Thursday, June 01, 2017

Crafts of the Ards - 16,000 'peasantry' women employed producing 'Scotch work' embroidery

Bro Kirkpatrick at Loughries Home  Oct 15

Above: William Kirkpatrick, his wife Mary and infant daughter Jane at their home at Cunningburn just south of Newtownards, around 1910. William was WM of the local Orange lodge, Loughries LOL 1948. Mary and an unidentified girl are pictured 'flowering'.


Excellent information here from the classic Ireland, its scenery, character by Mr & Mrs S C Hall, Vol III, London (1843) - online here.

“...Throughout the whole of this district - the Barony of Ards, and that of Castlereagh - a large proportion of the peasantry are employed in what is technically termed “flowering” - embroidering muslin, chiefly for the Glasgow manufacturers, who supply the unwrought material, and pay fixed sums for the workmanship… between 2000 and 3000 girls from five to twelve years of age employed at veining… sewers employed at needlework for Belfast houses, between 2000 and 3000... about 10,000 employed as needle-workers for Glasgow houses... nearly the whole of the work sent from Glasgow to London and other parts of England is produced in this district. It is bleached in Scotland, and sold as “Scotch work”..,

The people of County Down also had a visible appreciation for tartan clothing –

 ... soon after entering the county of Down, we began to feel we were in another country; in a district at least where the habits as well as the looks of the people were altogether different from those to which we had been accustomed... Both men and women wore neat and well-mended clothes. Tartan shawls, ribands and even waistcoats, intimated our close approximation to the Scottish coast...

...the nearness of this county to the Mull of Galloway has made the districts, on the two sides, scarcely distinguishable; and the stream of Scottish population can be traced most distinctly from Donaghadee and Bangor, upwards to the interior..."

 On page 24 there’s a brilliant description of how the people looked different, sandy-haired and blue eyed, spoke Scotch. They had very little furniture in their homes. Large Bibles, covered with green tartan, a few books, and 'the usual northern group of orange lilies’.


The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum has a pretty extensive collection of Ulster-made Ayrshire embroidery; on their website here they specify the Ards Peninsula as the main region where it was produced. The image below is of a christening gown from Maybole in Ayrshire. But it was maybe made in the Ards.

This Google image search will show you just how beautiful and intricate a craft this was.