|— Town —|
|Elevation||68 m (223 ft)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Irish Grid Reference||N185250|
Pollagh also spelled Pullough (Irish: Pollach) is a village in County Offaly, Ireland, located in the midlands of Ireland. The name Pollagh comes from the Irish Poll ach, literally meaning expansive hole, but practically meaning "broad expanse of shallow water". It is a rural village on the Grand Canal and lies between Ferbane and Tullamore. Much of the surrounding area is bogland, and is used to produce fossil fuels such as peat turf. The River Brosna flows close to the village. The Grand Canal was used for transporting peat and bricks produced in the area. Pollagh benefited from the canal in earlier years when it brought investment and employment from Bord na Móna, and it is now an important part of the tourist attraction. Pollagh is known for its church, particularly its bog oak altar and stained glass windows, designed by the Harry Clarke Studios and the yearly Pig Race which happens at the Pollagh Pig Race stadium which in the past has drawn crowds of over 7 people including Mary and her daughter Mary (famed for moving to Dublin).
The name “Pullough” or “Pollagh” comes from the Irish words meaning “place of holes”, a reference to the boggy landscape. Although people undoubtedly lived in this area throughout history,the first substantial settlements occurred after 1771, when a new law banned brick-making near Dublin. This stimulated the brick-making industry in the midlands. Pullough’s unique yellow bricks, made from blue silt clay, were particularly prized. At first, the town’s bricks were placed on rafts on the River Brosna and pulled, by hand, to Ballycumber. Then, when the Grand Canal arrived in Pullough, it became possible to ship Pullough’s bricks throughout Ireland. Huge loads of Pullough brick passed beneath the arch of the Plunkett Bridge, which was finished in 1809. In 1837, 12 brickyards lined the route of the Grand Canal through Pullough and Rahan. By the end of the 19th century, there were 14 brickyards in Pullough alone. Each brickyard would have produced about 5,000 bricks a day, and another 200 “dog bricks” – extra bricks made because wild dogs almost always walked on the new raw bricks at night and ruined some of them. Lured by the brick-making industry, so many families moved to Pullough that in 1872, local authorities constructed the Pullough National School. The end of the 19th century also saw the birth of a new industry in Pullough. In the 1890s, Kieran Farrelly began a peat-harvesting business at Turraun Bog. By 1900, he had around 100 hectares (240 acres) of bogland under development and had built a factory to process the peat. After a flood destroyed Farrelly’s factory in 1903, he was forced to emigrate to America. The Turraun Peat Company was bought by a Welshman, Sir John Purser Griffith, in 1910. Griffith drained Turraun bog. Then, in the 1920s, he built a peat-operated power station that produced 4,000 long tons (4,100 t) of sod turf each year. This turf was transported to Dublin via the Grand Canal. In 1936, the Turf Development Board purchased the company. During the fuel crisis of the Second World War, it opened Turraun Camp, where hundreds of workers from all over the country lived while they harvested peat. Shipped to Dublin via the Grand Canal, the peat was sold, from huge ricks, in the Phoenix Park. The Turf Development Board also experimented with the use of charcoal to produce a petrol substitute. Today, two walls at Turraun Wetlands are all that remain of this charcoal factory. In 1946, Bord na Móna was founded to oversee further development of the bogs and utilisation of peat. At Turraun, the production shifted from sod to milled peat. Bord na Móna became the major employer in Pullough. Turraun supplied high-density peat for the Ferbane Power Station until it was decommissioned in 2002.
Turraun Nature Reserve
Turraun is based around the former site of the Bord na Móna operations in the area. Bord Na Móna produced peat in Turraun, but the plant has long since closed and is now the site of Turraun nature reserve. There is still some evidence of their operations here, such as the railway line, and factory floor. Nearby the factory ruins there are remnants of a charcoal factory from this period. Much of the bog-land that was used for peat production is now under water, as a lake was created to encourage wildlife into the area. The lake is a popular spot for bird watching, and a wooden hut allows for a discreet view of the lake. A gravel road runs through the reserve leading eventually to further lakes and a heritage site. Following this route will lead to Lough Boora, which has been developed as a tourist attraction including environmental sculptures and a mesolithic site containing evidence of dwellings. The bog of Allen surrounding the area is the largest example of raised bog in Ireland. Peat production has slowed more recently, due to the closing of the Ferbane power station and people changing to other forms of heat production. Because of this, some of the bogland in the area is being reclaimed and it is likely that peat production will be completely stopped to protect the remaining bogland. Similar to the Burren, in County Clare, the bogland is popular with tourists for its barren and unique environment.
St. Mary's Church
The local church, St. Mary's, was built in 1907, and is still in use today. Pollagh is in the Ballinahown parish, consisting of Ballinahown, Boher and Pollagh Churches. Inside the church the altar, backed by two large stained glass windows faces the door. The shape of the church is somewhat unusual, resembling an inverted "V", with the sanctuary at its point. The church is divided by a central isle, which was used to divide the congregation into men and women, but now there is no evidence of this partition remaining. The stained glass windows of the Harry Clarke Studios were installed in 1936, and depict the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart. Between the two windows is the tabernacle, which was part of the bog oak work, including the altar, seat and pulpit. The altar depicts Jesus on the front facing the congregation with his arms outstretched, as on the cross. In 2007 the carpet surrounding the altar was replaced with wood, in preparation for the celebration of mass live on Irish television channel RTÉ One.
The canal runs from Dublin to Shannon Harbour in Offaly. The stretch of the canal that Pollagh is on was opened in 1804. The canal is separated by locks, allowing for a drop in height of the surrounding land. Pollagh is built on the longest stretch between locks on the canal. The canal divides Pollagh in two, and the Plunkett Bridge, built in 1809, is the only bridge in the nearby area that allows for passage across the canal. It is peculiar in shape, resembling an 'n', meaning the a driver must make two sharp turns at the peak of the bridge. In recognition of the importance of benefits of tourism from the canal the area along the canal has been developed to include a mooring platform for the boats, a walkway and a 'Bog-man' sculpture. The canal is increasing in popularity for cruises and draws a number of international tourists to Pollagh.
The village has a Gaelic football team which plays in the Pollagh Community Centre grounds. Due to the small size of the community, the team often struggles in league competition, hovering between intermediate and junior county championship level. A shortage of players in under-age teams means that a number of the local villages joined to form the Brosna Gaels. The community centre and adjacent football pitch is equipped for a range of sporting activities, as well as hosting the local bingo. Both the canal and river are popular for fishing. The canal is used in coarse fishing competitions and attracts anglers from a variety of countries. The Brosna contains salmon and trout and is also used for duck shooting. The Pollagh festival includes live music and some events, and is popular with tourists and locals.