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Book recalls Mayo’s forgotten miners

Mayo men and women feature in a new book which tells the extraordinary story of the Irish mining community in South Yorkshire in the 20th century.

The Forgotten Irish was written by Sean Carney, the son of a Donegal emigrant, who grew up in the Irish mining village of Maltby in South Yorkshire, England.

The small mining town of Maltby attracted hundreds of Irish immigrants from counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, and Galway, at the beginning of the 20th century in search of a better way of life.

Inspired by his Donegal father, Hugh, who started mining in Maltby Main Colliery in 1929, Sean Carney tells the story of a generation of Irish men and women whose immense contribution to South Yorkshire life was in danger of being forgotten.

My reason for writing the book was simply to remember those tough sons of Ireland– men like my dad who literally risked their lives daily to make a living

Sean’s book looks at an Irish community which numbered just a few in 1911, but by the 1950s had grown to a population of more than 2,000.

Many men and women from Co Mayo moved to Maltby and among those remembered in the book are:

  • John Carrol, a miner
  • Ann Carney (nee Gilmore) from Foxford and the Bronx, New York
  • Peter Conlon, a famous box player in the 1920s from Bellmount near Milltown, and his sister, Rose Murphy, a fiddle player and dance teacher in Maltby
  • Jack Twohy, mine loco driver, and noted character
  • Jim Regan, miner Ballintubber
  • Bill Connolly one of the original shaft sinkers at Maltby in 1909, and miner, who hailed from Claremorris
  • Jim McEvilly, miner
  • Joe McNicholas, miner
  • Jim McClean, miner
  • Tom Gallagher, miner, wife Catherine. Both came from Swinford
  • Jack Hughes, miner, Foxford

Sean explains why he wrote the book: “My reason for writing the book was simply to remember those tough sons of Ireland– men like my dad who literally risked their lives daily to make a living. It had become apparent to me that many of the grandchildren of the old miners were unaware of what their grandfathers did for a living, and in some cases where they came from.

“I did not intend writing a book about the Irish miners and their families until I visited Maltby in 2008 and was talking to old school friends who, like me, had seen their fathers spend most of their working lives toiling 3000ft underground.

“I began to realise that the memories of these Irish miners – whose enormous contribution to the mines and the country cannot be underestimated – was fading away into obscurity.

“In a reflective moment I realised miners had no visual memories of their work so I thought I would write a book that would serve as a lasting tribute to their subterranean years,” Sean adds.

The Forgotten Irish is now available price £12 available from the author (email: fergus452@btinternet.com) or from Kenny’s bookshop in Galway.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

2 replies on “Book recalls Mayo’s forgotten miners”

I have just finished reading the book by Sean Carney and I was very taken by it.
I was impressed by how good the book is and how well it tells the story of those forgotten Irish miners. My grandfather, a Mayo man, also came over here around the time of the shaft sinking. I spent 36 years in the mines – one of which was Maltby and the other Silverwood in South Yorkshire.
I agree with Sean that the mines have now been forgotten. For example, at Silverwood, there are now only seals on both shafts which are fenced off. Other than that you would never know the mine existed.
As for Maltby, it is now closed and mothballed. Let’s hope so.

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Thanks for stopping by Thomas.
Sean Carney’s book is a great read and a first rate social history. It includes references to a rich mine (forgive the pun!) of sources which scholars will find very useful.
I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the story of Irish emigration.

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