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Our History

The Story of Blarney Woollen Mills

Built in 1823, Blarney Woollen Mills was originally known as Mahony's Mills and provided valuable employment to the people of Blarney and surrounding areas. In 1928, a boy of 13, like most of his friends in Blarney, began to work at Mahony's Mills. His name was Christy Kelleher.

Young Christy began work at the Mill as an apprentice machinist and worked there for 22 years. In 1951 Christy left to work with an insurance company in the city so that he could better provide for his family. But he was never a man to stand still and always had a little business going on the side.

In 1967 he started a small souvenir shop in the thatched cottage in Blarney which he and some friends built as he did not have enough money to buy a property, and this cottage is still proudly standing in Blarney Woollen Mills today.

By 1973, business at the Old Mill had started to decline and it finally wound down production and closed its doors that same year. The huge stone buildings became bare and empty and the machines were dismantled and removed. Five hundred people lost their jobs. For two years the great mill lay silent and derelict. Nobody wanted it.

Christy visited the site many times and slowly an idea began to grow - he would buy the buildings he had worked in as a boy and turn the mill into the biggest Irish shop in the world and a magnificent showcase for Irish products.

The family agreed that drastic steps were necessary and between them raised the funds to purchase the Mill. Christy Kelleher was now the proud owner of the Woollen Mills where he had started his working life.

In 1975, the souvenir business from the thatched cottage was transferred into the Mill and Blarney Woollen Mills as we know it today was born. The business developed into the largest Irish shop in the world and sells products from every county in Ireland. Whether you are looking for crafts, food, folklore or fashion, it's all there under the rambling roofs of the old Mill.

Christy Kelleher, a man of great vision, died in 1991 at the age of 76... but with more than half a million visitors passing through the old stone buildings of this historic and glorified mill each year and over 400 people employed in the business, Christy left behind him a thriving family company, which still retains the spirit that made it all happen in the first place.

The core values that existed when Blarney Woollen Mills was first born are still an inherently important part of the business. We are proud to carry them with us to this day.

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