Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2022), Letters, Volume 30

Sir,—Apropos Sylvie Kleinman’s review of Miles Campbell’s Vicereines of Ireland (HI 30.1, Jan./Feb. 2022), I heard the following story as a child from my grandfather about Lady Aberdeen, which might be of some interest.

My grandfather worked in some managerial capacity for Fry Brothers, the poplin manufacturers. Lady Aberdeen ordered poplin from Fry’s for curtains for the viceregal lodge. The work started but the weavers preferred to do casual work as sandwich board men and, he said, drink the wage, though he did add that morale was very low in Dublin from poverty, etc. However, one of his jobs was to try to round up the weavers to come in to the looms. Work didn’t progress at all. Eventually it was decided to take the poplin off the looms and send it to Birmingham to be finished.

Consternation ensued when a visit from Lady Aberdeen was announced. She was a strong promoter of Irish industry and the Fry Brothers could not be seen to be unworthy of the order. So the poplin was brought back from Birmingham and put up on the looms and work started again. As soon as the visit was over, the poplin was taken down and sent back to Birmingham to be finished … and the curtains were made.

My grandfather was invited to see them hanging in the lodge and he noticed that across the curtain was a band where the pattern on the fabric was reversed. The material had been put backwards onto the loom in Dublin and a small part woven for the occasion, and then in Birmingham put back in the correct way without anybody noticing what had happened.

Of course, a child doesn’t know to ask all the questions, so I don’t know the date of this, but I think it must have been c. the 1900s. I suppose the curtains are long gone.—Yours etc.,

Dún Laoghaire


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