Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
Today we are heading to the county of Monaghan to visit the market town of Carrickmacross.
Carrickmacross is a fine town with a very wide main street and even before we park we can see that it’s a prosperous thriving place. I’m told that it was developed around a castle built by the Earl of Essex1630.. let’s take a look around .
I think that you will agree with me that I have never seen so many flowers and hanging baskets on display in the town, the locals must have a huge pride and it’s lovely to see such a profusion of bloom and colour as we walk along. The buildings mainly date from the 18th Century when the population was growing and the town prospered. As a result many fine municipal and public buildings are still in everyday use.
However there was poverty too, and just around the corner is the old workhouse, now thankfully no longer in use and restored as a community centre.
The famous poet Patrick Kavanagh lived not far away and came to visit Carrickmacross regularly. Its lovely to see brass plaques around the town that quote from his poetry.
At the far end of the main street stands the St Louis Convent that is built on the site of the original castle which stood here since mediaeval times -but it’s the role of the nuns from the convent that put Carrickmacross firmly on the world map.
As we stroll down the main street let me tell you the story of Carrickmacross lace.
The town is known for the lace bearing its name and is worked in an individual style Devised by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who introduced it in 1820.
In 1846 the craft was more formally organised when a lacemaking school was set up by the managers of the local estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their starving tenants, that the lace became known and found sales.
Subsequently, the lacemaking declined, but in the last decade of the 19th century the Sisters of St Louis founded their own lace school to revive the craft and this was quite profitable for several years. Although the outbreak of the 1914–18 war marked the virtual end of commercial production of hand-made lace in Europe, the lace school kept the technique alive throughout most of the 20th century.
In 1984 the St Louis Sisters assisted in the formation of the Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative, which maintains the tradition to this day.
This brings us nicely to the entrance to the Lace gallery, lets pop in for a look around . The lady that meets us is Geraldine, and she has a vast knowledge and passion for lacemaking . Let’s take a look at some of the antique pieces on display and examples of where the famous lace has been featured , including the wedding dresses of both Princess Diana and Kate Middleton . If you fancy having a go at making lace yourself there is a kit you can buy , and there are also lots of pieces for sale including their top selling Christmas ornaments.
I promised Geraldine that I would mention their website if you would like to learn more ; its www.carrickmacrosslace.ie
This has been one of the most interesting towns that I have visited in a long time and it’s great to see the community spirit at work , not only in the flowers and civic pride but in the love and devotion to keeping the tradition of lacemaking alive .
I do hope that you enjoyed coming with me today , and take care till next time.
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