NEW CARRICKMACROSS LACE GALLERY GETS APPROVAL
Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 1st December p.1
The approval of funding for a new Lace Gallery in Carrickmacross could provide a major boost for tourism in the south Monaghan area and help to open up the town. That’s the view of Bill Cotter, chair of the South Monaghan Tourism Forum and honorary member of the Lace Co-op. The former Fine Gael TD said the tourism group had been working actively to promote Carrick and the grant was long overdue. The development of a lace centre in what used to be a branch library in Market Square would give the group confidence to continue their efforts to bring in visitors from different parts of the world, he said.
Mr Cotter was reacting to the announcement on Monday by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, that the sum of €100,000 had been approved to develop the Market House site for multipurpose use including a new Lace Gallery, and to develop enterprise sites. Clones is also to receive funding as a heritage centre under the €5.3 million REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones) initiative. (see separate story). The programme aims to stimulate economic development in rural towns and their hinterlands. The money is being spent on 41 projects nationwide, with €1.9 million going to projects in the northern and western region.
The good news reached the Lace Gallery Co-op Chair Elizabeth Daly on Tuesday afternoon. She said the members of the group were absolutely delighted at the prospect of moving to an enlarged and far superior display area next year. It would help to put lace at the forefront of tourism in south Monaghan.
Looking at the visitor book in the small unit that the gallery currently occupies, the entries range from Ireland (Dublin, Sligo, Glenties), Hillsborough and Bangor in Co. Down, England (Cambridge and London), France (Carhaix), Australia and several from the USA. The Co-op continues to receive orders from visitors and online. An order for a long lace veil for a wedding was recently completed for a bride from Virginia in the USA. She collected the finished work (which took seven months to produce) just in time for her wedding in County Wicklow.
Elizabeth Daly, Chair, Carrickmacross Lace Gallery Pic. Michael Fisher
Almost 3000 people have called into them this year. Moving across to the other side of the Market Square and with more space to display their craftwork and range of gifts could potentially treble the number of visitors annually, according to the gallery. At the moment, a coach tour of fifty people has to be split up into small groups of six or seven if they want to visit the display. The larger area will enable them to handle the larger groups and to enhance the display of Carrickmacross lace, with its five special characteristics such as loops.
The Co-op began in 1984 and the first share was purchased by a St Louis nun Sr Cronin who had been involved with the promotion of lace at the convent in Carrickmacross. “Your mission is to keep this skill alive”, she told them. Elizabeth Daly now teaches lace-making and has organised a series of workshops in recent years. The new location will hopefully provide room for the classes.
The Co-op was originally situated in the old Shirley tollhouse but moved to the opposite side of Main Street in 1990. The renovation of the Market House building which dates back to 1861 was approved by Monaghan County Council in June last year. The idea is that the square should become a central focus for tourism in the town, where more walking trails are being developed. The nine-bay central section has a large gabled carriage entrance which will be transformed into a foyer between two large units. The one of the right which used to house a branch library will become the new Lace Gallery. The unit on the other side is earmarked for a shop and studio. The public toilets will be re-arranged and windows and doors will be refurbished with the objective of securing the preservation of this site of architectural and historical interest.
The Cathaoirleach of Carrickmacross Castleblayney Municipal District Cllr Aidan Campbell said he was delighted that the money had come through for the project. He looked forward to seeing the development started in the New Year and said it was very timely. He pointed out that Castleblayney had benefited in the past year from the same scheme, which had enabled buildings to be painted and new signage erected.
Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said: “The REDZ scheme aims to improve links between rural towns and their hinterlands to stimulate activity at a local level. It is one of a number of schemes which my department has been rolling out to boost economic activity and improve living standards across rural Ireland.”
“This initiative encourages local authorities to work with local communities, Chambers of Commerce, business interests and other state bodies, to identify areas of greatest economic need which can make better use of their local assets to generate economic activity. This is all about the regeneration of rural towns and villages and empowering local communities to provide local residents with local opportunities”, she added.
Other initiatives recently introduced by the government as part of this programme include the new €10 million Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the approval of almost €7.5 million to support rural recreation infrastructure, the establishment of a national taskforce to identify practical measures which can be taken in the short-term to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas, and the establishment of two regional broadband action groups to prepare for the roll-out of broadband under the National Broadband Plan.
Carrickmacross is well known for the attractive lace bearing its name. The lace is worked in an individual style, devised by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who introduced it in 1820. When she left the district the teaching of lacemaking was continued by Miss Reid of Rahans, but it was only after the 1846 famine, when a lace school was set up by the managers of the Bath and Shirley estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their tenants, that the lace became known and found sales.
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. Carrickmacross lace also featured on the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress.