To people throughout Ireland, the town of Killybegs has always been synonymous with the fishing industry but well over 100 years ago in 1898, the portside town had established a worldwide reputation for its hand-knotted carpets and tapestries which were produced on the largest carpet loom in the world.
The carpets which were known as “Donegals” have adorned many important buildings both in Ireland and abroad including Dublin Castle, Aras an Uachtaráin, The Royal Hospital and internationally, Buckingham Palace, The Vatican, 10 Downing Street, the White House and most state buildings around the world.
To one woman who has roots in Inver, these carpets hold a very special part in her heart - so much so that her greatest desire was to have one made to mark her 70th birthday and something that would remain as a family heirloom.
Lily Metcalfe who is presently living in Swindon in England spent many summers with her grandmother a Mrs. Porter who lived in Potter’s Cottage in Inver where there was no shortage of Tara brooches in the house.
Lily had always been fascinated by the brooch and to commemorate he 70th. birthday the Metcalfe family commissioned one of the rare Tara Brooch carpets which would become their family heirloom.
Ann McHugh from Killybegs told the Donegal Democrat, “Lily took a great interest in the making of the carpet and at the different stages of its creation she requested photographs and regular updates.
“The rug was hand knotted by Evelyn Harvey from Killybegs at the Maritime & Heritage Centre, in the Old Carpet Factory building and was completed and presented to the family on Wednesday 4th April 2012. The rug is an exceptionally rare item and took over three months to hand - knot.”
Ann added, “It was a great family occasion for Lily as she was accompanied by her husband Michael, son Andrew his wife Helena and their children Christina, Emma & John who travelled from their home in Uppsala, Sweden as well as Lily’s daughter Margaret from Nottingham UK.
“Lily and her family cannot express enough their gratitude and happiness that her longtime wish to own a hand knotted Tara Brooch has come to fruition and would recommend to anyone that the quality and service of carpets made at the Maritime & Heritage Centre is second to none.”
Even though the famous Donegal Carpets factory closed in 2003, the tradition of carpet making has been passed down to many in Killybegs and a limited number are still being hand knotted in the Maritime and Heritage Centre in the town.
Most of the creations now are of the famous Tara Brooch or family crests and all have to be specially commissioned.