The Future of The Little Mill
After examining all the replies sent to us by local politicians and representatives and having discussed these and our own plans for The Little Mill we decided that all the views were important and worthwhile. It also was obvious that everybody we surveyed cared about The Little Mill and the grounds around it and would like to see a lot of money spent on it and have it developed further. Unfortunately as we have mentioned the Little Mill is in a very poor state of repair at the moment. The grounds are poorly maintained and its only use appears to be an office for Corrib Country who promote tourism and a venue for late night drinking parties.
Litter is a problem. As this was our first concern we contacted Galway County Council with a view to having the grounds maintained on a regular basis and also to have the banks of the river cut back as these were over-growing into the river. The Little Mill and the Millerís house need re-roofing as a priority. Money must be collected from a government agency to have this work carried out or else the building is in danger of further decay. Also the present roof is asbestos, which must be removed for environmental and safety reasons.
Back in 1974 when the Mill Museum was about to be opened, the Department of Lands (Forest and Wildlife Service) wrote to Dr. John A. Claffey answering his question as to what trees would be suitable in this area. At this time some planting was carried out but we think now that a more extensive planting of this area is needed similar to that mentioned in the letter of 1974. At night time this area is in complete darkness except for the streetlights of Shop Street. With the Little Millís location near to the town centre it is obviously an area where people meet in darkness for drinking parties and other activities. Therefore this area is developing quite a poor name throughout the town. If flood lighting were introduced in the Mill area this would stop this type of behaviour and would also make this protected building visible at night as a highlight in the town. It also would be visually attractive to see the water and banks lit up at night. Many towns and cities in this country highlight areas of natural beauty at night and this could easily be done in this area.
We looked at the idea of having the Mill Museum re-opened. However, we are not too sure if this idea will work in the Little Mill. Yes, the Little Mill is a preserved mill with all the workings still intact since The Farrell Family left the mill in 1964. The mill wheel is still there although much work is needed to be done to have it fully restored. Already the planks for the broken parts of the mill wheel are available inside the building and so getting the mill wheel up and running at a slower speed than it was when fully operational should not be too difficult. We feel that this is a priority as the Little Mill loses a lot of its appeal to both young and old if the wheel is left in its present state. Inside the building the workings of the mill could be encased in perspex glass to decrease the risk of injury to people visiting the mill and also to insure that nobody tampers with the workings of the mill. This would also free up much space inside the building, which then could be developed.
Tuam, unlike towns such as Westport and Galway City, is not a tourist town and when the Mill Museum was up and running few people were interested in coming to view the mill and the static exhibits inside. We feel that to try to develop the building along these lines would be a mistake. Unfortunately milling and mills are not something, which has mass appeal, and since Tuam doesnít attract many tourists anyway we feel that a museum would not finance itself in the long-term.
The Little Mill is unique in many ways and has survived from another age. Once it was the focal point for a rural community, the place where farmers had their barley, wheat or oats prepared for themselves or for their animals. Today the mill wheel doesnít work anymore with its old-fashioned technology in the middle of an area of urban renewal.
Our map (Map A) shows the location of this old part of Tuam beside all the new urban renewal shops, multi-storey car parks, shopping centre and apartments. This area in Tuam is developing rapidly and when completed will possibly take over from the square as the focal point of the town. Over the past few years Tuam has experienced terrible difficulties with parking and now two multi-storey car parks are in development to the west of the town. This will mean that most shoppers will eventually park here and head to the main shopping areas through Eganís Lane and Chapel Lane. On both sides of Chapel Lane new apartment blocks are being built which will house hundreds of the townspeople. Therefore there will be a great need for more facilities for the increased population in this area.
After looking at all the ideas and replies received we thought that the best possible development of this area would involve the pedestrianisation of Chapel Lane, Shop Street and part of High Street including the lane down to the Little Mill. As there are plans for the N17 TUAM By-Pass (see Map B) the possibility of pedestrianising a part of the town-centre is practical. It would attract more shoppers into the town, and it would be safer from a traffic point of view. The by-pass would free up the town and allow movement of traffic. (See Map C and Map D)
At present Chapel Lane is very dangerous for pedestrians with no footpath on either side and therefore people are not willing to walk down here. The overall view would allow people to park their cars in the multi-storey car park and walk and shop along the pedestrianised area. The Little Mills situation between these car parks and the prime shopping areas would give it an important advantage. It should be developed as our artistic impressions (see pictures) show as a place where traditional arts and crafts are on display including knitwear, metal-work, patch work, jewellery, wood carvings, candles and stained glass. It should provide space to highlight and sell organic food like the corn milled there long ago. It should have a cafť and restaurant withproduce such as organic tea and coffee from third world countries and so connect the people of Tuam with those who still practise a traditional way of farming. At least once a week its grounds should become a market place for fresh produce from the surrounding countryside. Goods such as vegetables, breads, cheeses, plants, flowers, crepes, olives, cooking ingredients, free range eggs, homemade cakes and pies and biscuits could be sold here. It would be a key area where people would meet and socialise beside the river and become a lovely trading and meeting area in the heart of the town of Tuam. It should be a pedestrian friendly zone and an area for relaxation and enjoyment along the riverbank.
The Little Mill was a focal point in the town when the mill was up and running up to its closure in 1964 when many people came from within a ten-mile radius to have their corn ground. Hopefully with our new plan, once again the Little Mill will become a focal point in the development of our town.