The oldest record that we have found of a mill at our site in Martry is from a land survey made in 1323. The survey refers to “a tumbledown old mill” which was owned by the Turpleton family at this time. Hugh de Turpleton was granted the Manor of Martry by King Edward ll (1307-1326).
The Darcy family (Norman in origin) owned extensive property in Meath from Norman times until the 17th century. John Darcy was Justiciar for Ireland from 1323 to about 1344. Following a dispute with the king, Hugh de Turpleton was executed in 1331. The ownership of the manor of Martry passed to the Darcy family at this time. The mill, which would have originally been made from wood, mud and thatch, was upgraded to a predominantly stone building towards the end of their time as owners (most likely late 1500s or early 1600s). This stone building encompasses the primary milling area of the current mill.
A record of Martry Mill dates back to the Civil Survey of 1654 where it was documented that a mill and twenty cabins stood on the estate of Martry in 1641. The Darcys lost all their Meath lands during the Cromwellian Plantation. They recovered some property after the Restoration of Charles II when Nicholas Darcy was declared innocent of rebellion. Michael Tisdall leased the manor of Martry in 1668 and bought it in 1672.
James Holgan leased the mill for £8.11.7 ½ in the early 1740s. In 1744 Patrick Doyle took over the lease, before Matthew Lee took over in 1745, he held the lease on Martry mill for the next 31 years.
Extensive work was carried out by miller Matthew Lee to add a third level to the mill.
In 1792, the Tisdall family, who owned the area of Martry, leased the mill plus four acres of surrounding land to John Mitchell. This lease lasted for thirty-one years.
A flax mill was built beside the existing mill in the early to mid-1800s. With cotton becoming more popular at that time the flax mill never really got going. The building was utilised for storage and to house a kiln for drying grain. Today this part of the mill is used as a wheat store and museum area.
A lease from 1806 to other tenants on the Tisdall estate required them “to scour and tuck cloth at Martry tuckmill”. This reference may imply that flax was processed at this mill at least for a short time period, however, this remains uncertain.
From 1823 until 1859 there were a few short tenancies, one of which was to Francis McDonagh. The mill was leased with “the machinery and offices thereto belonging, and the house lately occupied as a forge, together with the ground attached to the said mill holding, containing four acres Irish Plantation measure or thereabouts.”
There are extensive accounts of repair work undertaken on the mill in October 1843 when the tenant was Michael Meighan and John Tisdall was the landlord. The repairs cost £45.3.1 and included timber works, shafts and arms, masonry work, clearing the mill race and removing two dams. “Millrite work” cost £13.7.6.
The tenant this year was William Wells.
In 1859, Martry Mill passed to the Tallon family. Thomas Tallon, the great-grandfather of the present owner, was the first of the family to work in the mill. He leased the mill from the Tisdall family.
Following on from the Wyndham Land Act, it became possible for standing tenants to buy their holdings. James Tallon (2nd generation) bought the mill outright. The flax mill was connected to the older flour mill shortly thereafter. Most of the stone used for the extension was sourced directly from the river.
During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Martry Mill worked 24 hours daily, serving the counties of Meath and Cavan.
Thomas Tallon, the 3rd generation miller from the Tallon family, replaces the roof on Martry Mill.
In 1978, the Boyne Drainage Scheme changed Martry Mill forever and could have resulted in the end of a long history of work and production at this historic building.
A publicity campaign, supported by An Taisce, the Navan Chamber of Commerce, national television, radio, the Meath Chronicle and the local community got underway to save the mill as a working concern. This resulted in the rebuilding of the weir and mill-race at the new level of the river bed, and the transmission of power from the newly lowered wheel to the mill machinery.
This scheme, undertaken by the Office of Public Works, meant that Martry Mill has continued to serve its local community into the 21st century.
James Tallon Snr (4th generation miller) and his uncle Michael Tallon make an extensive renovation. The floors, ceilings, stairs and windows are repaired and replaced as necessary to future and floodproof the mill.
Working with expert millwrights from Germany, the iconic waterwheel, sluice gate and some damaged internal machinery are restored to their former glory.
The COVID-19 pandemic sparks a short-term spike in demand for flour. The current miller James Tallon Jnr (5th generation) takes over the running of the mill.
Very early Irish tradition, transmitted through ancient manuscripts, assigns the erection of the first watermill in Ireland to the illustrious King Cormac mac Art (reigned A.D. 254 to 277). He sent "across the sea" for a mill-wright, who constructed a mill on the stream of Nith, flowing from the well named Nemnach ('sparkling') beside Tara. The spot on which this mill was constructed, and where a mill was kept working time out of mind until very recently, was called Lismullin (the 'fort of the mill'): and the place, which is a mile northeast from Tara, retains the same name to this day.
We know that the earliest watermill dates back to the 3rd century A.D. This mill was also in Co. Meath near the Hill of Tara at Lismullin. The 1323 record references an old mill so we believe that it is probable that a mill has existed on our site for upwards of 1000 years.
Across the river from the mill in Martry is the townland of Teltown. This was where the ancient Tailteann Games were held.