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Newry was a very different place in the 1950's when fifteen year old Suzanne Grosset left her native France to start a job at Our Lady's Grammar School, but it was such a memorable time in her life that the now 85 year old remembers it all so vividly. Newry.ie is privileged to be able to tell her story.

A young Suzanne Grosset (now Ayala Meron) in 1955.
A young Suzanne Grosset (now Ayala Meron) in 1955.

Now Ayala Meron and living in Israel she recalls her adventure and hopes her grandchildren will make the journey to Ireland "that country I loved and still love so much."

The story starts in France back in 1952 as Ayala explains "I was born in a tiny village in the N.E of France. By the age of eleven I was educated at St Mary's Boarding School held by the Sisters of St Joseph. As my parents could not afford to send me to a secondary school I started working in a factory with my mother. I was only fifteen years old. When they heard that I gave up my studies, the nuns tried to find another job for me.

Suzanne Grosset in 1955

"On an autumn day in 1952 sister Alain rode to the village on her bicycle to my parents and shyly let them know she had some good news that could help me leaving the hard work in the factory, but they would have to agree to let me travel alone a bit far from home, even across the sea…to Ulster…A boarding school was looking for a young French girl as a help to the french teacher…

"Ulster was quite an unknown place to us ! How could I dream of such a journey from our distant village? And how is the climate over there? Also what was I supposed to do in an English speaking school? Was I prepared enough to live among a new society with such a poor knowledge of the language? The lessons we had at school mostly dealt with the Big Fire, the Plague, Kings and wars…No practical studies at all ! But I was so excited that my mother entrusted the nun and consented to the project"

A Wooden Trunk

Plans were made and as Ayala recalls "We immediately planned my departure; in Paris my uncle would buy my train and boat tickets- entirely refundable by Our Lady's School - Mum started to sew good warm clothes and filled a small green wooden trunk (not a mere suitcase, a trunk). And so, at the end of a cold October day, I left home and a long lonely way started via Paris, Dieppe, Newhaven, Dundalk, the border between the Irish Republic and Ulster…"

Ayala Meron today.
Ayala Meron today.

With a trunk carrying all her posessions ending up on the platform at Dundalk Railway Station as the train for Newry departed,  the young girls adventure began with ... a cup of tea!

Ayala explains "At the checking post my trunk remained on the train platform and I missed the coming train to Newry. The stationmaster took me under his protection, hurried to call  Our Lady's School to inform I would be late but safe in the next train, then he bought me a cup of tea (my first cup of tea…) a sandwich and even a magazine to comfort me.

"At last I arrived at Newry station. Two young girls in blue uniform - pleated skirt, black stockings, blue jumper with a celluloid white collar, blue and white striped scarf- waited for the new guest in "frenchy" clothes. A taxi drove us to Our Lady's School, an impressive building in Canal Street …"

Fitting in with the locals!

Recalling her job Ayala says "A few days after I arrived, Sister François de Sales gave me to understand that I would have to look more or less like the boarders, therefore give up my "frenchy" clothes, but not meaning a uniform;  it took me a few days to knit a nice sweater to  wear on a skirt of mine.

"All I had to do was to attend Miss McConville's french lessons , read french texts and correct the girls' mispronunciation. Also teach the junior ones some french nursery rhymes that I played on the piano. In return I was paid two pounds a week and I could spend my spare time at leisure.

"Day after day I got quite accustomed to the boarding conditions and activities. the weekly walk, the dormitory with the senior girls, the dining hall with the long tables and white table cloth and everyone's fork and spoon wrapped all the same way in their white napkin, the evening general meeting in the vast room and Greta playing the piano for the girls to dance; the night prayers in bed; the early awakening at dawn to join the nuns at the convent for the first  Mass. On Sundays, the priests invited me for a friendly chat. I still remember Father Boyd…Once a week all the boarders gathered to watch series on Sir Galahad. Though I did not really share their enthusiasm I would join the group not  to be by myself.

"When all the boarders were sent to their families to celebrate the great feasts I was invited by some of them: for Christmas Mary and Veronica Hughes took me to their village where I spent a few marvellous days, and for Easter it was Brenda to Warrenpoint "

The Nuns

Remembering some of the nuns at Our Lady's Ayala explains "The nuns were very nice to me and I felt very sad when Sister Patrick left for another convent. Sister de Sales once found me playing the piano; she sent me to the music teacher for a few lessons. She also let me take part in the domestic class. Once back home I was very proud to try the buns and scotch egg recipe and for years I wore the shirt and skirt I sew there. ( I still have a picture of myself standing in the garden at the foot of the Virgin statue)…Another event I will never forget is the day when we all assembled in the garden to pray for Mother Columbanus' soul; it was so moving, so impressive!"

A major part in my life

Explaining how in a roundabout way her time in Newry contributed towards getting back to studying Ayala adds "That year 1954 I remember there lived at the boardng school a nice widow whose name I have forgotten (she had a daughter Veronica). I here mention her because, unconsciously, she played a major part in my life. June was getting near and I had a project before returning home, A friend of mine who was sorry I had given up my studies sent me a large parcel of books hoping I had time and desire to perfect my culture. Lille in the north of France was associated to London: it means that there was a French secondary school where I could register and sit for the french bachelor examination. As London was on my way back home it was worth trying.  But I had nowhere to spend the requested time. Mrs….recommended me to her relatives, her own sister Mrs Scruby. Though having four children, the Scruby couple kindly entertained me some three or four weeks. Thanks to their hospitality I later could take my first steps to the university…And I was lucky enough to wach on their TV the whole ceremony of Queen Elisabeth's Coronation Day…"

Memories so Vivid

Ayala concludes "I long languished those ten months I spent at our Lady's School; I had opportunities to return to Ireland but never to Newry; yet my memories remained so vivid. Today I am an eighty-five year old woman. I live in Israel, have four children and nine grandchildren. I wish everyone of them to take a long tour to Ireland, that country I loved and still love so much  - Ayala Meron (born Suzanne Grosset)"

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This week we begin a series of occasional articles focusing on costumes from the Museum Collection which have been on display in the Museum’s Costume Case over the past few years. We begin with a Deputy Lieutenant’s uniform which is part of the Reside Collection but was made for, and worn by, Arthur Charles Innes-Cross (1834 – 1902) who lived at Dromantine House, near Newry.

The Deputy Lieutenant’s uniform worn by Arthur Charles Innes-Cross on display in Newry and Mourne Museum in 2012. The uniform went under an intensive programme of conservation cleaning by a textile conservator before display. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
The Deputy Lieutenant’s uniform worn by Arthur Charles Innes-Cross on display in Newry and Mourne Museum in 2012. The uniform went under an intensive programme of conservation cleaning by a textile conservator before display. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Born on 25th November 1834, Arthur Charles Innes was educated at Eton. His father died when he was an infant and the estate was run by his mother, Mary Jervis Wolseley Innes, until Arthur Charles attained his majority in 1855. In 1858 he married Louise Leticia Brabazon from County Meath and set about rebuilding Dromantine House in the fashionable Italian Renaissance style. As well as providing a fine house for himself, he also donated land for the building of Glen Chapel in 1863.

Dromantine House pictured in Spring 1921. John McCurdy, a Dublin architect, was responsible for rebuilding Dromantine House in the Italian Renaissance style in the 1860s. The work cost £6,000.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Dromantine House pictured in Spring 1921. John McCurdy, a Dublin architect, was responsible for rebuilding Dromantine House in the Italian Renaissance style in the 1860s. The work cost £6,000. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Arthur Charles Innes was elected Conservative M.P. for Newry in 1865 and remained so until 1868. He was also a member of the Newry Board of Guardians, a Justice of the Peace and became a Deputy Lieutenant for County Down in January 1886. His wife died in the same year and, in September 1887, Arthur Charles married Jane Beauchamp Cross from Dartan in County Armagh and assumed her name by Royal Licence. They had three children, Arthur Charles Wolseley (born 1888), Marion Dorothea (born 1892) and Sydney Maxwell who was born in 1894. Arthur Charles died in April 1902 and the estate was inherited by his eldest son. Most of the estate was sold to the tenants c.1908 and the Innes family remained at Dromantine House until late 1920. The contents were sold at auction in May 1921. The house bought in 1926 by the Society of African Missions who now use it as a retreat and conference centre. 

A Deputy Lieutenant assists the Lord Lieutenant of a county in his or her duties as the personal representative of the Sovereign. Lord Lieutenants were first appointed in England and Wales in the 1540s by Henry VIII and, in 1715, this office was extended to Ireland. 

View of the Drawing Room at Dromantine House in which the contents are evidently being prepared for the auction which took place in May 1921. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A view of the Drawing Room at Dromantine House in which the contents are evidently being prepared for the auction which took place in May 1921. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Originally responsible for the local militia, the duties of the Lord Lieutenant gradually became more ceremonial. Duties now include arranging Royal visits to the county and escorting members of the Royal family, presenting awards on behalf of the Sovereign and leading the local magistracy. Originally drawn from the aristocracy and landowning classes in the county, Deputy Lieutenants are now appointed from a wide variety of backgrounds. They are usually appointed for life and women are also now chosen as well as men. The uniform worn by Lords Lieutenant and their Deputies has always reflected military ceremonial dress of the time. Today Deputy Lieutenants usually wear civilian dress with a Deputy Lieutenant’s badge when performing official duties. 

The uniform worn by Arthur Charles Innes was based on late Victorian military ceremonial dress. It comprises a red woollen jacket with tails, decorated with an oak leaf and acorn motif in silver thread on the collar and sleeves and a shamrock motif on the tails. The black woollen trousers are decorated with silver braid with a shamrock motif. The uniform is accompanied by a beaver bicorne hat with a feather plume and cap decorated with silver braid. The cap was worn on less formal occasions. The uniform was made by William Buckmaster & Co, a military tailoring firm in Dublin.

Next week we will be featuring a Burton’s suit made in the late 1940s.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

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Historic costume forms a significant part of the Collection at Newry and Mourne Museum and one of the more interesting pieces is a three-piece “Burton Suit” from the late 1940s. Suits comprising trousers, short jacket and a matching waistcoat began to be worn by gentlemen at private social gatherings in the late 19th century. Known as a “lounge suit”, they became increasingly popular. Made from a heavier fabric, they were meant to be a garment for casual outdoor occasions.  Specifically, matching trousers and jackets made them less formal, because the traditional frock coats and morning coats were worn with contrasting trousers. The short length of the jacket also added to the informal appearance of the suit. After the end of World War I, the lounge suit became accepted as every day and business wear. 

James Murphy and Gladys Fegan pictured at their wedding in Liverpool on 9th April 1947. Courtesy of Rosemary Stretton
James Murphy and Gladys Fegan pictured at their wedding in Liverpool on 9th April 1947. Courtesy of Rosemary Stretton

The three-piece lounge suit in the Museum was made by Burton in 1945. Burton was founded in 1903 as ‘The Cross-Tailoring Company’ by the 18 year-old Montague Burton. The company changed its name to Burton in 1914 when it began to make uniforms for Britain’s Armed Forces and became known as ‘Montague Burton The Tailor of Taste Ltd’ in 1929.

The Burton suit on display in Newry and Mourne Museum in 2011 along with gentleman’s accessories from the mid 20th century. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
The Burton suit on display in Newry and Mourne Museum in 2011 along with gentleman’s accessories from the mid 20th century. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

At a time when gentlemen’s suits were almost exclusively tailor made, Montague Burton, believing that “Good clothes develop a man's self-respect” dedicated himself to making made-to-measure suits available at a reasonable price. “A five guinea suit for 55 shillings” was one of his popular slogans. 

The company made military uniforms in World War II and produced a suit known as ‘The Full Monty’ for war veterans after the end of hostilities in 1945. Montague Burton died in 1952 and, at time of his death, the company was the largest multiple tailor in the world. In 1967, Arcadia became the corporate name for the House of Burton.

A ‘Montague Burton The Tailor of Taste Ltd’ label on the inside of the jacket. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A ‘Montague Burton The Tailor of Taste Ltd’ label on the inside of the jacket. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

By the 1940s there were significant changes in men’s fashions and tailoring. With World War II and the onset of rationing, there was little fabric available for generously cut suits. Clothes rationing was introduced in 1941 with every person allowed 48 coupons per year for clothes. Laws were passed forbidding men’s jackets to be double-breasted, have wide lapels or trousers to have turn-ups. A gentleman’s suit would have cost 26 coupons. Instead, 1940’s suits were characterized by minimalism. A flannel suit became the option of choice for professional everyday wear, single-breasted with narrow lapels and a very trim-cut trouser, in order to save fabric.

Comprised of a single-breasted jacket, trousers and waistcoat, the Burton suit in the Museum is a dark grey pinstripe made from a wool surge fabric.  Surprisingly for a suit made in 1945, it has large lapels on the jacket and turn ups on the trousers which was unusual as rationing was still in force. Overall, the suit is very generously cut for a wartime suit. 

The suit was originally owned by James Murphy from Kilkeel who wore it at his wedding to Gladys Fegan in Liverpool in 1947. Born in 1916 in Kilkeel, county Down, James worked for a time on the building of the Silent Valley Reservoir. He moved to Liverpool in 1937 where he was employed by his uncle, Henry Sloan, who owned a number of shops in the city. During World War II he joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and served in North Africa. 

Handwritten label sewn onto the inside of the waistcoat showing the individual number of the suit and date of manufacture. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Handwritten label sewn onto the inside of the waistcoat showing the individual number of the suit and date of manufacture. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

After leaving the army in 1946, James Murphy married Gladys Fegan, also from Kilkeel. They ran a mobile grocery business before returning to Kilkeel in 1958 when they bought the Corner House (a drapery and confectionary business) which they owned until the 1980s. James Murphy died in February 1999 and his wife passed away in April 2006.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Noelle Murtagh

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Now more than ever people have been exploring the Mourne Mountains as an escapism from their daily lives.  Whether it be by walking, running or cycling, the mountains are a popular tourist destination regardless of weather or season and, as a recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is not hard to see why.

A postcard showing the Silent Valley Reservoir shortly after it was completed. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A postcard showing the Silent Valley Reservoir shortly after it was completed. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The Mourne Mountains were formed over 50 million years ago.  Comprised of granite, they were carved by glaciers which produced the present day Mourne skyline.  Slieve Donard’s dramatic granite peak dominates the range and, standing at 852m, is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. The two cairns on the summit of Slieve Donard are both recorded prehistoric archaeological monuments.

Badge worn by participants in the Mourne Wall Walk which was established by the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland in 1956. Walkers walked the entire length of the Wall and it increased in popularity over the years until it was halted in 1984 due to damage to the environment. Only small groups are now allowed to walk the route. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Badge worn by participants in the Mourne Wall Walk which was established by the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland in 1956. Walkers walked the entire length of the Wall and it increased in popularity over the years until it was halted in 1984 due to damage to the environment. Only small groups are now allowed to walk the route. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

When a future source of water was being investigated for Belfast, the Mournes were chosen because of the quality of the water available and it’s purity. In 1904 construction started on a boundary wall to define the catchment area and prevent animals roaming onto the land.  The famous Mourne Wall is now a listed monument.  It stands at three metres high and one metre wide, stretching for 22 miles and runs over the seventeen peaks of the Mourne Mountains.  Work on the Wall was carried out between April and October and provided much needed employment to people in the area.  The Wall was finished in 1922, taking eighteen years to build, and was a testament to the skill of the men who built it.

A rare postcard from the early years of the 20th century showing the Silent Valley before construction of the Silent Valley Reservoir. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A rare postcard from the early years of the 20th century showing the Silent Valley before construction of the Silent Valley Reservoir. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Next was to be built was the reservoir at Silent Valley which was started in 1923.  ‘Watertown’ was built on the western side of the valley with wooden houses to accommodate families and foremen, and dormitories for single men.  A small hospital with a doctor and a nurse was available to the sick and a recreation hall provided entertainment, such as dances, boxing and snooker competitions.  Shops ranged from grocery and hardware to boot menders.  A blue van, the ‘Tin Lizzie’, would take people to Kilkeel on Fridays and Saturdays for anything extra they needed.  A generator provided the first ever street lights in Ireland.

Hill farms on the Head Road, near Kilkeel, pictured in the 1970s. These farms, on which sheep are farmed and potatoes grown, are typical of the Mourne area.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Hill farms on the Head Road, near Kilkeel, pictured in the 1970s. These farms, on which sheep are farmed and potatoes grown, are typical of the Mourne area. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Between 1947 and 1951 a tunnel was built through Slieve Binnian to carry water from the Annalong River to the Silent Valley Reservoir. Men worked on the tunnel using power tools and simple chisels.  Two groups worked towards the tunnel’s completion, from either side of the mountain, meeting in the middle only five cm apart. The Slieve Binnian Tunnel was officially opened on 28th August 1952. 

In 1954, five kilometres upstream from Silent Valley, work started on the Ben Crom Reservoir and took three years to complete.  Unlike Silent Valley, it had a core of mass rock and huge boulders and was founded on solid rock. 

Sheep being driven along a road high in the Mournes in the 1970s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Sheep being driven along a road high in the Mournes in the 1970s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Many generations have worked the land in the Mournes and continue to do so in rain, hail or shine. The area is famous for sheep farming and also for potatoes in the area around Kilkeel.   The mountains have inspired musicians, poets and authors such as C. S. Lewis who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia after spending time there. More recently, the Mournes have formed the dramatic backdrop for many scenes in the Game of Thrones, the popular television series. The Mourne Mountains continue to be a source of livelihood, leisure and adventure for many in south Down area and others from farther afield. 

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Dympna Tumilty

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The first photographic process was announced to the world in 1839 with the daguerreotype, invented by the Frenchman, Louis Daguerre. The daguerreotype was a direct positive on a silvered copper plate. Fumed with iodine vapour to make it light-sensitive, a mercury vapour was used to create a white deposit which corresponded to the highlights of the subject.

Victorian period. The photograph was mounted on card with the photographer’s details on the reverse. In this example, the photographed has been hand-coloured. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Victorian period. The photograph was mounted on card with the photographer’s details on the reverse. In this example, the photographed has been hand-coloured. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

 An alternative method of photography was introduced that same year by the Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot.  This method, known as Photogenic Drawing, used paper-coated with silver chloride to produce a negative image.  However, passing light through the negative on to a second piece of sensitised paper pressed against it, produced the positive form of the image.  The daguerreotype was the more viable option as it only needed few moments of exposure. The most typical device for this process was the sliding box camera. 

Newry Grammar School 1st XI hockey team photographed in Duffner’s studio. Duffner was the photographer of choice by local schools, sports teams and performing arts groups. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Newry Grammar School 1st XI hockey team photographed in Duffner’s studio. Duffner was the photographer of choice by local schools, sports teams and performing arts groups. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Advances in photographic methods and camera technology continued with various levels of success and Newry soon had its first professional photographer in J.D. Murray who opened his studio in Monaghan Street in 1856. Murray was aware of the growing trends in photography as two years later, he offered stereoscopic photographs which were extremely popular during the 1850s and 60s. This type of photography created an illusion of depth by taking two photographs of the same object with the camera moved a few inches between the shots. Examples of stereoscopic photography were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Murray also offered photography lessons in his studio which was now situated in Kilmorey Street.

In 1862, however, J.D. Murray closed his studio. He was succeeded by G. Wilson who operated out of a photographic gallery in Hill Street. That same year Thomas McKay also opened his own photographic studio. McKay ran a 40-year-old business before retiring to England. 

An example of a Brownie Box Camera in the Museum Collection Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
An example of a Brownie Box Camera in the Museum Collection Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Photography was still considered an expensive process. In 1900 George Eastman from the well-known company Kodak Limited introduced a new roll-film box camera known as the Brownie Camera which sold at a fraction of the price of other cameras. With the change of the century, local developing and printing services became more widely available especially from chemist’s shops. By 1901 Newry had two chemists that offered photographic services, Charles O’Hagan on Hill Street and Irwin & Co, also located on Hill Street.

Renowned photographers William Abernathy and Herbert Allison both opened their new photographic studios on Hill Street in 1903. Abernathy’s studio was in McKay’s former premises. Both photographers’ careers continued to thrive in Newry. Another famous photographer in Newry was Vincent Duffner who opened a studio at 62 Hill Street. Duffner, originally from Dundalk, became well known for his photography work, which included historical events such as the opening of the new Monaghan Bridge in 1929. The business continued up until the 1980s and was popular for family photographs, particularly weddings, and with local organisations. 

A newspaper advert for Newry Camera Club’s annual exhibition in 1967 at which members’ photographs were on show. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.
A newspaper advert for Newry Camera Club’s annual exhibition in 1967 at which members’ photographs were on show. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.

By the 1960s, the use of colour print film was growing in popularity. This type of photography required a new camera design that involved taking small negatives that were retained in the camera. Kodak introduced the Instamatic system in 1963. This simple design proved to be an immediate success for amateur photographers. 

During this time Newry’s Camera Club was founded which allowed local amateur photographers a chance to hone their skills and share their interests. In recent years Camera Club members have set up social media pages showing that photography is still popular in Newry today.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Joanne Glymond

A photograph by Herbert Allison of the children of Alec Fisher, who set up the legal firm Fisher & Fisher in Newry in 1898. The children, Lex, Dorothy, Margaret and Bertie, were photographed at a local charity bazaar at the time of the First World War. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A photograph by Herbert Allison of the children of Alec Fisher, who set up the legal firm Fisher & Fisher in Newry in 1898. The children, Lex, Dorothy, Margaret and Bertie, were photographed at a local charity bazaar at the time of the First World War. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
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Dress during the nineteenth century changed dramatically. The change was influenced by shifts in taste, of course, but more significantly by the introduction of machines and changes in the construction of clothing.  These inventions were used to add embellishments to women's clothing, whereas the style of costume worn by men became less flamboyant to a more clean, polished look.

Silk and lace wedding dress belonged to Ella McGaffin purchased by Ella McGaffin from Foster & Co in Newry for her wedding in 1914. The dress, with ruffled and net sleeves and decorated with embroidery, is typical of the style of wedding dress worn in the second decade of the 20th century. It is displayed with R.J. Sloane’s umbrella, a boy’s velvet jacket and an early 20th century tall hat with its travelling box. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Silk and lace wedding dress belonged to Ella McGaffin purchased by Ella McGaffin from Foster & Co in Newry for her wedding in 1914. The dress, with ruffled and net sleeves and decorated with embroidery, is typical of the style of wedding dress worn in the second decade of the 20th century. It is displayed with R.J. Sloane’s umbrella, a boy’s velvet jacket and an early 20th century tall hat with its travelling box. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Many department stores emerged from the ability to produce clothes at speed.  Foster’s was founded in 1870 by Robert Foster who had a draper’s and outfitter’s shop in North Street and soon expanded his business to Hill Street.  He established the Ulster Clothing Company in a shop at the corner of Margaret Street and Upper North Street and, by 1899, had moved into two neighbouring shops and opened a branch in Warrenpoint.  

Newell’s was also a long-established business, originally founded by three brothers, with drapery shops in Margaret Street, Newry and The Arcade, Warrenpoint.  Foster & Newell, Newry’s premier department store, was created by a merger of these shops in the mid-1960s.  By 1967 the Foster & Newell store had been completely modernised over a two-year period, masterminded by the Managing Director, Barry Edwards, and employed seventy people. Foster & Newell continued to be a popular shopping destination throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but was destroyed, along with a number of other shops, in an incendiary blitz on Hill Street in April 1976.

Costume and accessories from R.J. Sloane’s shop in Kilkeel which were on display in the Museum in 2012. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Costume and accessories from R.J. Sloane’s shop in Kilkeel which were on display in the Museum in 2012. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.

R.J. Sloane was originally from the townland of Ballykeel West, near Rathfriland, County Down. In 1887 he opened a shop on Newry Street in Kilkeel selling fabric and dressmaking and tailoring supplies.  In the earlier years of the 20th century he moved to larger premises on the opposite side of Newry Street and began to sell all types of ladies’ and gentlemen’s clothing. The first shop in Kilkeel to have gas lighting installed, R.J. Sloane specialised in high quality goods.

A late Victorian boy’s velvet jacket pictured before and after conservation. The jacket had been heavily creased with surface dirt and been damaged by insects. A textile conservator brushed and vacuumed the jacket to remove surface dirt, mechanically removed old moth cases and humidified the jacket before mounting on a mannequin. This jacket was worn by J.T. Hutchison as a boy. He was originally from Bradford, and came to live in Warrenpoint in the 1920s.   Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A late Victorian boy’s velvet jacket pictured before and after conservation. The jacket had been heavily creased with surface dirt and been damaged by insects. A textile conservator brushed and vacuumed the jacket to remove surface dirt, mechanically removed old moth cases and humidified the jacket before mounting on a mannequin. This jacket was worn by J.T. Hutchison as a boy. He was originally from Bradford, and came to live in Warrenpoint in the 1920s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Jeannie, one of R.J. Sloane’s two daughters, continued to run the shop until her death in about 1981 when the shop closed. At the time of closure the shop still contained the original fittings and still had merchandise from the early decades of the 20th century. Much of the surviving merchandise and the fittings were donated to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and a replica of the shop was built at the Museum.

Newry and Mourne Museum has various items of late 19th century and early 20th century clothing in its Collection, some of which was originally purchased either in Foster & Newell or R.J. Sloane’s drapery store. These include a wedding dress purchased in 1914 from Foster’s and R.J. Sloane’s own black silk umbrella.  Our costume case has featured other pieces of costume over the past few years including a velvet jacket which was fashionable in the 1880s for boys from around two up until eight years of age. Worn with lace collars and cuffs, they were popularised by the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy by Francis Hodgson Burnett in 1886. Another item of note is a tall hat and travelling box owned by The Rev. Canon John Magee (died in 1950).  He was a curate in Annaclone in county Down and in Newry Cathedral where he later became an administrator.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Dympna Tumilty

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An Irish National Foresters uniform and hat on display in Newry and Mourne Museum in 2017. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The Irish National Foresters (I.N.F.) grew rapidly and became the largest friendly society in Ireland. It supported Irish Nationalism and called for ‘government for Ireland by the Irish people in accordance with Irish ideas and Irish aspirations.’ By 1914, the I.N.F. had spread to Irish populations around the World and had over a quarter of a million members.

The Irish National Foresters was established in 1877 as a breakaway from the Ancient Order of Foresters which had been set up in England. It traces its origins to medieval serfs coming together to provide mutual support to each other. They had to meet in secret, often in forest locations, hence the name of the organisation. The officeholders were given titles associated with forestry including Chief Ranger, Woodward and Beadle. Like the Ancient Order of Foresters they provided a free doctor and free burial in return for weekly dues.

Membership certificate from the John Mitchel Branch in Newry dating from 1921.

Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The John Mitchel Branch was established in Newry in October 1885. The Branch originally had their meetings in O’Rourke’s Loft in Collin’s Row in Newry. Growth in membership meant them moving to larger premises in Kean’s Loft on Monaghan Street and then to St. Patrick’s Hall on Merchant’s Quay. A new hall – the Mitchel Memorial Hall - was opened on John Mitchel Place in 1907.  Funding for this purpose-built hall was raised by levying £1, nearly two weeks wages, on each member. An auditorium (later used as a cinema) was added to the building in 1908 and, over the years, accommodation was improved and expanded. Membership continued to grow and, by 1935, when the Branch celebrated its Golden Jubilee, a Boys Brigade for younger members had been formed along with St. Bridget’s Ladies Branch.

Banner on display in Newry and Mourne Museum from the Irish National Foresters branch in Camlough, county Armagh, which is now closed. The branch was named after Alexander Blaine who was an Irish Nationalist politician and M.P. for South Armagh from 1885 until 1892.

Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The Museum’s collection is home to a I.N.F. uniform dating back to 1900.  Known as the “Emmet Costume” it was adopted by the society in October 1877 and was based on a uniform worn by the United Irishman, Robert Emmet (1778 – 1803), during his failed rising against British rule in July 1803. The distinctive uniform consists of white breeches and a woollen green coat with gold buttons and white facing.  It was worn with riding boots which were made with a buckskin material. A cocked hat with large white feathers completed the uniform.

The introduction of the Welfare State in 1948 resulted in a decline in membership of the I.N.F. However, the John Mitchel Branch continues to thrive as a popular social organisation in Newry. Branches of the Irish National Foresters were also set up in other towns and villages in the Newry and Mourne area including Ballyholland, on the outskirts of Newry, Camlough and Killeavy in south Armagh and Hilltown, Rostrevor and Warrenpoint in south Down. 

A sash, dating from the early 20th century, which would have been worn by members of the John Mitchel Branch during meetings and parades.

Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

In addition to the uniform and hat, Newry and Mourne Museum has many other interesting items from the Irish National Foresters in its Collection, including membership certificates, a banner, sashes and collarettes and event programmes.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

 

By Noelle Murtagh.

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Over twenty years ago the Right Honorable Turlough O’Donnell, Q.C., a former Lord Justice of the Appeal, donated his legal robes to Newry and Mourne Museum. This included his ceremonial robes as a High Court Judge.

The Right Honorable Turlough O’Donnell Q.C. pictured c.1971 wearing his ceremonial robes as a High Court Judge. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
The Right Honorable Turlough O’Donnell Q.C. pictured c.1971 wearing his ceremonial robes as a High Court Judge. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Turlough O’Donnell was born in Bridge Street, Newry and was the eldest of four children (his siblings were Padraic, Donal and Kathleen.) His education started at the Poor Clare’s Convent for a year during the time when they accepted boys, then to the Christian Brother’s School at Kilmorey Street and the Car Stands School. He won a junior scholarship to the Abbey Grammar School at age 13, and later a senior scholarship, based on the results of his junior exams.  He studied law at Queen’s University, Belfast and was a pupil of Charles Stewart Q.C. O’Donnell graduated in 1946 and then went to London, where he was called to the ‘Bar’ in 1947. He then returned to Belfast to practice law and got married in 1954. 

As a junior counsel, he was on the defence team for the last man to be hanged in Northern Ireland, Robert McGladdery from Newry, who was convicted of murdering Pearl Gamble, also from Newry, in 1961. He was appointed a senior counsel in 1965 (known as ‘taking the silk’ as the robe worn as a senior counsel is made of silk), became a High Court Judge in 1971 and was appointed Lord Justice of the Appeal in 1985. Turlough O’Donnell passed away in April 2017, aged 92.

The ceremonial robes consist of a gown and hood of scarlet wool felt trimmed with white fur. They are worn with a stole and cincture, both made from black taffeta. Lace jabots are worn at the neck. The judicial dress was finished off with a full-bottomed wig and white leather gloves. The black cap, originally used to pronounce the death sentence, is also included in the display which was on show at the Museum in 2016. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
The ceremonial robes consist of a gown and hood of scarlet wool felt trimmed with white fur. They are worn with a stole and cincture, both made from black taffeta. Lace jabots are worn at the neck. The judicial dress was finished off with a full-bottomed wig and white leather gloves. The black cap, originally used to pronounce the death sentence, is also included in the display which was on show at the Museum in 2016. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Turlough Donnell’s High Court robes were tailor made for him by Ede and Ravenscroft Ltd in London, who make all the judicial robes in Britain. The red wool and ermine robe was worn at ceremonial occasions and the opening of the Criminal Assizes. The ceremonial robes of a High Court Judge have their origins in medieval ecclesiastical robes and have changed little from the Judge’s Rules of 1635, which introduced uniformity of practice in the wearing of judicial dress. 

Included in the donation were white leather gloves which were also worn with a judge’s ceremonial dress and the infamous black cap which was originally worn by judges when pronouncing the death sentence. Although capital punishment for murder was abolished in Great Britain in 1969 and in 1973 in Northern Ireland, the black cap is still part of the ceremonial regalia of a High Court Judge. Based on the style of a 16-century gentleman’s cap, it is carried by the judge in procession and not worn.

Turlough O’Donnell’s wig which was originally made in the early 20th century. The wigs, which are made from horse hair, have their own metal carrying case with an internal stand on which they are supported upright. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Turlough O’Donnell’s wig which was originally made in the early 20th century. The wigs, which are made from horse hair, have their own metal carrying case with an internal stand on which they are supported upright. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

In 2008, Turlough O’Donnell donated his wig to the Museum. Wigs were first worn by judges in the late 17th century. Full-bottomed wigs continued to be worn in criminal trials up until the 1840s and are now only worn as part of ceremonial dress. Judicial wigs are expensive to make and retiring judges often pass their wigs on to their successors or colleagues.  A previous owner of O’Donnell’s wig was Sir Anthony Babington, who was Attorney General for Northern Ireland from 1925 until 1937, when he was appointed Lord Justice of the Appeal. He was also Unionist MP for the South Belfast (1925 – 1929) and Belfast Cromac (1929 – 1937) constituencies.

In addition to his ceremonial robes, Turlough O’Donnell also donated his red silk robes which were worn at criminal cases and for the court of Criminal Appeal. He also gave the Museum the black robes (winter) and violet robes (summer) worn for civil cases and the red sash worn with both sets of robes for jury cases. 

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Joanne Glymond

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John Henry Collins was born in Newry on 3 March 1880, the son of Henry Patrick Collins, who was an auctioneer in Derrybeg, then on the outskirts of Newry, and Kate Collins, who came from Carrickredmond, near Dundalk in county Louth. Living at Castle Street in the town, John Henry Collins was educated at the Christian Brothers’ School and Queen’s University, Belfast, before being apprenticed to Bell & McCartan, a legal firm in Downpatrick. He qualified in 1911 and subsequently opened his own legal practice in Newry at 5 Hill Street. His brother, Patrick, joined him in 1916.

John Henry Collins pictured (back row, first right) with the reception committee at a rally in Armagh organized by Éamon Donnelly, a prominent Newry Nationalist politician, at which Michael Collins (front row, centre) was the keynote speaker. The rally was held in September 1921, shortly after Michael Collins had been elected as MP for Armagh and was attended by over 20,000 people.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
John Henry Collins pictured (back row, first right) with the reception committee at a rally in Armagh organized by Éamon Donnelly, a prominent Newry Nationalist politician, at which Michael Collins (front row, centre) was the keynote speaker. The rally was held in September 1921, shortly after Michael Collins had been elected as MP for Armagh and was attended by over 20,000 people. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

During these years, Collins was involved in Nationalist politics; before the 1916 Rising, he was in favour of Home Rule and became a supporter of Sinn Féin. During the War of Independence, his legal profession and political standing in the local area led him to represent most of the IRA prisoners arrested in the Newry and south Down region. 

After the truce in July 1921 and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922, Collins sided with the Pro-Treaty party as a result of assurances by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith that Newry, south Armagh and south Down would become part of the Irish Free State after the deliberations of the Boundary Commission. The Boundary Commission convened in 1924 as a part of the Treaty to determine the border between Northern Ireland and the Free State. 

John Henry Collins was a Vice President of Newry Musical Feis and his wife, Mary, was a member of the Executive Committee, pictured here in 1930. Mrs Collins is seen standing in the back row, first left. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
John Henry Collins was a Vice President of Newry Musical Feis and his wife, Mary, was a member of the Executive Committee, pictured here in 1930. Mrs Collins is seen standing in the back row, first left. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

At a meeting held in Newry Town Hall on 27th January 1922 comprising representatives of local public bodies and commercial and business interests, John Henry Collins and Patrick Hughes, an Newry Urban District Councillor, were elected as Secretaries to a deputation which was to travel to Dublin. The deputation was to take a statement to Dáil Éireann voicing the claim by habitants of the Newry area to be excluded from the authority of the Belfast Parliament. The President, Arthur Griffith, and the Minister of Finance, Michael Collins, informed the deputation that their claims were unanswerable but that their rights were preserved under the Treaty.

Collins’ legal work gave him an extensive knowledge of the Newry area and this underpinned his unstinting work as an agent for the North-East Boundary Bureau from January 1922 until November 1925, co-ordinating representations and submissions from anti-partition witnesses to the Commission.

One of John Henry Collins’ most notable legal cases was representing Terence Ruddy (above), a Newry Urban District Councillor, in a libel case against the Trustees of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Ruddy alleged that he had been libeled by the Voice of Labour, the Union’s newspaper, in April 1926. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
One of John Henry Collins’ most notable legal cases was representing Terence Ruddy (above), a Newry Urban District Councillor, in a libel case against the Trustees of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Ruddy alleged that he had been libeled by the Voice of Labour, the Union’s newspaper, in April 1926. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

After the Boundary Commission closed in December 1925, Nationalists in Newry, south Armagh and south Down had to accept that they were citizens of Northern Ireland. In the election to the Northern Ireland Parliament in April 1925, John Henry Collins was elected as MP for Armagh on a ‘Smash Partition’ mandate. This meant that he would not take his seat in Stormont. However, like other ‘abstentionist’ MPs, Collins took his seat in November 1927 with the support of W.T. Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedheal government in Dublin. From 1929 until 1933, Collins was MP for the South Down constituency. He did not stand in the 1933 general election.

Away from politics and law, John Henry Collins had been a keen athlete, oarsman and cyclist as a young man. In June 1919, he married Mary Burke, the daughter of a Tipperary vintner and they lived with their two sons and one daughter at Laurel Hill, Dublin Road in Newry. He died on 12th January 1952.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Noreen Cunningham and Ken Abraham

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