Lace mak­ers’ royal links

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Kin­sale Lace In­ter­view: Ma­jella Flynn

Kin­sale Lace is keep­ing up its cel­e­brated long-time royal con­nec­tions.

A designer of Kate Mid­dle­ton’s wed­ding dress trav­elled to Kin­sale this March to study Kin­sale Lace, the very prod­uct that was spe­cially or­dered from the Mercy Sis­ters of Kin­sale by the Bri­tish royal fam­ily through­out the 1800s and 1900s.

Kin­sale’s world fa­mous lace-mak­ing tra­di­tion is be­ing kept well and truly alive by Kin­sale Lace Mak­ers, a group that meets ev­ery month in the Tri­dent Ho­tel.

It op­er­ates un­der the aus­pices of the Tra­di­tional Lace Mak­ers of Ire­land, which was formed in 2005 to cel­e­brate Cork’s year as Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture.

Ev­ery year, the Lace Mak­ers host Kin­sale Lace Week, an event that has gone from strength to strength.

Veron­ica Stu­art of Kin­sale Lace Mak­ers says: “Kin­sale Lace Week was first held in 2013, the year of The Gath­er­ing, as a once-off event. It was so suc­cess­ful that we car­ried on, and this March we had our fifth fes­ti­val. Peo­ple from France, Italy, Scot­land, and Eng­land at­tended the fes­ti­val, and a lady from China who worked on Kate Mid­dle­ton’s wed­ding dress came to study the lace tra­di­tion,” she says.

The fes­ti­val gives par­tic­i­pants the op­por­tu­nity to study an­tique pieces of Kin- sale Lace, which are on dis­play in Kin­sale Mu­seum.

It also runs classes for begin­ners and ad­vanced stu­dents in the lace-mak­ing tra­di­tions of Kin­sale, Ban­don, Car­rick­macross, Lim­er­ick, and Mount­mel­lick and in Youghal needle­point and Ir­ish cro­chet. It also brings in in­ter­na­tional teach­ers to teach lace-mak­ing styles of other coun­tries.

The Kin­sale lace-mak­ing tra­di­tion has its roots in the 1800s. The town’s Mercy Con­vent started the tra­di­tion by teach­ing Lim­er­ick Lace and out of this de­vel­oped a Kin­sale style of lace, which drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion.

“The nuns got or­ders in­ter­na­tion­ally for Kin­sale Lace, and a lot of the work went to the royal fam­ily,” says Veron­ica.

“The con­vent had a won­der­ful young designer called Ce­cilia Keys. She was well­known in­ter­na­tion­ally for her lace de­signs. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, she trav­elled around the world, went to Lon­don and Amer­ica, hav­ing been com­mis­sioned to de­sign dif­fer­ent lace styles.”

The town as a whole ben­e­fit­ted from the lace-mak­ing cot­tage in­dus­try set up by the nuns. “There was a great lace-mak­ing in­dus­try in Kin­sale for a long, long time. The nuns had a huge work­force; lace mak­ers were trained in the big lace room in the con­vent, and they un­der­took the work in their own homes, which were in­spected and had to be clean for the lace-mak­ing,” says Veron­ica.

To­day, Kin­sale Lace Mak­ers are in­tent on pass­ing on this great craft and de­sign tra­di­tion to peo­ple around the coun­try and across the globe, and to the younger peo­ple of Kin­sale.

Veron­ica says: “We go into the schools and show the lace. Then, classes from the com­mu­nity school visit us dur­ing Kin­sale Lace Week, and they in­ter­view at­ten­dees, from abroad es­pe­cially, about why they come here to the fes­ti­val and about their in­ter­est in Kin­sale Lace.”

An­gela Shana­han at the Church of St John The Bap­tist, next to the lace which was pre­sented in mem­ory of the lace mak­ing tra­di­tion in the Con­vent of Mercy, Kin­sale; also pic­tured be­low. Pic­tures: Dan Line­han

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