Carrowmena Lace School

The Lace School in Carrowmena was one of many such schools established in Donegal. Locally referred to as the Crochet House, young women learned a range of skills from crochet to needlework, embroidery and knitting. Belfast agents delivered linen napkins, handkerchiefs and tablecloths and students added Celtic motifs, shamrocks and other decorations. Students learned new skills and got paid for work produced. Crochet goods were exported worldwide and there was a great demand for traditional Irish lace and crochet. The “crochet women” as the teacher was called was Miss Cassidy from Buncrana. She cycled to work and stayed during the week in McCanns, formerly the post office. It was a tough station on some evenings when local youths threw stones at the door  or congregated outside waiting for the ladies to emerge. The O’Kane family owned the thatched house used for teaching. A new ceiling was put in place to make it more habitable. One of the students was the late Cassie Beatty, a distant relation, who made a large crochet diamond for me many years ago. Her house is on the right as you enter the village from Moville and you can still see the lace curtains in the windows, a reminder of one of our great cottage industries. Unfortunately part of the roof of the Lace School has collapsed so another unique link with our industrial and cultural heritage is slipping away. I visited the Irish Lace Centre and Museum in Lisburn recently and marvelled at the quality of the work which was produced in the cottage industries. While many women stayed at home and used their skills in the outstations established by shirt manufacturers in Derry, others took their skills abroad and obtained posts in the textile industry. Women regarded such positions as superior to being employed as maids in houses of the wealthy in New York and Boston.

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