Annalong Corn Mill

Built in the early 1880s, the Mill was one of Ulster's last working watermills

It’s been a long time since the wheels of industry turned in Annalong. The picturesque corn mill and harbour are reminders of a time when agriculture, import and export were thriving businesses in the small village nestled in the Mourne Mountains near Kilkeel in County Down .Annalong Harbour

The corn mill, built in the early 1800s, operated until the 1960s and was one of ’s last working watermills. Harbour master Kenny Gibson is charged with looking after the mill and ensuring it still works, demonstrating for the many visitors how wheat and oats were ground.

An experienced sea faring man with years of fishing history behind him, Mr Gibson believes it is important for the history of this little community to remain at the forefront of local knowledge. He has worked at the mill for almost four years and takes great pride in demonstrating the mechanism of what he describes as a ‘wonderful piece of engineering’. He said:

‘I think to maintain a place like this you’ve got to have someone local working here. You can learn all you need to learn from books but there are so many other stories about this area that only the locals would know. For example, I remember when I was younger an uncle of mine told me that he believed the mill building had once been used as a Presbyterian church.’

The building still retains many of the original components. It has a grain drying kiln, three pairs of millstones and is powered by a 15ft waterwheel. The water is channelled from the nearby Annalong River.

Mr Gibson explained: ‘In those days there was a bartering system. If the farmers couldn’t afford to pay for the work they usually left a bag of oats.’Water wheel

Annalong Corn Mill was acquired by Newry and Mourne District Council in the early 1980s and was restored and reopened in 1983. Since then it has provided the basis for many a history lesson for visiting school children.

Annalong harbour has also received its fair share of regeneration over the past number of years. It dates back to the early 1800s and in later years was made bigger to receive schooners carrying granite which was used to build the nearby water dam at Silent Valley.

In recent years the harbour has been deepened and a pontoon added making it easier for small fishing boats and cruisers to dock at all states of the tide. In one of the neighbouring gardens the leading light for directing boats into the harbour remains.

‘Yachts come into the storm gate here to be maintained,' added Mr Gibson. ‘There is quite a lot of Annalong heritage connected to the sea. I was at sea. I spent my early years in the Merchant Navy and then later took to the fishing boats. I’m back on dry land now and I prefer it, but I feel it is important for the people of this area to remember their heritage.’