Last week, Mourne Textiles, received a visit from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, long-standing President of the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), and a keen supporter of heritage textile manufacturing across the UK.
Mario Sierra, Creative Director of Mourne Textiles, escorted The Princess Royal on a tour of the workshop, where she viewed weaving demonstrations on traditional looms and was shown handwoven furnishing fabrics, tweed curtain fabrics, rugs and blankets. The Princess Royal chatted to the weavers as they worked. She then browsed through the company archives while Mario explained the history of Mourne Textiles.
“We are delighted to welcome The Princess Royal to our workshop,” said Mario Sierra. “Mourne Textiles is bringing production handloom weaving back to the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and we are keen to nurture a new generation of handloom weavers. The Princess Royal is also passionate about the need to recognise the skill, value and importance of craft industries within local communities. I believe strongly, as did my grandmother, in bringing skills and job opportunities to our local workforce and passing on the knowledge and training of these skills to future
Today was a wonderful opportunity to show The Princess Royal ﬁrst-hand our workshop, how we weave and to introduce her to our next generation of weavers. We are honoured that she had taken the time to visit us and I have been incredibly impressed by her knowledge and genuine interest in what we do at Mourne Textiles.”
“Mourne Textiles is part of a very creative industry,” said Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, who met the Princess Royal at the workshop. “To have a spotlight on it with this visit showcases this vital sector. It’s a regional-based business employing many important people. This visit is about proﬁling the creativity happening across the regions. It shows that craftsmanship in design is alive across sectors.”
According to Paul Alger, Director of International Business for UKFT, The Princess Royal is “passionately interested in UK manufacturing, which is the reason she visits textile manufacturers. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from the sheep to shelf. She understands organic farming and the issues around that. But this is the ﬁrst time, to my knowledge, we have shown her weaving in the UK of a manual nature. It’s the ﬁrst time UKFT has been associated with the President in Northern Ireland for a long time. There used to be some big volume producers in Ireland that have disappeared over the years. This visit to Mourne Textiles supportsthe revival.”
Alec McQuin, Trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), which has sponsored Mario Sierra and provided a scholarship for a Mourne Textiles weaver, described the visit as a great accolade to the success of the business. “Mario has done incredibly well to bring the business to this stage. It shows that we are fulﬁlling our brief in QEST.”
Alison Currie from InterTradeIreland also met the Princess Royal at the event. “Intertrade Ireland is delighted to be here today at Mourne Textiles,” said Currie. “We work with businesses north and south to assist cross border trade. It’s fabulous to be here to see an example of a local business that is successfully delivering cross border trade.”
At the end of her visit, the Princess Royal was presented with a gift of a handwoven tweed blanket and two children’s blankets for her grandchildren, before being warmly waved off by children from Killowen Primary School.