A friend of mine’s brother died suddenly last month. He was 63 which is not as old as it once was and it was entirely unexpected.
I went up to leafy South Belfast for the funeral. I’ve never really ventured to the southern suburbs of Belfast before – I mean, why would I? – and I was surprised by just how pleasant and leafy it was.
The funeral was sad, the family were still in shock really. I had hoped that there would be more of a break between attending my friends’ parents funerals and their siblings’ funerals but there you are.
On my way back down to Dublin I stopped off at Lisburn for a look at the Linen Museum, advertised from the main road, in the firm belief that where there is a museum, there is a good tea shop. It is with regret that I inform you that this is not the case. I’d never been to Lisburn before. It’s a dormitory town for Belfast and on a Wednesday morning in May most of the inhabitants appeared to be school children or pensioners.
There was an exhibition in the museum on the foundation of Northern Ireland. A difficult time all round. I’m probably more used to a nationalist perspective on these matters. There was a panel about Oswald Swanzy’s murder. Not covered on the panel but it is my understanding that the local Cork IRA men asked to be deployed specially to Lisburn to take him out. If my experience is anything to go by, they must have stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt like I was the first Cork person to visit Lisburn since. Funny spot.
The main square is dominated by this eye-catching statue.
Again, a bit of a controversial subject.
The linen bit of the museum was really interesting. It was staffed by very knowledgeable locals who – when not dealing with primary school tours – had lots of time on their hands to talk to me. One man was spinning and I asked whether they used the thread in their looms in the museum. Apparently not because each person spins in a different way and you can only use thread that has been spun the same way on the loom.
They had a jacquard loom which looked immensely complex.
The woman who was in charge of the room with all the looms was very gloomy. “It’s like trying to raise the dead,” she said. Apparently, linen needs to be made in a damp place (weaver’s cottage ideal) and it does not take kindly to the dry museum air.
Apparently there are only four acres of land under flax in Ireland now which means that basically all Irish linen is made from flax grown abroad and some material labelled Irish linen is actually only packed in Ireland. I bought myself a table runner from one of the local companies that import flax and make their own linen. Another massive local company was Barbour which made thread. I remember the brand clearly from when I was growing up but apparently it is now no longer with us.
All very interesting actually and beautifully presented in the way of a small local museum.
A couple of days later, Mr. Waffle went to get some thread to repair a rent in a pillow case. Look what he found, inherited from my mother.
He says that he looked it up on eBay and people are willing to pay €10 for spools of Barbour thread. All I can say is that we are sitting on a goldmine.