Earlier this year, during the highly successful Donegal Shores Festival in Kincasslagh, Ireland’s best-known mother let slip that she had just knitted a few pairs of socks for Pope Benedict XVI.
Ninety-two year old Julia O’Donnell, mother of Daniel and Margo and indeed an author in her own right, decided to knit the socks for the Pontiff when she had read about the harsh winters expected all over Europe this year. Of course she used only the very best Donegal wool for the job!
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat she said: “I just decided to knit a few pairs of socks for the Pope. It would be nice to think that he had a few pairs all the way from Donegal and to be honest I expected to hear no more about it.”
But earlier this week, Julia got a very pleasant surprise when the postman delivered a package to her which came all the way from the Vatican and included a pair of Rosary beads, a personal letter of thanks, a blessing and a signed memento by the pontiff.
“To be perfectly honest I just couldn’t believe it at first. I never thought that anybody would take the time to do such a thing. I am absolutely honoured and you can rest assured that these gifts will have pride of place in my home,” said the formidable Julia.
Her family are all delighted that her knitting skills have been recognised at such a high level. Her son Daniel said, “I am delighted for my mother. These gifts have been a real tonic for her and have given her a great lift.
“As long as I can remember, the balls of wool and knitting needles have never been too far away. She really finds knitting so relaxing.
“It is great to think that Pope Benedict might be wearing a pair of the best of Donegal woollen socks.”
Julia has always knitted, and it’s clear that it’s a practice she won’t be giving up anytime soon.
She told the Donegal Democrat. “I have been knitting all my life - socks, scarves and jumpers - whatever.
“When you had a family of five growing up in West Donegal in the 50’s and 60’s, it was just the natural thing to do. All my neighbours at the time would have been doing it. We had no shortage of the raw material and our attitude was to waste nothing.
“Donegal is world famous for its hand knits and you will find them everywhere.
“Apart from providing clothes, I actually enjoy knitting. It is one of the most relaxing things you can do and I am told it is becoming popular once again.”