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Firefighters tackle blaze at historic Sion Mills flax mill

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 12/10/2015

Fire at Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills which was sold to lottery winner Margaret Loughrey July 2014.
Image by Raymond McCarron
Fire at Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills which was sold to lottery winner Margaret Loughrey July 2014. Image by Raymond McCarron
Lottery winner Margaret Loughrey

A historic mill complex - now owned by Euromillions jackpot winner Margaret Loughery - has been seriously damaged in a blaze.

A total of 63 firefighters and nine appliances were called to a 'significant fire' at Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills.

The fire at the disused flax mill was reported to Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service at around 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

It quickly spread all along the ground floor of the building, with crews finally containing the fire yesterday evening before working on isolated spots.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. There were no injuries reported.

In August 2011 the mill suffered major damage in another fire.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Area Commander Maurice Rafferty said crews at the scene reported the fire as being contained by around 5pm "but are likely to remain on site for a considerable time to damp down isolated spots".

The Herdman's Mill site was bought by Ms Loughrey, from Co Tyrone, in 2014. The Strabane woman won almost £27m in a Euromillions jackpot in 2013.

It is understood she paid £1m for the 62-acre site, which was previously owned by the Herdman family for over 170 years.

She was hailed by locals for saving it from being turned into a bio-waste plant.

There were hopes that up to 50 jobs would be created at the mill, in tourism, sports facilities and other business units.

It was built in 1835 by James George and John Herdman from Belfast. The Herdman family from which the mill gained its name included Mark Herdman, who was Governor of the British Virgin Islands from 1986 to 1991 and who died in August.

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

In an interview with Sunday Life last year, Ms Loughrey told of her plans to give away most of her fortune. She claimed she would keep just £1m of her windfall, with £13.5m already handed out to a range of causes.

She also told of plans to use the other £12.5m to help improve the local economy and provide social amenities in her town.

She wanted to build a museum highlighting the area's industrial heritage as well as football pitches and a bowling alley for local people to use.

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