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Quarries, Limerick’s Hidden Killers

Following on from the previous blog on the Hanrahan Field Tragedies, where we mentioned one of the quarries tragedies of the Hanrahan Field, this blog will explore some of the other fatalities in quarries around the city. There were about twenty-five disused quarries in and around Limerick city at the turn of the century; they had mainly been used to quarried limestone and black marble which was used in most of the buildings of the city. The quarries were placed as near to the building works as possible to reduce the cost and labour that would be involved in moving the large stone. Most of the quarries, once the stone was depleted, were just left to gather water, and as there was no means of drainage in these quarries the pools of water could become quite deep.

In Sheedy’s quarry in Ballingarry, in Limerick county, on Saturday evening the 15th of July 1889, a young farmer named Patrick Normoyle was engaged in removing stones from beneath a projecting portion of the quarry. His brother noticed the dangerous position Mr. Normoyle was placed in, and cautioned him to stop working in that area. The young man did so but after some time expressed his desire to remove one particular stone from that area. No sooner than he had resumed his labours than the projecting bank of stones came down upon him with a crash, killing him almost instantly.

During this time many children would have swam and fished in these quarry pools. They may have been under the misguided belief that since these pools were still that they were safer than swimming in rivers or streams. The children would often go in groups to these pools but would rarely be accompanied by adults.

Not all the quarries were left vacant to gather water. For instance, Mr. Mahon’s quarry at New Road, Thomondgate was used as a manure depot, where the manure from the surrounding area was deposited into the quarry causing a large pool of manure. But sadly children would also play around this area. Two young girls, named Susan Walters, who was only eight, and Mary Brew were reading in Mr. McMahon’s quarry on Friday 8th of September 1899. After sometime there Mary Brew got up to leave, she turned her back on Susan Walters and took a few steps away. Suddenly she heard a cry from where she had been sitting and found Susan in the water. Mary ran to Quarry Road, where Susan’s family lived to get help. A few minutes later she arrived back at the quarry with two men, one of whom was Jeremiah Walters, Susan’s brother but they were to late to save her, all that remained of the girl was a single shoe on the surface of the manure. Susan was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Munchin’s Graveyard.

The image below is the house on Quarry road where Susan Walters lived with her family.

quarry road

Occasionally the children would fish from these quarry pools but this was also more hazards than it seemed as demonstrated by the story on 23rd of June 1901, when thirteen year old Edward Corbett who lived at 2 Summer Street with his grandmother Mary Corbett was fishing at the quarry on Carey’s Road when he fell in the water. His friend James McNamara stretched out his fishing rod to the boy who grasped it, he pulled Edward in about two foot but it appeared that he got exhausted, let go of the rod and sank. James ran to get help and a Mr James Clancy brought the boy to the surface and administered artificial resuscitation but the boy had already died. Edward was buried the following day in Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery.

On Thursday the 11th of July 1901, a young girl called Agnes O’Doherty aged 16 (as recorded on her death certificate), from 10 Edward Street (although, the newspaper report from the same day calls her Dorothy and has her age as 15) was out in Hall’s quarry on Prospect Hill looking for geese when she fell in the water and drowned. She was buried the same day in Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery, which records her age as 17. The 1901 census, pictured below, that took place in April of that year shows her as a 19 year old servant from Carlow, living with the Fitzgerald Family in Edward Street.

agnes doherty

About The Author

Sharon Slater

Sharon Slater is the owner and operator of the Limerick's Life website. She has been researching and collecting information regarding Limerick history and genealogies since her early teens. She obtained a Masters degree in Local History at the University of Limerick.


  1. nynana125

    Your great grandfather was my grandmother’s Hanora(Nora) oldest brother. Would love to get connected with you.

  2. nynana125

    Thank you kindly Sharon. I am so enjoying this site. You have worked so hard. It is so appreciated. Ellen Robinson

  3. nynana125

    Brother Dan not Michael. My mistake.

  4. nynana125

    Added Note: My error. I meant to write that Mary Vaughan was with her brother Daniel not Michael.

  5. nynana125

    This was my grandmother’s oldest sister. She drowned before my grandmother was born. I knew of her drowning but didn’t know that she was with her brother Michael. How awful for that young boy. What a heartbreak for the family. In all though Michael Vaughan and Ellen McMahon had 17 children. 3 (including Mary) died as infants or young children. If there is any way you would send me a copy of the inquiry I would be most grateful. Thank you Ellen Robinson

  6. Sharon Slater

    Thank you for sharing your story Valerie, it is interesting how one branch of the family learns some aspects of their history while others do not. Do you know if her father sued the distillery as Bridget Goodwin tried to do with Cleeve’s?



  7. Valerie Woods

    Thanks you interesting read I also found a newspaper article of my dad great aunt also drowned in river shannon in 1886 she was only seven her name was Mary Vaughan . her father blamed the distillery. My relations in usa knew this story it was passed on but family in limerick didn’t know about it. Maybe cause her brother who witness this stay in limerick who is my great grandfather proable didn’t talk about it. Keep up your great work.

  8. Sharon Slater

    I’m glad you enjoyed the articles. Thanks for subscribing.

About Limerick’s Life

This website is a personal project of Sharon Slater, born from a passion for Limerick and it's history. She maintains, updates and contributes to it independently and voluntarily. If you'd like to donate to keep Limerick's history online, please know that all donations will go directly into the costs of hosting the website and the time and travel to research and write the articles found on the site.

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