Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Crafts of the Ards - Royal Embroidery of Portavogie

Now here is something that deserves a project before the memories have completely faded away. Not so long ago in Portavogie when the men were at sea the ladies would embroider or ‘flower’ linen for the Royal Family amongst others. For maybe a century or so this was a vast cottage industry in County Down in particular.

Hubert Cully was one of the local agents who folk here still remember, he sold trawler nets and equipment to the fishermen, and bought and sold embroidery for the women. It was also known as ‘whitework’ and even ‘Ayrshire embroidery’ as some of it was bought by Scottish agents who couldn’t get enough of their own home-grown products. I wonder how many local attics have some samples left?

Below is a detail of a tourism map from the 1950s with ‘Royal Embroidery’ marked on it.

I have a photo of my great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Wallace, ‘flowering’.. She was born in 1863 and along with her husband Robert was a member of Ballyfrenis United Free Church of Scotland, here in the Ards, halfway between Millisle and Carrowdore.

(Their daughter Martha Wallace married Vincent Hamill, whose daughter Mary Ann Hamill married William Wilson, whose daughter Martha married Eric Thompson - who had five children, the first of whom was me).

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Ann Reid Igoe said...


I'm very interested in the embroidery done by your great grandmother. My dad was born in Ballyfrenis in 1920 and when I checked the 1901 census I discovered that a great-grandmother was also an embroiderer. I have a copy of the Ballyfrenis Church centennial booklet and a baptism certificate for my dad that is just like the one you have in a blog post. I have letters from my grandfather detailing trips he took back to the area after he went to the US. My dad stayed with his grandparents until he was 20. I'm not sure they lived in Ballyfrenis then. Anyway - I'm becoming more and more curious about the area.

I'm thinking of embarking on a One Place Study of Ballyfrenis, but have not been too successful at finding information on the internet. I live in Grinnell, Iowa, USA and visiting won't be possible for awhile now. After I read your other blogs that mentioned Ballyfrenis I realized that you might be able to point me in directions that could be helpful.

Would you please let me know if you would be interested in helping out? You can email me at igoeannr@gmail.com. Thanks so very much! Ann Igoe