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Shirt Making in Derry

Derry City was, for years, built upon the textile trade with factories dominating the cityscape. A female workforce powered much of the industrial development of Derry, and produced some of the finest shirts in the world.It was the introduction of the factory system from the 1850’s which saw the real establishment of the shirt trade in the city, and contributed much to the city’s expansion and prosperity in the second half of the 19th century. The invention of the sewing machine in 1853 and the arrival of several Scottish businessmen ensured that, within ten years, the shirt industry in Derry was a factory based one.

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Hiring fairs in Ireland

Hiring fairs, which were held twice a year in Spring and in Autumn, were places where more mobile farm workers could hope to find jobs. These fairs had come into being during the Middle Ages when, after the Black Death, agricultural workers were hard to come by. In order to stop desperate farmers offering excessive wages to find workers it was decided that they should be hired in public and that each worker should carry an emblem of his trade to ensure that workers were hired at the correct rate.

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Working on the farm

An analysis of KILKIE occupations in the 18th and early 19th century show all but one of them listed as “agricultural labourers”  The one non ag-lab was listed as a farmer owning less than an acre of land which was rented from a landlord (Griffiths valuation 1859).

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