Luke Barrett shearing Galway sheep reared at Dalton Farm Graiguenamanagh.
Earlier this month, on a warm June evening, we held our inaugural community sheep shearing event at our Mill Yard in the heart of Graiguenamanagh.
Working with partner farmers of the rare breed Galway sheep, each Summer we travel across the country to collect this premium textile wool. The personal connection we have with each of our sheep farmers is very important and special to us. It gives a deep and meaningful connection, allowing us to nurture this special fleece as early as possible in it’s journey before being transformed at our mill into yarns and ultimately a blanket.
Graiguenamanagh and the mill have a deep connection with sheep. The Cistercian monks who first established our Abbey, town and mill in 1204 traded in wool which, in the 13th century, was one of the highest valued commodities in Europe. The wool was so valuable that the monks built Duiske Abbey with loans from the Italian merchant family Ricardi to be repaid in wool grown in Graiguenamanagh and the surrounding lands.
With this deep-rooted connection and our passion for wool, we dreamt about having some locally reared Galway sheep, and restoring the traceable “fleece to fabric” link within a few miles of our mill. We chatted about this with Paddy Morgan, a friend and local farmer, and introduced him to one of our partner farmers and the Galway sheep. Paddy, like all Galway sheep farmers, was impressed and enamoured by the docile friendly sheep and last year brought some hoggets (a sheep between one and two years of age) to his farm on the outskirts of Graignamanagh where, needless to say, the sheep settled in and are enjoying their new home at Dalton Farm.
Since Spring we had been chatting with Paddy, excited about his sheeps first shearing and it was then that we came up with the idea to hold the shearing in our Mill Yard in the centre of the town, opening the gates for people to see what happens at the very first stage of making a blanket. At a time when all our lives are so busy, once common sightings in a rural town have now almost disappeared, so in holding this shearing event we hope we are able to reconnect people to the land that surrounds our busy lives.
And so, on a warm Summers evening we opened the gates and welcomed Paddy, his sheep, the shearer and the community. We were delighted with the turn-out of locals and visitors, young and old, and the enthusiasm and excitement for the sheep, the shearing; connecting sheep farming with what we do here at the mill.
To see sheep being sheared up-close and the wool then picked and bagged ready for the mill was a new experience for most who were there. Hopefully it has sown a few positive seeds of thought about the value of staying connected to the places where we live as well as the importance of this natural home-grown raw material.
Given the success of our first effort this year, we are hoping to make this an annual event and who knows where we might take it next year! A big thank you to all who helped make this happen; to Paddy for his enthusiasm and belief in what we are doing with Irish wool, to Luke Barrett and Richard Doyle for their expert display of the art of shearing and to our first local Galway sheep who stole the show and very calmly parted with their wool coats!
If you would like to see Paddy’s Galway sheep you can visit them here, off the Thomastown Road in Graiguenamanagh.
We feel very honoured to be one of the last mills in Ireland continuing to work with Irish wool, overseeing every stage of the process from ‘fleece to fabric’ to ensure the highest quality yarns and textiles. Working with partner farmers across the country we collect the finest fleece which we nurture and shepard to create rare Irish wool textiles rish in story and which last a lifetime.
Visit our website to see our full range of Irish wool yarns and textiles or visit our mill showroom where you can see, hear and smell the beauty of Irish wool and see how we make these rare and unique pieces.