New owner for Ireland's Valentia Slate
Valentia Slate, produced from an island of slate just off the coast of the Ring of Kerry in the south-west of Ireland, has a new owner.
The slate, which has been used for repairs to the floors of the Houses of Parliament in England since 2004 as well as the Irish homes of Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City) and Irish singer-songwriter Bono (among others) has been taken over by Aidan Forde, from Killarney, a geologist who has become a businessman involved in brewing and windfarm energy generation - and now slate production.
The previous owners were Michael Lyne and Patrick O'Driscall, who had been trying to sell the business for several years. Michael, the younger of the two men at 67, said when the mine was put up for sale in 2016: "I have managed a factory for these past 40 years apart from the Quarry and I have just retired from that." His partner is 77 years old and also had his own Plant Hire business. Both Pat and Michael wanted to retire and pass the business on to a younger generation because they felt there was tremendous scope for expansion and development of the business. Michael said: "We have done what we set out to do: that is, to prove the product. We feel we have done that and now have a tremendous range of very high quality products."
It is now hoped that Valentia Slate will become even better known world-wide under its new ownership.
Aidan Forde has told Sinead Kelleher at the Kerryman newspaper: "We are keen to develop it sustainably and leverage the uses that Valentia slate can be put to. We want to continue the international business and develop the Irish business."
Valentia Slate production dates back 400 years. In the 1850s the mine employed more than 450 people. It closed in 1911, and more than 80 years later was re-opened in 1998 by three local business men - Mike O'Donoghue (deceased) was originally involved with Micheál Lyne and Pat O'Driscoll.
The plan by the three men had been to reopen Valentia slate to bring much-needed employment to the area in the 1980s, but it took longer than anticipated to get the quarry re-opened. The mine had to be purchased from the Knight of Kerry and geological surveys were undertaken before any work could begin extracting the stone. When extraction began, three men from the Ukraine were recruited to work the mine.