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An Account of the Old Kilmainham Mill by Chartered Engineer Philip Brunkard

An Account of the Old Kilmainham Mill by Chartered Engineer Philip Brunkard

Philip Brunkard
Chartered Engineer

My memory recall for works as a trainee engineer for Mssrs Bates Tentering Mill, Rowerstown Lane, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, date circa 1958 – 1959. I was engaged by Mssr Hubbard Brother Limited of Ardee Street, Dublin, as a trainee engineer after my leaving cert. The training included drawing/office/millwright work, steam engineering, and management. Most of the projects were in the Dublin area and included industrial laundries, mills, paper mills, concrete plants and quarries.

I spent some time at Mssr Bates mill working on the steam raising equipment, and the line shafting devices. Mssr Hubbard Brothers was located in a large well-equipped workshop with an overhead gantry. The plant included several old but serviceable lathes, milling machines, drills, gear hobs, blacksmiths shop and drawing office.

The Hubbards (two brothers) were senior people but dedicated to their craft. As time elapsed, I was given more responsibility on large projects. One of our customers was Bates Mill at Kilmainham and it was dependent on the river Camac for energy and water, there was also a boiler house and chimney. This was an old tentering mill where course woven/woollen fabrics (tweed) texture was improved by washing, stretching, and weave repair to improve the fabric finish. This process was carried out in tanks, tubs and machines driven by flat belts from an overhead line shaft running in plummer blocks of brass or lignum vita. All manually lubricated.

The drive was taken up by fast and loose pulleys. There was no apparent electric power and the line shaft was driven by a large undershot water wheel, which was driven by the Camac river off flow via a storage pond at Gratten Crescent, flow being controlled by weirs onto a C.I. (Cast Iron) flume on water inlet onto the water wheel. Thus flume (C.I.) was similar to Braithtwaight tank and was converted to a clean or Varty storage tank essential for the process. The Camac river at this stage was polluted by several paper mills and one industrial laundry.

It was decided to replace the watery wheel with 50 horsepower electric motor. This was a Crompton Parkinson Star Delta Starter but it failed on installation to take up the load. The wheel always started the line shaft off load and on meeting speeds transferred power to the machines by fast and loose pulleys and despite further increase in electric horse power, this was the start up procedure for my time at the mill.

Another development was the improvement of the mechanical handling of the material. The old and dangerous lift was replaced by an electric lift. This lift was a used Otis Passenger Lift acquired from the bank at College Green. It had been accurately marked, documented and delivered to the mill. It was formally a bank passenger/goods lift, old but in pristine condition. Hardwood car with polished brass controls and wicker type gate, it was manually operated, all equipment was oversized and in a perfect working order.

The installation of the lift required serious upgrading of the mill structure in this area and the final installation was inspected and passed by the lift’s agents (Otis Byrne). This is installation was a major feature to the jaded features of the mill building. At this stage, other services came under review namely the present hot water. This was supplied by an annually stoked vertical fire tube steam boiler located in an unhealthy environment. It was operated by an elderly man; the whole operation was inefficient.

Mssrs Hubbard Brother investigated the possibility of converting the boiler to an oil fired automatic. This would entail raising the boiler on a fire bricked skirt and installing a new type of oil burner, a rotary cup instead of pressure jets. This would give a ball shaped flame on a circular fire box. Mssrs Hubbard Brothers were agents for this type of burner and had carried out successful installations but cost analysis was not viable. The trend was for package boilers, power master or similar. The package type would be more economic.

My training period was nearing completion, I joined Clondalkin paper mills with part- and full-time release for study at the college of technology. At Clondalkin paper mills, I was on similar projects.

Philip Brunkard
Chartered Engineer

2 Responses

  1. Finin christie says:

    Hello Mr brunkard my name is finin christie I am a blacksmith. I see you worked for Hubbard bros in Ardeer St dublin my inquiry is would you ever had come across or hear of a man by the name of James christie he was a blacksmith for Hubbard brother up till his death in 1969 any information I would be so great full I am his grandson kind regards finín christie blacksmith 0852286865

  2. Fred Hamond says:

    I’m doing some research on Kilmainham Mill on behalf of Dublin CC and have read Mr B’s article with interest. I’ve a couple of questions for him regarding the old boiler and the mill’s electrification. What is the best way of getting in touch with him, or would you be happy to pass on my questions which are as follows –
    (1) The old vertical boiler seems to have been there at in the 1950s – Would I be correct in presuming that it was for generating steam and hot water rather than driving a steam engine?
    (2) He also mentioned the waterwheel in his article. I was wondering if (1) he knew when mains electricity and the first electric motor were installed, (2) when water power stopped being used, and (3) when the waterwheel was removed.

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