The Ussey Kiln is a large and well-preserved lime kiln that dates back to the early 19th century. The Ussey Kiln is located near the village of Glinsk, about 50 km north-east of Galway city.
A lime kiln is a structure that was used to produce lime by burning limestone at high temperatures. Lime is a versatile substance that has many uses in agriculture, construction, and industry. For example, lime can be used to improve the quality of the soil, to make mortar and plaster, to produce glass and ceramics, and to purify water.
Lime kilns were common in rural Ireland from the 18th to the 20th century, as they provided a valuable source of income for farmers and landowners. Limestone was abundant in many parts of the country, especially in Galway, where it forms the bedrock of the landscape. Lime kilns were usually built near limestone quarries or outcrops, where the raw material could be easily obtained.
A lime kiln consists of a circular or rectangular chamber with an opening at the top and one or more openings at the bottom. The chamber is lined with firebricks or stones to withstand the heat. The limestone is loaded into the chamber through the top opening, while fuel, such as wood, coal, or peat, is fed into the bottom openings. The fuel creates a fire that heats up the limestone to about 900°C, causing it to decompose into calcium oxide (quicklime) and carbon dioxide. The quicklime is then collected from the bottom openings or drawn out through a chute. The quicklime can be used as it is or slaked with water to produce calcium hydroxide (slaked lime).
The Ussey Kiln is one of the largest and best-preserved lime kilns in Galway. It was built around 1800 by a local landowner named Thomas Ussey, who owned a large estate in the area. The kiln measures about 10 meters in diameter and 8 meters in height, and has four openings at the bottom. It was built in its own limestone quarry, which can still be seen behind the kiln. The kiln is a testament to the skills of the builders and a reminder of past rural and agricultural industry.
The Ussey Kiln is also a part of the local folklore and history. According to legend, Thomas Ussey had a daughter named Mary, who fell in love with a young man named Michael from a rival family. Their love was forbidden by their parents, who arranged for Mary to marry another man. On the eve of her wedding, Mary ran away with Michael and hid in the lime kiln. However, their hiding place was discovered by Mary’s father, who set fire to the kiln in a fit of rage. The lovers perished in the flames, but their spirits are said to haunt the kiln ever since.
The Ussey Kiln was also used as a hiding place during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), when members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) sought refuge from the British forces. The kiln provided shelter and camouflage for the rebels, who also stored weapons and ammunition inside it.
The Ussey Kiln is situated on private land, so the landowner’s permission should be sought be visiting the kiln. There is a small parking area near the kiln, where you can leave your car and walk up to it.
The Ussey Kiln is a fascinating industrial heritage site that offers a glimpse into the past of Galway and Ireland. It is well worth a visit if you are interested in learning more about how lime was produced and used in rural areas, as well as how people lived and worked around it.
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