While much in this city appears to have changed, its roots are firmly based in a culture of music, poetry, education and industry. Derry was a huge manufacturing base for the #textile industry, and was known far and wide as a city which had numerous #shirt factories. By 1926 the city had 44 shirt factories employing some 8000 of the then 45000 population. By the very nature of this industry, the largest proportion of the workforce was female, which led to Derry being known as a matriarchal city. To cope with the increasing demand for shirts an ‘outworker’ system was established. Under this system, stations were opened in the countryside, where girls skilled in shirt making were based. Thus the industry of the city moved out into the country, providing much need employment. This outworker system was set up even before the coming of the #railway to Derry, so it was the road network which serviced the needs of the industry.
Factories produced merchandise for both the local and foreign markets and was exporting on a grand scale. The ships would come in to the #Derry docks, offloading coal and the raw materials used in the shirt factories, then reload with the finished product, and often sheep and cattle which had been sold at market. #Tillie and Henderson’s factory was opened in 1851 by William Tillie and John Henderson who first recognised that it would be a great improvement to bring all workers together under one roof rather than have them scattered and disjointed across the countryside. A new Tillie and Henderson building was built in 1857, a five storeyed building covering nearly one acre of land on Foyle Road at the end of the Craigavon Bridge, with a huge 19,000 square feet of space. At this time, it was the largest shirt factory of its kind in the world! Such was its importance it was referenced by #Karl Marx in his book “#Das Kapital”. “……Besides the factory operatives….whom it concentrates in large masses….capital also sets in motion…another army; that of the workers in the domestic industries….an example: the shirt factory of Messrs. Tillie and Henderson at Derry which employs 1000 operatives in the factory itself and 9000 people spread up and down the country and working in their houses.”
The factories are still very much in evidence today, although sadly there is little to no actual manufacturing being done in the city any more. The Tillie and Henderson factory building was demolished in 2003 by a hotelier, thereby depriving the city of one of its most important and historical pieces of architecture.
The Rosemount shirt factory was graced with an art installation during City of Culture year in 2013. It formed part of the Lumiere project and is now regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of public artwork, like the Hollywood sign or the Coca Cola logo. It is called “ #A Stitch In Time” and can be seen across much of the city. It was commissioned to commemorate the city’s shirt factory prowess in centuries past, and is easily visible upon approach to the city, nestled cosily in the sky line.
Next Time: Then and Now, From Shirts to T-Shirts and the nostalgia of identity.
#Very Derry #Derry Tourism #Historical Derry #Derry Air