excerpt | history of irish linen final part
in 1920 there were about fifty spinning companies in ulster of which seventeen were in belfast. at the same time there were some 35,000 power looms in about a hundred weaving factories. by the depressed nineteen-thirties, production was less than forty per cent of the pre-war figure. in 1939 only 59,000 were employed out of a total registered workforce of 72,000. this decline was arrested temporarily by the second world conflict. linen again contributed in many ways to the war effort. by 1945 the number in work had declined to 40,000, although this had recovered to about 55,000 by 1950.
the 1950s saw linen and cotton, in the united kingdom, marginalised by the explosion of man-made fibres, cheap cotton imports from the far east and paper products. indeed, the growth of man-made fibre production in ulster itself contributed to the demise of linen.
by the 1970s the labour force had gone down by about half from the 1950 figure. of late there has been somewhat of a renaissance in linen with burgeoning demand from the luxury end of the market, particularly in high fashion.
colins, p. (1994) history of irish linen.