Mills of Cushendun

9 March 2023

Corn and mills in various shapes and varieties have been a feature of the Irish Landscape from earliest times. The main occupation of the early Chieftain`s female slaves was grinding corn with a quern (hand held pot). Oatmeal was the mainstay of the native diet long before any mention of the potato. Water mills were first recorded in the 7th Century, and over the ages as machinery became more sophisticated, they were a common feature of the landscape. During the late 18th and 19th century, many were converted to include flax machinery for scutching.  

Cushendun had four recorded mills, Ballindam (corn), Whitehouse (corn and flax), Cushendun (corn) and Calishnagh (flax). Corn milling reached its peak from 1850 to 1880 just after the great famine of 1845.  From then on production began to fall chiefly due to population decrease, change in agricultural practices and the import of grain from America. Milling started to be conducted from large mills on the outskirts of towns. The mills were a great loss to the rural economy especially the loss of employment. The last of the local mills finally closed C.1950.   


The first corn mill built in the parish was in the townland of Ballindam 1678 by John McCollum of Bushmills, He had acquired a lease of the land from Randall, Lord Marquis of Antrim, dated 1678. By 1793 the property including the Mill had passed to the White family and in 1833 the tenant was John McNeill. He was probably the last tenant as the Whites decided to build a new mill about half a mile up the road. Part of the reason was water to drive the mill came from Brablagh burn and in dry weather the flow was insufficient to drive the mill wheel. A dwelling house now stands on the site of this mill.  


The mill in place of the one at Ballindam was built in the townland of Whitehouse in 1847 by James White.  This was one of the last corn mills to be built in the glens and later was used as a flax mill. It was a state of the art mill for its time containing two buildings, one three storey and one two storey shed containing a kiln house, stores, machinery for grinding, shelling and winnowing. The water supply to drive it came from the river Dun, on which a carey (barrier) was built about a quarter of a mile up stream and a laid (small canal) was constructed to carry the water to the mill. 

James White appointed William McGregor from Broughshane to operate the mill. Despite the elaborate buildings and up to date machinery the mill turned out to be something of a white elephant. In the late 1800s farming began to change from tillage to pastoral grazing. In 1880 it ceased production and lay derelict until 1918 when Robert John Carey from Omerbane (near Newtowncrommelin) purchased the mill for £300. He was more interested in flax scutching than corn milling. Flax was in great demand at this time, and he built an addition to the corn mill for scutching. The addition was at best only a temporary structure, but it housed four berths and a set of rollers and did a good trade until the end of World War II. The last time the mill turned was in 1952. 

Cushendun Mill

Cushendun Hotel

Cushendun Hotel

On the property of Nicholas Crommelin, in the townland of Sleans, where the Cushendun Hotel now stands, a flax scutching mill was built in 1865. This mill was unique in the Glens as it was powered by steam. Water for the boilers was collected in two dams on the hill above the mill, the supply was insufficient, especially in summer, and water had to be taken out of the river. On the bank a large iron cylinder was set and the local children were paid sixpence per day for filling it when the tide was out. Salt water was not suitable. 

Calisnaugh Mill

The flax mill in Calisnaugh townland dates from the 1820s. It is described in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs as “new and in good order”. The wheel which is driven by break water is 13 feet by 2 feet broad. At that time the proprietors were Archibald McCambridge and Samuel Jameson. They are reported as having spent £200 on building the mill and making the mill race, which is exactly one mile long. The carey on the River Dun is situated just below the Glendun Viaduct. The rent was £5 per year for the mill and two acres of land.

Farmer bringing a load of corn to the mill

McCambridge and Jameson were succeeded as tenants in 1834 by James Blaney. In accordance with the general trend in the country the mill went out of production on occasions, but in 1866 it was taken over by John McVicar who repaired it. He replaced the thatched roof with one of corrugated iron, and started scutching again. One of his employees was a man from the Ballycastle area, Hugh Sharkey. He worked in the mill as a scutcher for a long time, eventually taking it over about 1900 when McVicar retired. It is still owned by the Sharkey family.  

This mill was recognised as one of the best scutch mills in the Glens. It had six stocks and a set of rollers and was very conveniently situated being close to the road. Two cottages were built beside it for the workers. In 1936 a new mill wheel, made by Moore of Coleraine, was installed, but only thirteen years later, in 1949, the wheel turned for the last time. 

Ref. M McSparran The Glynns Vol.4.