Andy Farrington - Oral history

The author obtained the following information from interviews with Andy Farrington of Ballyknockan in 2011.



Andy Farrington's family roots go back to Edward Farringdon who was a tenant in Ballyknockan in 1834.  Edward was descended from either Andrew Farrington or Miles Farrington, who were tenants on the 'farm' of Ballyknockan owned by the Cobbe family in 1771.


Andy worked with Kit and Bill Brady, my uncles, and all three were employed by Con Creedon in the 1970s.


I interviewed Andy in 2011 and recorded the following information.


Ballyknockan quarries in 1956

Andy started work in Ballyknockan as an apprentice stonecutter at Foster's quarry in 1956.  At that time Costelloe’s and Johnny Brien’s granite quarries had recently closed, but Paddy Brien’s, James Freeman’s, Osborne & Brady’s, D J McEvoy's, Pat Foster’s and McEvoy’s two granite quarries were still working. 


D J McEvoy's quarry was leased to Sisks - this is the one that is now flooded, and what was W J & C McEvoy’s granite quarry, located down in the lowest part of Ballyknockan closest to Blessington, still remains.   It is the only quarry still working as of 2014.


Foster's Quarry in 1956

Andy was among the last men to be apprenticed as stonecutters at Ballyknockan.  


Fosters were cousins of Andy's and work was so quiet then that he was lucky to get taken on as all the other quarry owners were laying men off at that time.  Some of the McEvoys were apprentices at Fosters quarry for 2 years during Andy's apprenticeship.


The quarrymen were still using wedges and plugs for cutting granite blocks in Fosters. 


The forge, where they sharpened the drills, wedges and chisels, is still visible at the entrance to Foster's quarry, on the right hand side.


Opposite the forge is the cutting shed.  Nowadays it has an iron mesh closing off the front, but in the first or second bay of this shed you can see a ‘granite cart’ with steel wheels, which was used to move blocks of granite from the quarry face as far as the cutting benches.  Its long shafts were pushed by either two men, or a horse.


There is still a small crane, of about 1-Ton capacity, just inside the quarry.


Granite stonecutters at work in Brady's cutting shed in the early 1950s
Granite stonecutters at work in Brady's cutting shed in the early 1950s

The other Ballyknockan quarries in 1956


On the other side of the Alley there are the cutting sheds and other buildings associated with John Doyle's quarry, which was later taken over by Fosters.  Just before these, in a zig-zag line starting at the fork in the road leading down to McEvoys quarry, are the work-sheds of Brady and Osborne's quarry.  This now contains the more modern cutting sheds and other buildings installed by Creedons.




There is still a frame saw in Fosters old quarry, in the building with external walls supported by iron girders.  This was still worked in 1956. 



Osborne and Brady's quarry

Osborne and Brady's quarry was still in operation in 1956, when it had three wooden tripod-cranes. 


Regarding Osborne and Brady, Andy said that-

  • They purchased a Leyland lorry in 1924.  This was the first motor lorry used in Ballyknockan and displayed the 'Osborne and Brady' name on the front.
  • They also brought the first Frame Saw to Ballyknockan 1932 and powered it from a diesel generator until electricity arrived in 1952. 
  • The diesel generator also powered a drill for blast holes.  Andy stated that prior to this, steel bars had been used and required 2 men, one to hold the bar and rotate it, the other to wield the sledge hammer.  They started with a 2ft long bar and when this was fully inserted they replaced it with a 4ft bar, and so on, working up in 2ft increments until the hole was as deep as necessary. 


The steel tripod-crane still in McEvoy's quarry was bought from London Docks.  Wood-beamed tripod-cranes were used in Osborne and Bradys quarry in those days.     


When quarrying ceased at Ballyknockan, the pumps were shut down and the quarry filled up with water to form the lake we see today.


The village of Ballyknockan

Bradys lived in "Laurel Lodge'.  The laneway on the Blessington side of Laurel Lodge is known as 'Brady’s Road' and leads up to their quarry.  On the left of this laneway, the building on the corner is known as ‘Brady’s barn’, with stalls for the horses on the ground floor with a hayloft above.  The two-storied buildings to the other side of Laurel Lodge were probably offices.  Other members of the Brady family lived at "Hill View' and in the long house on the road above the second entrance to the quarry.


Pat Foster lived in the house just up from 'Hill View' towards Andy Farrington's house.


Reillys lived in the two houses which form the triangle as you enter the village.  The second of these was Rosie O’Reilly's house, named St Anthony’s, now occupied by Ana O’Reilly.


McEvoy's house is named 'Granite Lodge'.  McEvoys bought this house from Daniel Farringdon.  


‘The Alley’ 

This is the local name given to the track leading from 'Granite Lodge' to Foster's quarry.  It has tiny cabins on the left, and although most of them have been reduced almost to the foundations, their layout is clear.  


These cabins were 2-roomed, hip roofed, with a floor of granite slabs, which can still be seen in one of them.  One cabin still has its roof, although this is now of corrugated iron, whereas Andy says they originally had slated roofs.  Andy named these as ‘Osborne’s Cabins’.  


These cabins were originally built to house the 'Walkers' - the quarrymen who had lived in the Oldcourt and Kilbride areas when the quarry at Golden Hill closed in 1824 and who walked across the hills every Monday and lived in these cabins until Saturday, when they walked home again across the hills.





This section added 1/6/2012.