The Great Windmill, Skerries

Map Reference: O352600 (3352, 2600)

Location: To the east of the railway line. Signposted "Skerries Mills"

This windmill has a conical tower with a mansard roof. It is about 15m high and has five spring sails. It was built about 1750 and restored in 1995. The arrangement of five sails is very unusual. The advantage is that it collects the wind more efficiently. The disadvantage is that when a sail breaks the mill has to be stopped until the broken sail has been replaced. If this is not done the sails will be unbalanced and if operated may cause the mill to shake itself apart. With an even number of sails a broken sail can be removed, along with its opposite unbroken partner and the mill can continue to operate on reduced power.

The spring sail was invented in 1772 by a Scottish millwright called Andrew Meikle. The spring sail consists of a series of hinged shutters of wood or canvas on a light wooden frame. Using a long bar the shutters can be closed to present a flat surface to catch the maximum wind. Intermediate settings are possible to make the most efficient use of the available wind. When the mill is out of use the shutters are fully opened.

The sails are turned into the wind using a long tail pole. On smaller mills this operation could be carried out by the miller and his assistant. For the larger mills animal power is necessary. Today at Skerries Great Windmill a tractor is used.

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