A patchwork quilt commissioned to celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of Nano Nagle has been unveiled at Nano Nagle Birthplace at Ballygriffin, Killavullen, Co. Cork.
The Nano Nagle Tercentenary Commemorative Quilt was commissioned because it was felt that needlework would be a fitting way to commemorate Nano as needle craft was one of the skills that she gave to girls in her early schools in Cork City. The creation of the quilt as a wall hanging involved Presentation Sisters and Friends of Nano from all over the world.
The quilt is comprised of 49 patches with each patch depicting and representing a community and a people who were touched by Presentation Sisters who have carried Nano’s message across the world. The project was led by the Board of Management of Nano Nagle Birthplace. It was implemented by local woman and board member - Gertrude Magner, assisted by Killavullen Patchwork Group members - Hilary O’Kelly and Julia Sheehan.
A unique feature of the quilt is that women from many countries with a strong connection to the message of Nano Nagle sat and worked on beautiful fabrics using the skills of their native culture. The network of patches represents the network of Presentation Sisters throughout the world and depicts their ethos of being ‘in communion’. Patches were received from Ireland, England, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Holy Land, New Zealand, Latin America, USA and Canada.
Types and Style of Patches
The patches vary in fabric, thickness and style, and show the skills in needlecraft of the country or region from which they came. Some examples are patchwork from Africa, hand embroidery from India, machine embroidery, Carrickmacross Lace and Mountmellick Embroidery from Ireland, crochet, applique, and sequins work. The diversity of materials, styles and colours is noteworthy. Patches range in craft from the most ancient one of weaving to the 21st century one of computerised embroidery and the digital photography.
History of the Presentation Sisters in Needlework
Sr. Mary Hoare, Director of Nano Nagle Birthplace said that the great response to the invitation globally to submit patches bears witness to the history of Presentation Sisters in craft work. “In the past” she said “many of our schools had needlework skills included as an integral part of their activities, and some, for example South Presentation Cork, Youghal, Thurles and Galway had a separate lace school attached”.
In 1825, the first Report of the Royal Commission on Education referred to the curriculum in the Presentation School in Galway as including ‘needlework such as Limerick lace, Irish point and crochet’ as vocational and technical skills training. John Barrow in his ‘Tour Round Ireland’ in 1835 also referred to girls being “taught needlework” at the school. In ‘History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ in the Irish Times on 6 October 2012, Fintan O’Toole wrote: “Youghal Lace Collar, 1906: This exquisite needlepoint lace collar, made in Youghal, Co Cork, and exhibited at the Royal Dublin Society in August 1906, epitomises one of the more remarkable achievements of Irish women in the second half of the 19th century: the creation from scratch of a world-class craft industry.” The article explained how Sr. Mary Anne Smith developed the craft of lace making in the Presentation School in Youghal in 1847 and how it spread from there to schools in Kenmare, New Ross, and other towns as part of Nano’s legacy.
Quilt on Display
The relevance of a patchwork quilt in commemorating Nano Nagle is obvious. The quilt will be on display at Nano Nagle Birthplace for visitors to admire and appreciate the skills, the expertise, the cultures, and the dedication to craft and detail that were shared by so many people who were involved in the making of this patchwork quilt as a fitting remembrance of the founder of the Presentation Sisters in 1775 in Cork City. It is accompanied by an information booklet explaining the source and meaning of each of the 49 patches. This booklet can also be read on www.nanonaglebirthplace.ie. Nano Nagle Birthplace is located 9kms from Mallow on the road to Fermoy. Summer opening times are Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.