On Monday morning, at the edge of The Paddocks housing estate just north of Donabate’s town centre, the gates leading into the Rahillion Parkland were locked.

Locals walked their dogs around the cul-de-sac. Children’s shouts and laughs drifted through the window of a recently opened creche.

A woman wandered around a nearby field, playing fetch with her black labrador.

But nobody could stroll up and down  the curving grit walkway that cuts through the parkland and leads to a grassy field with Rahillion Windmill.

Access to the 18th-century windmill, known locally as Carr’s Mill, is currently prohibited. Fixed to the gate is a red sign, warning that “trespassers will be prosecuted”.

It has been off-limits since July, says Corina Johnston, a local area representative for the Labour Party. “We’ve had a lot of angry locals, many dog walkers who’ve not been able to use it.”

The parkland where the mill sits is owned by Ballisk Homes Limited, which built 70 homes in Rahillion between September 2017 and the autumn of 2018, said Fergal Lynch of Ballisk Homes Ltd. “That open space is a part of that development.”

It has been closed due to an insurance issue, Lynch says, and the developer is trying to get Fingal County Council to take it in charge as a public open space.

According to a council spokesperson, since the lands were closed off, the developer has been carrying out soil improvement works, part of a process to bring it up to a standard that the council feels it can then take in charge.

There is not a set time frame for this, the council spokesperson said. But they are working with the developer to take over the open space as soon as possible, they said.

Progress is being made slowly, Johnston says. “But we need to see this open as soon as possible, because it is an amenity for not just one estate, but the adjoining estates.”

A slice of local history

Near the Rogerstown Estuary, the Rahillion Mill was built in the first half of the 18th century, says local historian Peadar Bates. “It was used to grind corn using wind power.”

The name Carr’s Mill, which was adopted locally, came from a tenant farmer, according to the council’s heritage and conservation department. 

When exactly it was built isn’t clear. But, according to the council’s website, the words “love God above all” were carved into one of its stones and dated 1741.

Later, it was renamed McAllister’s Windmill, Bates says, a family name which is featured on several gravestones in the old graveyard around the corner from the town’s train station.

The mill is three storeys tall, with slit windows and two opposing doorways, according to the Donabate Historical Society.

Today, it is a ruin without a cap or vanes. It resembles a weathered and uneven round tower on top of the sloping parkland, with its doorways sealed off by a set of steel gates.

A press spokesperson for the council did not address a query about its plans for the tower. 

Lynch of Ballisk Homes says the council has plans to commemorate its local significance. “They’ve a few bits and pieces they want up, like there’s a sign that would remember its history that needs to go up at the moment.”

Positive, but vague

Locals have been waiting on the parkland to become a public park for years, says Johnston, the Labour local area representative. “And in July, it was still in very poor condition.”

Lynch says the land is arable farmland. “Crops were growing in it for the last 20 years. It’s difficult to get a park going on it because the park’s been stripped of its nutrients, so it’s hard to get grass growing on it.”

That’s why they have had to do lots of remedial work like mixing compost into the soil, Lynch says.

That’s done now, Lynch says. “We’ve said to the council that you need to take it in charge, and they’re very close to that. Once they’ve done it, it can be opened up.”

At the Balbriggan, Rush-Lusk, Swords Area Committee on 14 September, Labour Councillor Brendan Ryan asked if the council could speed up the taking-in-charge process.

Gemma Carr, a senior executive parks and landscape officer, didn’t give any timeline in her response. 

The developer of Rahillion estate was carrying out snagging works, she wrote. “The Council is working with the developer to progress the taking in charge of this open space as soon as is possible.”

While the news is somewhat positive, it is also frustrating, says Johnston, the Labour local area representative. “We were told this in July, and again in August that they’d be in a better position in September to confirm this.” 

“From the outset, we’ve been calling for the taking-in-charge process, because it is a very time-consuming process,” she said.

Michael Lanigan is a freelance journalist who covers arts and culture for Dublin Inquirer. His work also appears in Vice, Totally Dublin, TheJournal.ie and the Business Post. You can reach him at michael@dublininquirer.com.

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