Research and Study Visits

 Visit to Edinburgh to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland

On the 15th of August we went on a day trip to Edinburgh to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland which was on display in the Scottish Parliament as part of the Edinburgh Arts Festival. We met the artist Andrew Crummy who designed the 160 panels. Andrew talked about the power of community art and how special it is when the public take part in the making of a community art piece. The Scottish tapestry is the first tapestry to be created for a nation. It belongs to the participants and to the people of Scotland as much as it does to the artist. Although Andrew Crummy designed the panels, the participants had creative input in that they could suggest changes and add imagery that reflected the area of Scotland that their group came from (e.g. local flora and fauna) and each group ‘signed’ their panel with a logo that represented that group of stitchers. Andrew said that it was important for stitchers to make suggestions about the design, and although the odd disagreement occurred among participants, the overall experience was extremely rewarding and positive.

It was important that the tapestry be democratic and represent the lives of all people- not just powerful and well-known figures in history.

The Port and Docks Tapestry group with artist Andrew Crummy in the Scottish Parliament where the Great Tapestry of Scotland was on display

The Port and Docks Tapestry group with artist Andrew Crummy in the Scottish Parliament where the Great Tapestry of Scotland was on display

‘’To make a tapestry for a nation, something without helpful precedent, involves a glorious process of ruthless editing. Pitfalls yawn open on every side. One of the deepest is the military option, the temptation to see our history as a series of invasions, wars and battles, many of them grey defeats. And then to sprinkle a few saints, poets and inventions into the gaps, the times when swords and spears were silent. Another is to show Scotland and the generations of nameless people who made the landscape and built the towns and cities as a soft-focus background chorus for colourful, stately aristocratic processions. While some pivotal set-pieces simply insist on inclusion, such as Bannockburn and the Jacobite Risings, other episodes in our history that have rarely ventured onstage now rightly claim a place: the great timber halls of prehistoric farmers at Balbridie on Deeside, at Claish in Perthshire and Kelso; James Small and his world-changing invention of the swing plough and the story behind Donald MacIver’s heart-breaking lyric, An Ataireachd Ard. Most important have been our collective efforts to make a tapestry that distils Scotland’s unique sense of herself, to tell a story only of this nation, the farthest north-west edge of Europe, a place on the edge of beyond. And, without bombast, pomp or ceremony, to ask the heart-swelling rhetorical question: Wha’s Like Us?’’   -Alistair Moffat[1]

[1] Mansfield S. and Moffat A., The Great Tapestry of Scotland The Making of a Masterpiece, Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh, 2013, p11-12


Visit to See The 1913 Lockout Tapestry

The 1913 Lockout Tapestry was on display at this year’s Knitting and Stitching Show in the RDS in Dublin. It is a large-scale community arts project which commemorates the Dublin Lockout. The idea for the project came from Mick Halpenny and Brendan Byrne- two retired SIPTU organisers. It was very important that it became a community project, creating an opportunity for members of the public to be involved in retelling their past. The proposal was accepted by SIPTU general officers Jack O’Connor and Joe O’Flynn and the director of the National College of Art and Design- Declan McGonagle was also very excited about the project. Two leading Irish artists, Cathy Henderson (who died in October 2014) and Robert Ballagh designed a narrative based on information from historian Padraig Yeates. The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) provided a teacher, Angela Keane, to offer technical advice to groups of participants. Over 200 volunteers were involved in the creation of the tapestry. Participants came from trade unions, schools, prisons, community activists and from the arts and crafts sector.  The collaborative element was in keeping with the topics of the Lockout and the social solidarity values that it represents.

In August 1913, the President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and founder of the Dublin Employers’ Federation, William Martin Murphy, tried to abolish the new Irish Transport and General Workers Union which Jim Larkin had founded five years earlier.  Murphy wanted to put an end to the pay increases and better working conditions that Larkin had obtained for the lowest paid workers in Dublin. Murphy also attempted to demean Larkin’s socialist message.

During the following five months, approximately 100,000 people (one third of Dublin’s population) faced starvation during the fight for worker’s rights. 25,000 workers were dismissed and laid off or locked out for refusing to sign a declaration which renounced the ITGWU and promised not to associate with union members. Thousands of workers who belonged to other unions, including people who disagreed with Larkin’s beliefs and methods, refused to be intimidated into forsaking the values of fairness, social solidarity and tolerance. The lockout movement was supported by the British Trade Union Congress, the British Labour Party and the Left in general in Britain, who felt that Murphy’s actions were an attack on all workers.

In January 1914, there was a general return to work. Most workers were not asked to disown the ITGWU.  By 1920, there were 120,000 members of the ITGWU and the Irish Trades Union Congress and Labour Party had 229,000 members. The lockout was the first major conflict in Ireland to be urban centred and unlike other battles it was over the division of labour and capital rather than religion and nationality.[1]

[1] Information from a leaflet called ‘Let Us Arise’ Unravelling and Understanding Our Past, The 1913 Lockout Tapestry Project, printed by Trade Union Labour.

Visit to Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey

On the 16th of May, Lyndsey and the group went to visit Mossley Mill where they did drawings and took photographs. The types of textile processes carried out at the mill changed several times over the years. It was originally used as a bleaching establishment and later used for flax scotching, then as a cotton factory. It was later used to carry out calico printing and finally as a spinning factory.

Visit to St. Anne’s Cathedral, 21st March

Last week we went to St. Anne’s Cathedral to look at the artwork, artefacts and textiles, as part of our research.
Oecumenical Hassocks
There are approx. 1000 embroidered kneelers (or hassocks) in St. Anne’s Cathedral. Each one is hand made by a member of the congregation and members of the tapestry guild. The designs are all unique but are all based on the theme of unity. The Oecumenical movement aims at unity but not uniformity. The Greek word, oikumene- translates ‘the whole inhabited world’. Oecumenism (often spelt Ecumenism) is depicted on each hassock. (information from

We also took photographs of other beautifully embroidered textile artifacts.


The Pillars and Capitals of St. Anne’s
The capital is the ornamental piece at the top of the pillar. In St. Anne’s, every capital in the Nave is carved with imagery depicting a particular occupation or persuit. In most cases, the four sides of each capital has a carving of a scene or a person. There are two capitals which were particularly relevent to our research-one references industry and the other womanhood.
The ‘Industry’ capital is carved with scenes illustrating the Linen Industry. The four corners depict the stages of cloth- making from field to market. The South Corner-depicts a man harvesting flax by hand (before the invention of mechanical aids). The West Corner shows a woman spinning the flax to create threads/yarns. The North Corner illustrates a woman sitting at a loom-creating the cloth and the East Corner shows the finished linen at market.
The ‘Womanhood’ capital represents four phases of womanhood. The North East corner is dedicated to teaching and shows a mother reading to her child. The North West corner represents homelife and features a young woman making a garment. The South East corner refers to nursing and illustrates a nurse in prayer. This corner is dedicated to woman’s Ministry of Healing in Hospital and Home. The South West corner depicts motherhood and has Mary nursing the baby Jesus while her gaze is focused on the Baptismal font. (information from

The Titanic Funeral Pall
We also looked at the hand-crafted memorial pall which was made to commemorate the 1,517 lives which were lost to the Titanic tragedy in 1912. The piece was created by textile artists Wilma Kirkpatrick and Helen O’Hare. It is 12x8ft and is made from 100% marino felt and backed with Irish linen. The piece was dyed with indigo blue to evoke the midnight sea in which the Titanic sank. The stitching was done using silk, rayon, metallic and cotton threads. The large central cross is made up of hundreds of tiny crosses of different shapes and sizes. The edge has a velvet rimmed border which is embroidered with crosses. Some are positioned very close together and others drift away towards the centre- to suggest lives lost at sea. (information from

War Memorial Museum
We also went to the War Memorial Museum last Friday and took photographs of some of the displays for research.


On June 13th we met at the Duncairn Arts Centre for our session.


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