In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

history, youghal, lace

In 1847, with Ireland in the grip of a famine that had been ravaging the country for two years, a nun at the Presentation convent in Youghal, county Cork, came up with an idea that would provide the children at the convent school with a means of earning a livelihood, or at least keep them from starving. Sister Mary Anne Smith found a piece of antique Point de Milan lace. She unraveled it, worked out its design and taught the intricate pattern to her best needlework students. Over the next five years a regular lace making school was formed.

Up to sixty women and young girls were earning a living as lace-makers in Youghal by the turn of the century. The women added fifty new stitches of their own, and the craft spread to other parts of the country making Irish lace a much desired fashion item, even worn by Queen Victoria herself.

These highly skilled women did not become wealthy from their intricate craft but their earnings made a significant difference in households of very low income. Their wages gave them a measure of economic independence and many of the younger women used their savings to emigrate to America.

Examples of Irish and European lace can be seen at the National Museum of Ireland


About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in Ireland, social issues, victorian ireland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Intricate

  1. SalvaVenia says:

    Small investment, big payoff … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debbie says:

    Very interesting history of Irish lace, Jean. thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  4. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: INTRICATE | The Adventures of Iñigo Boy

  5. Thanks for the reblog, Sarah.


  6. Interesting. Good teacher with vision combined with willing, motivated students can equal positive out comes. True then, true today. Nice snapshot of Irish history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Teachers often play a big part in their pupils lives. When I was in my teens it was my English teacher who encouraged me to write. She introduced our class to poetry that wasn’t on the curriculum, to broaden our appreciation of it. Although a lot of my classmates groaned at the inclusion of extra reading, I loved it and I am sure that it was she who sowed the seeds of me becoming a writer. It was around that time I began to keep a diary and I still have it today.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. Good to see the craft of women celebrated. In such difficult circumstances they created timeless beauty combining delicacy and strength. Regards Thom.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. quarksire says:

    way cool really! 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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