Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Shift - Irish Crochet and Bel Broid Lingerie


Occasionally, as I've said before on this blog, I come across fascinating things in the bottom of boxes of old linen bought at auction. A couple of weeks ago, I unearthed another of these objects which open a whole world of other interesting references, material for yet more novels and short stories (which I can't find enough time to write although I'm working on it!)
This one is a delicate antique nightie, which I think dates from before the 1920s. My first thought was that it might be French, but it has pretty and undeniably Irish crochet inserts on the bodice and on the little sleeves. It is in some ultra fine, soft, light white material which I think may be old fashioned 'cambric' - a simple, long garment, with the most beautiful whitework embroidery. I can't remember when I last saw such a pretty piece of lingerie. There is a tiny blue label sewn in at the bottom hem, which reads 'Bel Broid Lingerie' and this gave me the clue I needed to find its origin. I found the following on a genealogy site:

Rose Gallagher was born about 1877. She died on 24 March 1941. She is buried at Monaghan, Ireland. Rose and her husband Charles had a factory "The Bel-broid" located in Mill Street, Monaghan, which manufactured hand embroidered linens and lingerie. They operated two embroidery factories, one in Monaghan and one just across the border in Northern Ireland.

So this infinitely stylish garment, which had been stored away in some Scottish linen cupboard for heaven knows how many years, originated in a small factory in Monaghan, in Ireland. The writer and historian in me immediately wanted to know more, much more. But that's one piece of research that will have to be filed away for a little while, since I have so much other writing on hand at the moment, including revising about 120,000 words of fiction before the end of April. But all the same, I may go back to this one. Who was Rose Gallagher? Why did she open the factory, and who were the women who worked there? I'd love to know more. So if anyone out there does know more, perhaps they could let me know, via this blog!

12 comments:

Erna said...

Once again a lovely story and a wonderful piece of linen.Can imagine you'd like to know more about Rose and her factory.

Villa-loredana said...

How I'm like that I find you and your blog, as I'm the librarian and the teacher of history, so all what I read here is a food for my soul. I'll come back soon. Loredana

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Very glad you like it, Loredana, and welcome back soon!
Catherine

Mishqueen said...

Did you ever find out more about Bel-Broid? I have a camisole made there, and am wondering how old it is. How long did the company stay in business?

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I haven't found out anything else - but thank-you for reminding me. There isn't much online at all. I'll do some more research when I can find the time, and do another post. There might even be a novel or at least a short story in it somewhere!

Alison Begas said...

Hello Catherine,

There's a broader European story to Belbroid; in 1914 a group of Belgian refugees arrived in Monaghan. They had fled Mechelen when the German army began its bombardment of that city.

Among the refugees were my grandmother, Sylvia De Neve, and her sister Jeanne. At some point while in Monaghan, they began to teach some of the local Irish women to make Belgian lace and embroidery. This proved very popular as it gave women in what would have been a largely rural, and very poor, area a source of income.

When the Belbroid factory was set up, some of the Belgian women were employed, and it is family lore that 'Aunt Jeanne' was the brains behind many of the designs. Even after the war when most of the refugees had returned to Belgium, including Jeanne, one or two of the Belgians continued to advise Belbroid on design, etc (we would call them 'consultants' today!).

Belbroid developed a strong line in supplying camisoles, nightdresses, etc for brides, and advertised its wares on many occasions in the Irish Times and other newspapers.

I hope this is of interest to you! Best wishes, Alison Begas

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Very many thanks for this vital addition to the story - and how very interesting!

Sean Boyle said...

The Bel-broid industry hasn't been forgotten in Monaghan. The Clogher Historical Society (Clogher is the diocese in which Monaghan is located) is very active, and its programme of event for 2014 includes a talk on "The Bel-broid women" on 30th October by Grace Moloney. If you want more info, I'm sure Grace could provide it. She can be contacted via info@clogherhistory.ie

Sean Boyle said...

The Bel-broid industry hasn't been forgotten in Monaghan. The Clogher Historical Society (Clogher is the diocese in which Monaghan is located) is very active, and its programme of event for 2014 includes a talk on "The Bel-broid women" on 30th October by Grace Moloney. If you want more info, I'm sure Grace could provide it. She can be contacted via info@clogherhistory.ie

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Many thanks for the information, Sean.

Jørgen G Rasmussen said...


Dears, I've come upon the word 'Tarantulle' and think it's a fabric of some sort? Would you be able to tell med what kind it is and for which purposes it is/was used?
Thanks a lot.

Sincerely yours,
jorgen g. rasmussen,
author, Denmark.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

To be honest, I don't know! Tulle is a kind of fabric like a chiffon - and Taran is, I think, a place in India, so I'm wondering if this might be a light cotton fabric made in Taran - but I'm guessing. If anyone else knows, they might add to the post.