. Tennison, though one is held under the Archbishop of Tuam. There are coal mines on both sides of this mountain ridge, of which the most important is that of Aughabehy, more distant than any from the iron-works. The iron-stone of the neighbourhood is of the greatest variety, richness, and abundance; and the limestone used as a flux is of the best quality.

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