Over the last two days of our stay in Ireland we spent time with Lindsey, another cousin of my father’s. Although Lindsey and I are close in age we had never met before this trip to Ireland. The rain was falling outside so it was a great opportunity to focus on catching up on a life time (well, make a start at least!) and discuss our shared interested in tracking down the family history. We have both become hooked on the detective work of searching online records for clues about our ancestors lives and stories, and regularly exchange emails about our discoveries.
Linen features strongly in our family history so it seemed appropriate to visit the Lisburn museum and their Flax to Fabric exhibition. It was fascinating to see the process of linen production and to realise the impact of the mechanisation of what had been a domestic industry for generations. The looms in their collection would have been housed in weavers’ cottages, their punch cards determine the jacquard pattern in the weave. There was one storage box on display with the name Greeves on it, sadly too high up to photograph well, but it was physical evidence of my 3x great grandfather John Greeves’ factory, his Linen Spinning mill in the Falls Road area of Belfast. The photograph is from the online collection from Belfast Live
With Lindsey we went to Oxford Island and the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. In better weather we would probably have walked, but instead we talked. As well as the beautiful location the Discovery Centre had another bonus, an amazing local history collection including over 700 Quaker books and publications. We met the archivist, and he was keen to help us with our search for more clues to the stories of our family in this area.
Our final stop before heading to the airport for our flight home was another place of preservation – the National Trust property Castle Ward. On the shores of Strangford Lough we enjoyed a wander around the Old Castle farm with its turreted tower, and then a tour of the the 18th Century house, a strange mixture of Georgian and Gothic. The National Trust does an amazing job of conserving so many historic buildings enabling us to see architecture and interiors we would never be able to see other wise. Their conservation principles are to manage the land, structures and collections in their care “ensuring that their special qualities are protected, enhanced, enjoyed and understood by present and future generations”. Ironically Castle Ward is a site of the filming of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, raising interesting questions in my mind about historical reality and the nature of historical fiction and fantasy novels.
However, and why ever, we study history, to unearth forgotten facts or create fiction and fantasy, thank you to all those whose work of preservation and conservation enable us to access and understand truths about our past and present (and future?)