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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Almost 300-year-old water wheel is finally turning again at Raceview Mill

The fully restored and functioning water wheel at Raceview Mill in Broughshane.

The fully restored and functioning water wheel at Raceview Mill in Broughshane.


Almost 300-years-old, and believed to be the tallest in Ireland, the water wheel at Raceview Mill, Broughshane, is finally turning again after much dedication, commitment and hard work.


As friends and family, along with supporters gathered at Raceview Mill over the weekend to mark the significant occasion of the restoration water wheel's restoration, it was a poignant moment for owner Roy McKeown who has made it his personal project to see the wheel turning once again.



Back in 2013, Roy and his family purchased Raceview Mill, a former 200-year-old woollen mill set in 16 acres of land in Broughshane, the 'Garden Village of Ulster'. The mill was under threat of demolition, but the local man had a vision that would see the birth of a unique heritage restoration project, that would preserve the beauty and story of the past, for the enjoyment of future generations to come.


Managing Director of Raceview Mill Roy McKeown, presents Midleton Very Rare Whisky to Lord O’Neill and Shane O’Neill.


For Roy, the restoration of the water wheel has been a central part of the plan.


An astute businessman, but more importantly, an avid family man, it has been a true labour of love to reach this point after just 10 years, but Roy is enjoying the journey with his wife Veronica, daughter Dawn and son-in-law Matt, as well as his six grandchildren - Bryn, Jack, Oscar, Benjamin, and twins Abigail and Madeline.


The water wheel itself is a fantastic feat of industrial engineering, harkening back to a bygone era and originating at a County Antrim corn mill, located at Mill Town, in the townland of Shane's Castle, the water wheel dates back to 1738, and was a gift from Lord O’Neill.



Roy pictured with daughter Dawn.

Roy pictured with daughter Dawn.


The mill caught fire in 1940 and the wheel was in poor condition, especially the lower half which was buried under decades of rubble. All the wood was rotten, the blacksmith parts were rusted away.


However, the central core and outer rim were made from cast iron, and in reasonable condition.


Digging the wheel out took a month of hard labour with a team of three using spades and heavy lifting and cutting equipment. The result was an uninspiring pile of twisted metal and charred wood.


The water wheel in pieces before restoration.
The water wheel in pieces before restoration.

The water wheel in pieces before restoration.


Raceview Mill had been powered by water wheels in the past and the restored wheel is placed where the original wheels were positioned.


Each bucket is made from six pieces of wood, each a different size, fitting so well that they hold water. In total there are sixty buckets, held together with hundreds of bolts. Each of the 24 spokes of the wheel is cut from the core of an electricity pole.



While it does not generate electricity, the massive wheel which weighs almost ten tonnes, and is so finely balanced that it is turned by a small amount of recycled water. Indeed Roy's seven-year-old grandson Oscar can turn it! However, once turning, the wheel will easily lift a man off the ground.


Roy pictured with local council representatives Ald Jackson Minford and Cllr Alan Barr.

Roy pictured with local council representatives Ald Jackson Minford and Cllr Alan Barr.


Speaking to Love Ballymena, Roy shared his thoughts on Raceview Mill and its restored water wheel, saying:

 

“I am delighted to see the wheel finished and turning.


"Every village used to have six or seven water wheels, they were the main source of power - now they are quite rare. They are an important part of our industrial heritage.


"I’m particularly pleased it seems to be the tallest in Ireland being driven by water!"



Roy with Willie McKeen, Tom Wiggins and John Adams.

Roy with Willie McKeen, Tom Wiggins and John Adams.

Richard Reade representing the Lord Lieutenant, Shane O’Neill and Roy McKeown.

Richard Reade representing the Lord Lieutenant, Shane O’Neill and Roy McKeown.


Roy continued:

 

"Raceview Mill, like the wheel, was derelict when I took it over 10 years ago – now it’s a vibrant business community where well over 100 people come to work.

 

"Raceview Mill is the perfect place to showcase industrial heritage items, like our water turbines, and old flax processing machinery. The setting of the 200 year old mill is the perfect backdrop to any business.”



Roy wished to thank his good friends who helped make the restoration a reality, including Ken Montgomery, Adrian Kirkpatrick, Mark Gardner, Davy Rodgers, Cecil Warwick and the Friends of Raceview Mill Community Association.


The wheel can be seen operating every day from 12:00pm until 2:00pm, and from 4:00pm until 6:00pm. 


Raceview Mill

Raceview Mill

Dr Tony Redmond, Pauline Davison with Roy McKeown.

Dr Tony Redmond, Pauline Davison with Roy McKeown.

Dave Black and Richard Topping.

Dave Black and Richard Topping.

Davy Rodgers and family.

Davy Rodgers and family.




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