Brothers retain a family tradition of working in mines by creating their own coal mine shaft in County Kilkenny.

A coalmine opened in Castlecomer, near Kilkenny in the early part of the 20th century. Mining in the region continued until 1969, when commercial mining ended with the closure of the Deerpark mine.

However over an 18 month period, three men, Peter Kealy, his brother John Kealy and Dick Holohan have revived coal mining in an area where other people said coal was dead. In a secluded field in Loan, they sunk a forty foot shaft and are now taking coal out of it by hand.

John Kealy says his brother Peter Kealy came up with the idea to open the Loan Collieries. He carefully chose the spot to mine using his own local knowledge.

He had maps and all the data concerning the coal fields.

Peter Kealy physically dug the mine shaft himself using a pick and shovel. Coal mining is in his family, his grandfather worked in the mines in Northern England in the late 19th century and Peter himself worked in every one of the local coal mines.

The men funded the mining venture using their own money. They bring up about a ton of coal a day and it is broken up and screened before being sold for £70 a ton.

We could sell a hundred ton a day if we had it.

The first coal was extracted from the mine in 1978 and Pierce was the first man to buy a bag of coal at the pit head. He knew the men were mining as word had got out locally. 

Pierce says the coal of the region is very high-quality anthracite, a claim backed up by the National Coal Board in Scotland.

It couldn’t be bad here, no sulphur, no nothing, it’s perfect.

Peter Kealy is confident that if he had a larger workforce and modern machinery the Loan Collieries could produce 40 tonnes of coal a day.

This episode of ‘Summerhouse' was broadcast on 5 September 1979. The reporter is Liam Nolan.