A millennial tradition at the Moulin de Martry

James Tallon senior and junior checking the flour production process. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

Martry Mill on the River Blackwater between Kells and Navan, possibly Ireland’s oldest mill with nearly 1000 years in operation, holds an open day at the weekend under the direction of current miller, James Tallon Jnr, the fifth generation of his family to lead the flour production facility.

The oldest record found of a mill at the Martry site is from a land survey made in 1323. The survey refers to “an ancient ruined mill” which was owned by the Turpleton family at that time. Hugh de Turpleton received the Manor of Martry from King Edward II (1307-1326). Following a dispute with the king, Hugues de Turpleton was executed in 1331. Ownership of the Martry manor passed to the Darcy family at this time. The mill, which would originally have been made of wood, mud and thatch, was transformed into a mostly stone building towards the end of their time as owners – most likely in the late 1500s or early 1600s. This stone building encompasses the main milling area of ​​the current mill.

A record of Martry’s mill goes back to the Civil Registry of 1654 where it was documented that a mill and twenty huts were on the Martry estate in 1641.

Following various properties and rentals, the Moulin de Martry passed to the Tallon family in 1859. Thomas Tallon, great-grandfather of the current owner, was the first of the family to work in the mill. He rented the mill from the Tisdall family. Following the Wyndham Land Act, when it became possible for permanent tenants to purchase their holdings, second generation James Tallon purchased the mill outright. A short-lived flax mill was connected to the old flour mill soon after. Most of the stone used for the extension came directly from the river.

During the First and Second World Wars, Martry Mill worked around the clock, serving counties Meath and Cavan.

In 1978 the Boyne Drainage Plan changed Martry Mill forever and could have ended a long history of work and production in this historic building.

A publicity campaign, supported by An Taisce, the Navan Chamber of Commerce, national TV, radio, the Meath Chronicle and the local community was launched to save the mill as a working business. This entailed rebuilding the weir and mill reach to the new river bed level, and transmitting power from the newly lowered wheel to the mill machinery.

This program, undertaken by the Office of Public Works, has enabled Martry Mill to continue to serve its local community in the 21st century and the increased demand for flour during the Covid-19 pandemic. James Tallon Snr, the fourth generation miller, and his uncle Michael complete a complete renovation in the 1980s. Floors, ceilings, stairs and windows were repaired and replaced to make the mill flood and storm proof. coming.

Current miller, James Tallon, says: “It is not history alone that encourages me to turn the wheel and the stones of the mill at Martry Mill. The family history and the ancient inscriptions of the names and initials of the millers carved into the walls, mostly by the windows or outside, as electric light is relatively new to the mill, are a source of motivation, but the flour itself is the main reason the mill is still operational today.

“The best flour is made from whole wheat. Whole wheat is much higher in protein, fiber and minerals than refined wheat. The high quality and clean wheat that Drummonds supplies to us is a key factor for us to make the best quality flour.We borrow a process from more modern times by using extraction fans to remove any remaining shell or dust from the wheat before grinding it into flour. -even is another key factor in making the most natural and flavorful flour.The traditional method of slowly grinding wheat using large stone millstones helps retain more moisture, minerals and natural vitamins in the flour, as well as greater flavor that you can taste in the bread that our flour makes for our customers.

James explains that their flour is made from 100% whole wheat grown in Ireland.

“Brown/wholemeal flour, as the name suggests, uses all of the wheat. Wheat can be divided into three parts, the endosperm which is low in nutrients and high in starch, the bran which is high in fiber and in vitamin B and the germ which is the nutrient powerhouse of wheat.It contains vitamins E and B, healthy fats, antioxidants and minerals.White flour is made only from the endosperm, so the flour brown whole wheat flour is much more nutritious and healthy.We do not add any artificial nutrition, vitamins or any ingredients other than wheat.High quality wheat and traditional process help us make the most flavorful, natural and healthy flour. healthy as possible for making brown bread and other baked goods.

James says the bread-making process is very simple, as you can mix the ingredients in less than a minute and fill the kitchen with the delicious smell of freshly baked bread.

“I supply some hotels and bakeries but getting my product on store shelves around Meath is my top priority so all home bakers have the option of using my flour. Martry Mill flour is available from all supermarkets Supervalu and Fresh Today in Meath as well as in a network of small local shops.”

Ten years ago, in collaboration with expert millwrights from Germany, the iconic waterwheel, sluice gate and some damaged internal machinery were restored to their former glory.

The mill is open for school tours, private tours and open days so people can see for themselves how an old traditional watermill works and further promote home baking.

“Mills are an important part of our history as they ran industry for over 1,000 years until electricity became available. There were thousands of mills all over the country, now there are still more less than a handful, so it’s important for us to keep that tradition going,” says James.