‘This is keeping their memory alive’

Former miners at coalface of north Roscommon tourism

 On of the unique elements of the Arigna Mining Experience is that tours of the mine are led by former miners such as Michael Early, who told the Roscommon People that it took time to adapt to his new career.

“It’s a double job because you have to know about the mine and you have to know how to present the information to people,” he said.

“When I first started as a tour guide I was shy enough. I doubt he’ll ever arrive, but if the Pope landed in here I’d bring him around and it’d be no bother to me!”

Michael, who worked in the mine with his father and other family members, says visitors are fascinated by the tour guides and that along with the mine itself the exhibition of old mining tools and photographs brings the whole experience to life.

“I grew up with mining so I knew about it (how hard the work was). The father didn’t want us to come in (to the mine). The question I get asked is was I afraid the first day? I can remember it quite well and I wasn’t a bit afraid. But the first tour I brought in here I was afraid of my life!”

What would his father and his colleagues make of Michael leading tours through their former workplace?

“I think they’d like it because an awful lot of the older miners might say this is kind of ‘posh’ or whatever, but you know it’s a tribute to them and it’s keeping their memory alive,” he said.

Before we leave, Michael takes us to the photographic exhibition and to a picture of his younger self at work with his father. It’s a startling reminder that this wonderful tourist attraction in north Roscommon was a working mine as recently as 1990.