Foxford Woollen Mill

Foxford Travel Blog

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A trip to Ireland wouldn't be complete without a stopover at one of the many woollen mills.  These are now found near the small villages in the western and northern sections of the country.   It's only common sense.  What is on every picture or postcard of Ireland?  Sheep, of course.  There may be more sheep in Ireland than people, I don't know.  But I do know that I wasn't going home without a nice tweed or blanket or something from one of these mills.

The Foxford Mill was founded in 1892 by Mother Agnes Morrogh Bernard, a Sister of Charity.   After four years of famine, starvation, and mass exodus in County Mayo,  the new woollen mill was a tremendous boom to the area.   It supplied many new jobs and the town of Foxford grew and flourished around the mill.  This would make a nice stop on our way from Clifden to Donegal, giving us a chance to stretch our legs.

Once inside the Mill Store, where should I begin?  There were tables piled high with beautiful woollen blankets, sweaters, woollen scarves, and most anything that could be woven or knitted out of wool.  I picked out some scarves and blankets.  I even bought several pair of mittens, knowing full well that I would never wear them.  Winters in Alabama are usually very mild; nevertheless, I opened my heart and my wallet when I saw the tag on the mittens.  "Hand made by so-and-so"   The tag attached to the mittens was a hand-written thank you note from a woman in Carrick, County Donegal.  Selling her mittens, scarves, and matching beanies might be her only source of income.  I felt good knowing that I might be helping her.

The looms were bumping and swishing in the workroom.   Bump .... bump .... bump.  At one time there was scarsely a county in Ireland where the manufacture of woollen goods and cloth was not carried on in the household and in privately owned shops.  These shop owners gave employment not only to their family members but to villagers as well.  Their businesses flourished.   However, the rule of commerce says that ancient methods must always yield to modern modes of opertion and that is what happened here.    After the introduction and improvements in machinery, large mills sprang up near the rivers and canals, making the journey to the market an easier trip for the mill owners.   These large mills also needed accessible and well-maintained roads to provide cheapness of carriage transportation to the different markets.   The domestic and small manufacturers that lost their businesses to the new modern machinery,  migrated in mass numbers to the new mill towns,  most of which were in England, and left their rural villages behind.   Enough said.  Is this what is known as progress?

I know that my great-grandparents chose to come to America from Ireland because they needed work.  The mills were moving to the large, industrialized cities, but rather than move to the land of their hated "enemy" (England), they chose to move to America.  They settled in mill villages in the south.  My father was born in Milstead, Georgia, in 1905.  It was a bustling cotton mill town.   There is no mill in Milstead anymore; it shut down in the 1960's.  All the cloth is made today in third world countries because the labor is so very cheap.   Where are all of the unemployed textile workers finding jobs today?   Where are the clothes on your back coming from?   If we Americans want this great country of ours to continue to flourish and succeed, we must pay for it.   And that means digging into our pockets a little deeper to help pay the higher wages necessary to keep jobs here in this country.   Whatever, life is about change, isn't it?  Nothing stays the same.
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