Traditional miller braced for surge in demand for flour due to Ukraine war

Five generations of Tallons have run Martry Mill in Co Meath in war and in peace

During the second World war when flour was scarce, the mill owned by James Tallon’s father would run 24 hours a day to keep supply going.

Tallon, who now operates Martry Mill in Co Meath, recalls the story as he braces himself for a surge in demand due to the Russian war in Ukraine, where almost a third of the world's wheat is grown.

“I always took that story with a pinch of salt until I found myself operating similar hours during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, we are expecting demand to rise in the coming weeks but are hoping against it, to be honest. No one wants war and hopefully peace will prevail soon.”


However, Tallon, whose family has been at the helm of the traditional mill in Co Meath for five generations, says that while demand may soar, his supply is limited to the speed of the water wheel. But this also means that he is not worried about rising fuel and electricity costs because his 300-year-old sustainable mill is powered solely by water.

“Unlike other mills which run on electricity, Martry Mill is completely dependent on the water wheel and its sluice gates, which were totally restored by German engineers in 2013,” he says.

“We only need electricity now for lighting in the mill and we source our wheat and grain locally from producers in the southeast.

Baking frenzy

"The mill is completely sustainable and that's why it's still here and working away on the Blackwater river, between Navan and Kells.

The water of the mill, which dates back to the 17th century, has kept turning through many wars in the past.

“We don’t take anything from the river or add to it, the flow of the river is all we need to rotate that wheel, which has turned through some number of wars, both internationally and at home with the Civil War.

Tallon saw demand for Martry Mill stoneground wholemeal increase fourfold during the baking frenzy of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Normally we would produce about a tonne of flour a week but during lockdown demand soared and we were generating up to four tonnes every seven days.

“I had to refuse some customers because the wheel can only turn at a certain speed to produce the coarse texture of the wholemeal. We won’t compromise on quality for quantity in any way.”

He says whatever happens, the mill will keep going. “Regardless of the times, as long as the water runs, the wheel at the mill will keep turning.”

This determination was reflected in the innovation of his father during the second World War when white flour was rationed but customers still wanted it to make Christmas cakes.

“So my dad sifted the wholemeal flour through a silk stocking which removed the bran and left a cream-coloured flour which people used for their festive fare.

“Back then, no one had scales so many people just guessed amounts needed in recipes and still today, the older generation will just throw handfuls of ingredients into a bowl when making bread or cakes.”

The mill is open by appointment to schools and other group tours. Further information can be found at