Against Home Rule (1912) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Against Home Rule (1912).

At the time of the Union, indeed, the linen manufacture was almost unknown in Belfast, the “manufacturers” or handloom weavers in the North, as elsewhere, living mostly in the smaller country towns and bringing their webs in for sale on certain market days.  From Benn’s “History of the Town of Belfast,” published early in the century, we learn that at that time the principal manufacture of the town was “cotton in its various branches.”  This industry had been introduced in 1777, we are told, to give employment in the poorhouse, but it caught on and spread amazingly.  “In many of the streets and populous roads in the suburbs of the town, particularly at Ballymacarrett, the sound of the loom issues almost from every house, and all, with very few exceptions, are employed in the different branches of the cotton trade.  In the year 1800 this business engaged in Belfast and its neighbourhood 27,000 persons.”  In 1814 there were eight cotton mills at work with steam power driving 99,000 spindles.  On the other hand, “there is very little linen cloth woven in this town or parish.  In 1807 Belfast contained 723 looms, only four of which were for weaving linen.”

The story of the sudden change from cotton to linen is an instructive one.  Cotton appears to have forced itself to the front because cotton spinning could be carried on by machinery whilst the linen weavers were still dependent on the spinning wheel for their yarn.  It was Andrew Mulholland, the owner of the York Street cotton mill, who first took note of the fact that while the supply of hand-made linen yarn was quite insufficient to justify the manufacture of linen on a large scale in Belfast, quantities of flax were shipped from Belfast to Manchester to be spun there and reimported as yarn.  Mulholland determined to try if he could not spin yarn as well as the Manchester people, and accordingly in 1830, “the first bundle of linen yarn produced by machinery in Belfast was thrown off from the York Street mill.”  That, and not legislation nor any system of State bounties or State favour, was the beginning of the Belfast linen industry in which the York Street mill still maintains its deserved pre-eminence.  When the critical moment arrived, as it does in the case of all industries, when manufacturers must adapt themselves to new methods or succumb, the Belfast leaders of industry rose to the occasion and secured for themselves the chief share in the linen trade.  In the rest of Ireland, it is true, the manufacture dwindled and disappeared, but whatever may have been the cause of that disappearance, it was certainly not the Act of Union.


Project Gutenberg
Against Home Rule (1912) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook