Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Mountmellick Top Sheet

A while ago, I added a blog post about Mountmellick Embroidery, which has always fascinated me. Now I've come across another much bigger piece in the shape of an old coverlet or top sheet which you can find here. It isn't as intricate as the last piece, which was a nightdress case, but it isn't often I find something as large as this either. It is embroidered in quite a coarse white thread on dense white cotton, with huge passion flowers, the stamens of which are like little shamrocks and leaves. I come across a great many lovely linens and laces with an Irish provenance in this part of the world - or at least with an Irish background. In the nineteenth century, or so the 1838 Statistical Account tells us, the village of Crosshill had many Irish inhabitants:
' A great proportion of the inhabitants of Crosshill, 800 out of 1000, are either Irish or of Irish extraction. In many instances it must be confessed, they exhibit too common characteristics of their countrymen, indolent, improvident, and passionately addicted to spirits and tobacco. At the same time, it is but doing them justice to say, that they have visibly improved in these respects. They are beginning to appreciate the excellence of quiet and orderly habits, and can now spend, in healthful exercise and rational amusement, those hours that were previously consumed in degrading sloth or sensual indulgence. Not a few take a pride in copying the example of their Scottish neighbours, have a wish to possess a suit of better clothes for the Sabbath, and to appear like other people at church.'
These were, it should be pointed out, less politically correct times!
You can read more about it here.
Many of the women were talented seamstresses, and so much of the embroidered linen which is found here shows a distinct Irish influence. The shamrock abounds. And I'm sure at least some of these women and girls would have gone on to learn Ayrshire whitework in their adopted home. It would be a natural progression, and a development of their already considerable talents.


Erna said...

Catherine what a lovely piece of Irish linen, I love, as I told you ,Ayrishire embroidery, and I was in Crosshill last November. Didn't know about the Irish people there, again you taught me a lovely lesson

Catriona said...

I did a little research on this at one time (as you know). What surprised me at the time was that only one pew in Kirkmichael church was earmarked for the Crosshill weavers even though they had no church of their own. I thought initially that this must be because they were Catholics, but apparently they were Ulster Protestants and when they got a church of their own, they filled it. Now, was the non-attendance at Kirkmichael due to "degrading sloth and sensual indulgence" or the 3-mile walk to Kirkmichael after a long, hard week I wonder?