Autumn 2015

We had a fascinating afternoon private viewing of the wonderful Irish Linen Museum in Lisburn situated in Country Antrim.

If you have any kind of curiosity for exploring the history of Irish Linen this museum is a must. Firstly the museum and its collections are housed in the old Market House and former site of the city’s bustling linen market, where weavers would have sold vast quantities of brown, unbleached linen. Lisburn is the perfect location as there was a huge Huguenot settlement rooted here and consequent linen industry established in the area which flourished greatly and contributed to the development and success of the industry in the North. There’s a wealth of information, photos, specimens, looms, demonstrations not to mention lovely helpful staff too. 

One of the most special exhibits is a small piece of fine linen taken from King Tutankhamun’s burial wrappings. Delicate, fragile and stained with age it is utterly beautiful. It was donated by Mr F. Moorhead from Killinchy in Co. Down whose uncle Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Unsworth, a buyer for the York Street Flax Spinning Company, was given it by the archaeologist Howard Carter himself who discovered the famous tomb. This certainly confirms the long lasting properties of this natural textile if anything! Back at the beginning of civilisation the wearing of linen was associated with ceremony, cleanliness, purity and royalty. It’s estimated that the bandages like this for mummifying Egyptian Pharaohs would have been up to 1000 metres of fabric in length. It’s assumed that the Ancient Egyptians were probably first to have an organised industrial production of linen, and early production methods of this craft are documented on ancient hieroglyphics. They recognised linen to be a noble fabric as it was a elegant symbol of luxury worn by royal households and other aristocracy in both life and death. Closer to home it’s also said that St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was also buried in a shroud of Linen in early Christian times (only his was the Irish version). 

KL Design Ireland, blog post Tutankhamun history, Irish Linen website
Katie Larmour