St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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This is a contribution to the notes from Monreagh Heritage and Education Centre, Carrigans. A mere man described by a popular search engine as a visitor attraction in Monreagh, is our Mr Colm Clarke.

Another Monreagh local that we are fortunate to have in our small arsenal of volunteers for Mr Clarke carries some clout in these parts. I say clout what I really mean is flax. An enthusiastic champion for his much beloved plant, and at Monreagh we agree with him not out of fear of getting a clout from him I should add but because flax is one of the oldest textile fibres known to man, weaving cloth is man’s oldest manufacturing processes. Need I say anymore? I won’t because that’s Colm’s job on the guided tours. He is a man on a mission and his mission is to educate as many as he possibly can on a once cottage industry. A cottage industry that bloomed and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries with the industrialisation of agriculture, mills and stores were built close to the crops that supplied them.

The local village of Carrigans boasted two mills in its heyday.

In 1921, 40% of the registered working population in Northern Ireland were directly employed by mills and factories. Colm worked in the flax industry until 1955, his demonstrations are modelled on the cottage industry processes. But he provides an oral history on the practices of the mills. His online video demonstration, filmed through the course of a year at Monreagh Heritage Centre by Kieran Fegan, Centre Manager, on how linen is made has so far received over 12k views on youtube. Titled Making Linen Fabric from Flax Seed it is proving popular worldwide even in places like Iran!! A visit to Monreagh Education and Heritage Centre would not be complete without seeing the man himself breaking down the flax fibre. Scutching, crimping and haggling the flax into submission to reveal its hidden linen treasure.

A word of advice though on your visit to Monreagh don’t mention threshing mills to Thompson as his childhood memories aren’t as fond as Colm’s.

Also, four things you may not know about Carrigans. Sir Jim Starritt, a former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was born in Carrigans. Writer Dame Agatha Christie visited Carrigans on a few occasions, as a guest of the McClintocks of Dunmore, to whom she was related through marriage. The Bangalore Torpedo, an explosive device, used in many conflicts and seen in famous films, such as Saving Private Ryan, was invented by Captain (later Colonel) McClintock, of Dunmore, Carrigans. Carrigans once had a railway station, the village was served by the Great Northern Railway, which closed in 1965.

Come along and meet Brian Mitchell at Monreagh Centreon Saturday 23rd September 2017. He is the author of a number of Irish genealogy reference books such as A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, A Guide to Irish Parish Registers, Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871, and Genealogy at a Glance: Irish Genealogy Research.  Brian has been involved in local, family and emigration research in the North West since 1982. The database whose construction he supervised from 1982 to 2007, containing one million records (dating from 1642 to 1922) extracted from the major civil and church registers of County Derry, can now be accessed at Roots Ireland. To contact the centre for information on this event and other up and coming events and services please call 074 91 40708.