excerpt | history of irish linen part v

continue from the history of irish linen part i part ii part iii and part iv

most important were sion mills, co tyrone, built by herdmans in 1835 and bessbrook, co armagh estatblished in the 1840s by the quaker richardson family. in the case of bessbrook, the richardsons were very protective of the moral welfare of the inhabitants ensuring the absence of the three p's, police barracks, public houses and pawnshops. in addition they had a contributory health service for workers long before the welfare state and even a savings scheme, yielding interest of 5%. indeed bessbrook became the model for the village of bournville built in the 1890s by the qualker chocolate manufacturers, the cadbury family. in both sion mills and bessbrook a real feeling of community spirit was engendered in the workers due to their environment, which made them the envy of their counterparts elsewhere in the linen industry. herdman's is still in business but the bessbrook spinning company closed down in 1972, although the village is still well worth visiting. all the workers got redundancy payments and were able to buy their houses at very low cost. with the decline in importance of linen in the years since the war and the increased mobility of the population, the mill villages have changed both in their physical composition and their sense of community.

... to be cont.

colins, p. (1994) history of irish linen.

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