Cushendale Woollen Mills
Graignamanagh, a quaint and richly historical village not far from Cow House, is home to Cushendale Woollen Mills, one of the last Irish woollen mills in the country and the only one in the south-east of Ireland. Run by the Cushen family for generations, they make beautiful textiles and rolls of yarn from the fleece of Irish sheep.
Philip Cushen and his wife Mary run the mill today as the fifth continuous generation. Philip’s family has been manufacturing wool since the late 1700s, starting with Sylvester Cushon. Over the years the family name, like many other names in Ireland, has been written in many forms from Cushon to Cushion and finally Cushen which appears in the 1900s. Remarkably, Graignamanagh’s links with wool trade go back much further than that. In 1204, Duiske Abbey, today a national monument, was established by a group of Cistercian Monks who moved into the village of Graignamanagh, which translates as ‘village of the monks’. Here they discovered a woollen trade that flourished. The site on which Cushendale stands today is where the first mills of the 12th century would have stood!
Today it is a trade and craft that deserves to be nourished and treasured, and with the devotion of the Cushen family, it continues to thrive despite the challenges presented by global production. We often take students from our summer program to visit the woollen mill and our residency artists often make a trip to the mill to purchase a cherished souvenir.
Philip has always been gracious enough to give us a tour of the fascinating facilities; often turning on the huge loom to demonstrate how their woollen blankets are made. In fact, we have a family link with Philip as his great grandmother was an O’Gorman from Ballybawn making Philip a third cousin to Rosie and her sisters.
There is a small shop on the Cushendale Woollen Mills site where you can buy rolls of yarn, baby blankets, hats, scarves, and jumpers to name a few. After one visit you might be surprised and feel the urge to pick up some knitting needles and knit something beautiful yourself from a colorful ball of yarn but you will always leave with a real sense of appreciation and definite respect for the craft.
Photographs courtesy of Cushendale Woollen Mills