Underneath the sidewalks, below the foundations of the village, lie secrets of a trade empire and a land of merchant princes. A quaint and sleepy community transformed by dreams of commerce, by a gentleman named Charles H. Leslie in the year 1794.
In a fertile lowland valley he built and sold a gunpowder mill, later supervised by the Board of Ordnance’s superintendent - Charles Wilkes. On moody, cloud strewn mornings in the early 19th century, reconstruction of the majestic Inniscarra Bridge came to fruition.
Over the rushing waters of The Lee, Wilkes and his team introduced a superior route for trade. Canals wound out of the river and a barracks was erected. There were whispers in the village that a cavalry had come to town, all to help protect a single, precious resource.
“GUNPOWDER: THE BLACK DEVIL. THE NEW DANGER!”
A DEADLY MIX OF:
10 parts Sicilian Sulfur
15 parts Irish Charcoal
75 parts Indian Saltpetre
First made in China by alchemists of old, this fiery substance was worth its weight in gold. Local folk were employed in the mills, grinding those raw materials. Morning, noon and night they worked, aided by the waterwheels.
Exported to Liverpool before being shipped to exotic ports in Africa, Ballincollig became known for its burgeoning prosperity. In the barracks, under starlight, the men toasted to the town’s success, their dreams laced with midnight powder and visions of excess.
But the devil works in curious ways and boom town soon turned bust. Ballincollig and its gunpowder heyday disappeared into the smoke. For twenty years those powder mills sat, abandoned and forgotten. Until two pioneering chaps by the names of Tobin and Horsfall altered the course of history.
500 men and boys were put to work, with coopering and mixing amongst their range of skills. They built barrels with their bare hands, blended deadly substances, and sent gunpowder to the glazing house.
Across 175 hectares, an empire ignited, cementing Ballincollig as an industry powerhouse of Ireland. Tobin was exalted by the Earl of Carlisle with a very special reward. No longer a merchant prince, he was honoured with a knighthood.
In the late 19th century, the demand for gunpowder retreated. The mill was acquired by John Briscoe, before being sold to Curtis’s and Harvey. Masters of their trade and famous for all things flammable, even their explosive touch couldn’t save the mill from its downfall.
Yesteryear may be gone but time still shows its face. Along the perimeter of Ballincollig, over 60 ruins dot the landscape. A bar called Tradehouse Central is where the good folk of the village meet to engage in conversation, have a tipple, and a feed.
And whilst the venue is a warm and contemporary space full of distressed mahogany and exposed stone, the cocktail alchemists, trained baristas, and liquor experts are more akin to the mill boys than you know. With peerless knowledge and steady hand they blend and pour the perfect swigs. They may not know how to operate a waterwheel but they sure have a passion for drinks.
“BLACK MAGIC: THE SOUL SHAKER. THE NEW FLAVOUR!”
A DELICIOUS MIX OF:
510 mg Activated Charcoal
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Coffee Liqueur
1.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Commerce booms but the product is different. Ballincollig’s merchant royalty are today’s bankers, tradesmen, and retailers. And even though the barrels in our quarters aren’t filled to the brim with powder, we sure have a fine selection of grub, gin, whisky, and craft beers to keep the fires burning.
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