Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills sold to lottery winner Margaret Loughrey

Herdman's Mill
Image caption The mill ceased spinning linen in 2004

The Herdman's Mill site in Sion Mills has been bought by a County Tyrone lottery winner.

Margaret Loughrey, from Strabane, won almost £27m in the Euromillions jackpot last December.

It is understood she paid £1m for the site, which was previously owned by the Herdman family for over 170 years.

The mill, which once employed more than 1,000 staff, ceased spinning linen in 2004 and the company that owned the mill went into receivership in 2011.

Tom King worked there for 45 years as a gusset supervisor.

"It was a very good place to be," he said.

"When I came here there were 1,200 people in here. Money came up the Mill Lane and the prosperity rubbed off on everybody."

He welcomed the news that it had been sold as he had been "very sad" to see it in a state of neglect.

The mill was built in 1835 by James George and John Herdman from Belfast.

A model village, a school and sporting facilities were also erected on the site, the remains of which can still be seen.

'10-year plan'

Ronan McAneny was the estate agent who sold the site to Ms Loughrey.

"Ms Loughrey has said to me it will probably be a 10-year plan," he said..

"It will take time and obviously we have to get onboard with all the bodies.

"Initially I think the main thing is to get the site cleaned up, to get the roof back on the old mill, to get the windows replaced and to give it a general tidy-up so it begins to look how it used to look."

Mr McAneny said a "few pounds" would have to be spent on the site.

"Obviously there will have to be a cash input by Mrs Loughrey but we're hoping there will be funding available as well so that's why we need to speak to to the bodies concerned to see if we can get money released," he said.

"There will be jobs created.

"Realistically we should be talking maybe anything up to 50 jobs and maybe more. Certainly it will be very positive within the village of Sion Mills."

He said plans may be limited because the mill is a listed building.

"I do think that mainly it will be tourism, the old mill building restored, hopefully with the industrial units we should be able to do something.

"I do think there will be commercial elements to it, but it's very difficult to pinpoint what will be passed at this point."

Image caption It is understood Margaret Loughrey paid £1m for the site

In 2013, it emerged that Donegal-based firm Connective Energy Holdings wanted to build an anaerobic digester to process waste and generate electricity on the site of the former mill.

Local residents protested against the plans, among them Andy Patton, chair of Sion Mills community forum.

Job creation

He was involved in setting up a group to fight against the proposed waste plant for the village.

"Now that that has been relinquished, the only way forward is the creation of jobs in Sion Mills for the betterment of the people," he said.

"From what we're actually hearing is that there's going to be different ventures by Ms Loughrey and job creation. We would like to see something maybe around the tourism factor as well and leisure, the other one is the restoration of the old mill as well."

Simon Galloway, secretary of Sion Mills cricket club, also welcomed the sale.

"It's our 150th anniversary," he said.

"Sion Mills cricket club was formed on the basis of Herdman's Mill. The mill has been taken over by a local person so that can only bode well for us as a club."

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