Excerpt | History of Irish Linen Part VI
expansion was fuelled by a good supply of swift flowing water and scottish coal that could be brought more cheaply by sea to belfast than overland to most of the inudstrial centres of britain. the irish linen manufacturers kept their product to the forefront, in competition with the less expensive cotton, by stressing its superiority in household and clothing use, and by an aggressive marketing policy in the expanding markets of the empire and north and south america. this was backed up by considerable investment in research and development which was characteristic of the progressive business attitude of the linen industrialists. however in some sectors of the industry, the conditions and low earnings of the workers often provided a bleak contrast to this air of general progress. for example, much of the finishing was done by women in their own homes at very low piece rates. the government linen inquiry of 1912, looked at 531 cases out of the reported 4000 outworkers in the belfast area. of these 497 were paid less than 3d an hour, 422 less than 2d and 269 earned 1d or less per hour at a time when a loaf of bread was about 6d and rent for such workers about five shillings a week.
... to be cont.
colins, p. (1994) history of irish linen.