I have chosen the history of Swilly Valley Mills because this had not been written by anyone else, to the best of my knowledge. I had recently retired from the mills after 42 years of service as a Sales Representative and a lot of information remains fresh in my mind.
Robert Smyth & Sons, Canal Basin Mills, Strabane, were established in 1865 and traded extensively with grain suppliers and customers in Co. Donegal.
Political division of the country and the establishment of a frontier (border) with Northern Ireland, controlled by Customs & Excise posts on each side of the border, meant that Smyth's had to set up another mill in Co. Donegal.
In 1926, they inaugurated Swilly Valley Mills at Ballindrait which operated on a seasonal basis (September to April) and employed six workmen. The workforce gradually expanded, over the years, to about eighty men. The mills were reliable purchasers of grain from local farmers and they encouraged progressive breeding of farm animals and poultry.
Elements of History
This topic refers to three elements of history; Political, Social and Economic.
Swilly Valley Mills were established as a result of political issues which prevented free movement of goods and services across they border.
From a social point of view many workers who might otherwise have emigrated were able to remain, marry and rear families in their local community. Some families would have two or three members working in the Mills and some of their children would follow in their fathers' footsteps.
On the economic side, increased farm mechanisation led to a surplus of farm laborers and many of these got employment at the Mills where they earned good wages. Farmers were paid market prices for their grain and other local suppliers of goods and services to the mills also benefited financially.