Nostalgia: When the loom brought boom to Douglas...

Nostalgia: When the loom brought boom to Douglas...

O'Briens Mills Douglas 1929.

It’s one of Cork’s most vibrant suburbs that has experienced a challenging twelve months, but despite the difficulties it has faced, Douglas has remained resilient.

Monday marked one whole year since the devastating fire at Douglas Village Shopping Centre’s car park.

The planned reopening for the centre was intended to take place around now, but the impact of the global pandemic has caused delays.

However, positive news came earlier this week as shopping centre manager Bartosz Mieszala said the centre is "on course" to reopen on November 12.

This includes the centre’s cherished library, which is currently inviting artists to submit ideas for a project to mark the reconstruction and reopening of Douglas Library.

A consignment of wool destined for New York departs St Patrick's Woollen Mills, Douglas in 1929.
A consignment of wool destined for New York departs St Patrick's Woollen Mills, Douglas in 1929.

The new Douglas Per Cent for Art Commission ran by Cork City Council Arts Office and Cork City Library Service is particularly seeking submissions that reflect or respond to the legacy of the local industry and its workers, particularly in relation to textiles.

Given this competition, we have delved through the archives to uncover some incredible images of Douglas as an important hub for the textile industry in years gone by.

Douglas developed as a suburban area in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and was noted for a high concentration of large houses. 

It became immensely popular amongst the nobility and the area began to develop as a wider urban settlement with the opening of the 'Douglas Factory' in 1726.

Morrogh's Mills, Douglas pictured in August 1929.
Morrogh's Mills, Douglas pictured in August 1929.

In August 1755 this was reported to be the property of Messrs Perry, Carleton and Co.

They had 100 looms and produced sail-cloth, supplying sails to the Royal Navy, amongst other clients. 

The industry was established by Huguenot weavers and textile workers, such as the Besnards, who acquired the Mills by 1783.

Speaking to The Echo, Independent Councillor Kieran McCarthy said the industry provided much employment in the area.

"Very little records have survived on the Huguenot Sail Cloth Factory of Messrs Perry and Carelton, which was established just over 300 years ago, and which employed at its height over 700 people, and once existed alongside Church Road at the entrance to Ballybrack Woods.

Workers at O'Brien's Mills Douglas May 1933.
Workers at O'Brien's Mills Douglas May 1933.

"Perry Street in Cork City Centre is the last nod to a once flourishing sailcloth industry – where a large sailcloth warehouse existed," he said.

Further textile mills opened in the nineteenth century including Lane’s Corn and Hemp Mills. 

"The subsequent creation of linen and woollen manufacturers respectively at other points nearby in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century provided housing for workers – and it from these that created the older village we have today," Mr McCarthy said.

Picture taken in december 1971 of employees homes who worked in Morrogh's Mills, Douglas.
Picture taken in december 1971 of employees homes who worked in Morrogh's Mills, Douglas.

Most of the mills ceased operating in the early twentieth century, although St Patrick's Woollen Mills and Donnybrook Mills continued until the 1970s.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Douglas underwent major changes as it became one of Cork’s main suburbs 

New housing was built and schools, shopping centres, cinemas and other amenities developed to serve the growing population.

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