Handwork Tapestries Limited, Kesh, County Fermanagh published this full-page ad between pages 48 and 49, (to the right of page 48) in a little book called Ulster Fare.
Ulster Fare cookbook was published by The Belfast Women’s Institute Club in 1945.
The advert reads,
The classical designs and skilled craftwork of Ulster handmade tapestry are now world-famous. The work is produced in many parts of Northern Ireland, but mainly around the beautiful Erne lakes.
Skilled needlewomen, or any lady interested in tapestry work as a part-time activity, are invited to communicate with the production manager
Handwork TAPESTRIES Limited
KESH, Co. Fermanagh
Telephone: Kesh 228
8 Durweston Street
York Street, Baker Street
Tel: WELbeck 2096
It seems strangely coincidental that I should come upon this ad just two days before I am due to speak at the ladies of Kesh Women’s Institute’s monthly meeting on Monday, 13 March 2017. It’s particularly interesting that the ad from this little Lakeland village just happens to be in a very rare Northern Irish Women’s Institute book, of which there are very few copies left. So it’s important to record as much of this history as I can possibly glean before it disappears forever. I had opened the book to retrieve a recipe that Elizabeth David had been unfairly scathing of.
I have googled the web to find out more about this tapestry industry in the 1940s, which appeared to have been thriving in my home county of Fermanagh. The only piece of information I have so far, is that Handwork Tapestries Ltd may have been based in what was formerly the Lough Erne Hotel, and is now home to the Sizzling Stone restaurant.
I can’t wait till Monday to ask the ladies for help with this apparently forgotten piece of history. Hopefully there will be someone who can tell us more. I will update this post after our meeting.
If you know anything about these ‘famous tapestries’, I’d be delighted if you could share it in the comments section below this post.
My first update comes just a few hours after publishing this post.
Robena Elliott has kindly supplied lots of details about this thriving tapestry business which was based in Kesh. Robena’s Mum Mary Buchanon ( Minnie ) started working for Handwork Tapestries Limited in the 1940s. She progressed from a basic worker to going out to women doing piece work in their homes. She was from Drumquin and she lodged in Hugh John Maguire’s pub and shop, now Tullana. She met Robena’s father Robin Mitchell in Lisnarick in 1949 and they were married on 28 August 1951.
The lady in charge of the Fermanagh tapestry was Margot McClure. She was born Margot Benjamin and in the 1940s and 50s she lived in Kiltierney house at Ederney, and worked from the Kesh building. She lived near the entrance to St. Michael’s College in Enniskillen up until her death in 2015.
I found out more about Margot on the Northern Ireland Bridge Union website. A tribute by Eric Lesage fondly remembers Margot as “la grande dame de bridge d’Enniskillen”
Margot was born in St John’s Wood, London on 30/07/1916 to Bertie and Nellie Benjamin and was very proud of her Jewish roots. She joined the Women’s Royal Air Force during the Second World War, after which she was asked to manage her father’s tapestry business in Kesh. When she first arrived in Fermanagh she stayed in The Imperial Hotel where she met and fell in love with Robert McClure, a Ford car salesman. They couple made their home at Kiltierney. Margot moved to Enniskillen after her husband passed away, remaining there until she passed away in her 100th year.