Mountmellick, is an anglicisation of the name Móinteach Mílic, which means the bog-land bordering a river. According to records it was first settled in the late 15th Century.
The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) led by William Edmundson first arrived in 1657 . They saw the potential for this settlement and it grew to eight thousand people.
Twenty-seven industries developed including breweries, distillery’s, woollen mills, cotton, tanneries and glass. It became a boom town in the late 19th century became known as “The Manchester of Ireland”.
The first Quaker to settle in Mountmellick opened a tannery followed by the Goodbodys and Pim families in the 19th Century.
Towards the end of the 18th Century, the textile industry grew significantly. A number of large mills were opened in the 1780s. These produced the necessary raw materials to develop weaving as an important cottage industry, providing many households with a secondary source of income to supplement agricultural incomes. By 1837 it was estimated that 4,000 persons were employed in the cotton and woollen business, in the Mountmellick area.
The three main centres of this industry were established at New Mills in Drinagh, Barkmills, near Ballyfin and Anngrove in Irishtown. Initially these mills were powered by water, but steam engines were gradually introduced during the 19th Century.
In 1801, there were five breweries in Mountmellick and these supplied beer to towns within a 25 mile radius. These breweries declined as larger breweries, elsewhere, developed their distribution on the railways and canals. As abstinence became popular in the second half of the 19th Century, there was a shift from brewing to malting.
The first National Bank designed by the William Caldbeck opened in the town in 1824 and the first modern sugar factory in Ireland was opened in Mountmellick in 1852.
Despite its huge aspirations, economic factors dictated the decline of Mountmellick as an industrial base from 1862 to the current day.
Despite its industrial and economic decline, renewed energy is now emerging from the local people who pride themselves as part of such a historic town.