Doing the business: How stone mason Paul constructed a successful career


 January 10, 2017
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DOING THE BUSINESS: Donegal Daily in conjunction with the ETB will be profiling a number of individuals and businesses who have successfully graduated from one of the many training programmes ETB has to offer.

As the ETB hold open days to promote their latest diverse range of courses, Donegal Daily spoke with Paul Sweeney from Ramelton. Paul completed a Traditional Stonewall Construction course at the Gaoth Dobhair ETB Centre in 2009, and has been working in the industry ever since.

The open day for the Gaoth Dobhair ETB Centre will be held at Derrybeg Industrial Estate on the 11th and 12th of January 2017 from 12noon to 8pm.

Paul, now aged 35, had been working in the building industry for eight years before deciding to try something new. He had never laid stone before taking on the Level Four training programme. Paul and his classmates ended their nine month course with a Level Five qualification, which was facilitated by their trainer because they had progressed so well.

“I was working on building sites doing general labour, driving diggers and teleporters when the work dried up. I never thought I’d have the patience to do stone work and I didn’t know what to expect from the course,” Paul said.

“I was happy to be doing something that would lead to a job. It took a lot of time to come onto it, but once I did I found I enjoyed it. Stone work is slow work, and I was used to constant progress before, but my trainer told us that if we take our time we become better and quicker at it. You learn to build stone dry, build traditional stone walls, pillars, arches and fireplaces.”

Paul’s trainer, stone mason Ronan Crehan, taught him and his classmates how to be patient with their trade, which was one of the biggest challenges for Paul. The skill of patience leads to the ultimate reward of a job well done.

“You have to take your time and know it’s not all going to happen in one day. It all goes hand in hand – when you take your time you have a good job when you’re finished.”

“The most rewarding thing for me now if stepping back and liking the work you’ve done”

Paul also learned business skills with the ETB and was able to plan and tender for a job after completing the course. He counts himself fortunate to have secured a job on the then-new Tully Graveyard in Ramelton.

“The local parish gave be a brilliant opportunity on the graveyard. It was a ten month job, covering 650 sqm. There was a lot of work involved but everyone is happy with the way it turned out. That was a big boost for me coming out of the course.”

Paul’s work has been his best advertisement, and he has had a steady stream of contracts ever since. Paul has worked on everything from hotels and walls to patios and fireplaces, and he often employs a team of stone workers for the large scale projects.

Paul also works in farming, but to this day he never imagined he’d have such success in stone construction. You can view some of Paul’s work on his Facebook page here:

The next programme of Traditional Stonewall Construction Level 4 begins in May 2017. Visit the open day this Wednesday and Thursday to find out more about the course and others on offer at the Gweedore centre.

For further information on these programs and others contact Sarah on 074-9120542

Email for course inquiries:


Click here for more details on the course.