Working as a Guide in the Mill Museum
In 1974 I had just finished teacher-training college and was at a loose end for the summer when I saw a job advertised in the Tuam Herald for someone to work in the newly established Mill Museum. I applied and after meeting some people from the Museum committee I was given the job.
When visitors came to the Museum the first thing I did was to take their admission fee. Then I brought them upstairs to see the D.J. Murphy collection. D.J. was a former teacher in this school who was passionate about History and had collected a large number of historical artefacts. These were shown over two floors of the Museum. There were lots of old farm and household implements. There were also old weapons like blunderbuss guns, swords and pike heads. My own favourites were the examples of bog butter. In the old days people made butter and sewed it into the (cleaned out) stomach of a sheep. This was then buried in the bog because bog is a wonderful preservative. This was long before fridges and deep freezers. For some reason the butter was forgotten only to be dug up centuries later by someone saving turf. It looked like a rock-hard football but you could see that it once was yellow. I can’t imagine what it tasted like and wouldn’t like to try.
After giving visitors plenty of time to look at these artefacts I took them back downstairs to look at the mill wheel outside and the corresponding wheels inside. I then showed the visitors how the wheels worked together by pulling a lever that raised the sluice gate outside. This released a flow of water, which turned the mill wheel. An axle from the wheel outside then began to turn the first of a series of wooden wheels inside all connected by cogs.
It was a lovely sight to see them all turning together powered only by the force of the water.
The visitors to the Museum were mostly tourists passing through Tuam or people home on holidays. Some Tuam people came to visit too and a frequent visitor was Ned Farrell who lived in Waterslade House and whose family once owned the mill. He regaled me with stories about the mill when it was workingand when it brought farmers from all around who came to have their wheat ground into flour. He was also a mine of stories and information about Tuam in bygone days.
When the visitors had seen all there was to see in the Museum I would get them to sign the visitors book. I would also give them information about other interesting places to see in Tuam and its hinterland.
It was a very enjoyable job for me because I like history and I also like meeting and chatting with people.