If Wallace Clark’s famous quote “linen is the aristocrat of textiles…” is true, the description of steam engines as the “giants of the industrial revolution” is equally fitting.
In the 21st century, with the huge mill engines, drivers of many textile factories, all but gone, linen manufacturers and steam operators don’t often share the same venues.
One exception which will be attracting up to 20,000 people is the May Day Steam Rally at Shanes Castle, Antrim, on May 5-6.
Alongside an expected 30-plus steam engines operating and performing tasks such as timber-sawing, threshing, etc, textile workers from the Roe Valley will be showing the “complete works” of linen making.
Weaver Marion Baur, who owns and runs Flax Mill, County Derry’s only active linen-weaving mill, has put a comprehensive demonstration together.
Marion said: “We don’t go to show weaving anywhere these days. It’s a big task to dismantle a loom, put it together at the location of the event, thread it and get it ready to weave. Shanes Castle is our only exception.
“The amazing location of the estate, its history and foremost the large gathering of steam engines – once the driving forces of manufacturing in this part of the world – make for a very pleasant and interesting
setting. We are delighted to be part of the event.”
Marion and her team are going to show flax – scutching (breaking), warping yarn and weaving linen on a very old loom.
They will be joined by two of the country’s top spinners who are demonstrating linen and wool-spinning.
“Sarah Foster-Jarden and Christine Casey are outstanding master-crafters who do quite a lot of commission-spinning for Flax Mill,” says Marion.
“Despite their very busy schedule, they make time for the Steam Rally. Their working presence completes our demonstration and adds great quality to it.”