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women of the ulster folk museum

Read about some of the women whose stories live on at the Ulster Folk Museum.

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Old fashioned black and white image of four women posing for a photograph, two standing behind two seated
The women of Ulster's past lived varied, rich lives, full of work, family and leisure. Senior Curator of History, Victoria Millar, explores the lives of some of the women who lived in the buildings of the Ulster Folk Museum.

Rose McBride (née McNally), Cruckaclady Farmhouse

In 1899, Rose McNally married a labourer, Patrick McBride and both lived with Rose’s father and brother in their family home of Cruckaclady in Strabane, Co. Tyrone.  

From the 1901 census, we know that Rose was a seamstress and was employed as an ‘outworker’ which meant that she was able to work from her home. More than likely, Rose would have made up shirts for large shirt-making firms established in Strabane and further afield in Derry.  

Ten years later in the 1911 census, Rose’s father had passed away and Cruckaclady was left to the family. It’s interesting to note that Rose’s occupation is no longer a seamstress, indicating that as the only female in the home, she would have carried out most of the household chores.  

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A black and white photograph of a family standing in front of a cottage.
The McBride family and horse. HOYFM.L3348.5

Rose had three children, who all sadly passed away in their infancy. It is believed Patrick and Rose then adopted a boy, but he left home at a young age, perhaps ending up in England or Scotland.  

In later years, Rose became a wheelchair user and passed away before her husband Patrick, possibly in the 1940s.  

Mary McNally and Alice McNally were interviewed about life at Cruckaclady. HOYFM.R91.48

-And did she work about the house in the wheelchair and stuff?

-Well – well, aye, well she wasn’t fit to do a lot now, they said he was very good to her, Patrick, that he was very good, that he did everything, you know. He was very good to her when she had taken to the wheelchair. They say he was very kind for [unknown].

-Yeah.

-You know. Because he made bread, and cooked, and done all the work like that.

-And was that when he started to do the bread, do you think?

-Yeah, yeah, I suppose that was how – like he was a good – I know myself he was a good with the bread making. We used to [unknown] bread. 

-Is that so?

[Laughter]

Margaret Clyde, Duncrun Cottier's House

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A smiling older woman looks at the camera in a black and white photograph. She is outdoors in a field environment, wearing a beret, patterned dress and cardigan.
Margaret Clyde. HOYFM.L2938.1

In 1868, Margaret Clyde was born in Duncrun and lived in the house for the majority of her life as an unmarried woman. 

During the 1901 and 1911 census, we learn that Margaret was living in Duncrun with her parents, brother and nephew. She was able to read and write and was a seamstress / dressmaker, likely employed as an outworker, similar to Rose McBride.  

Margaret reared her brother William’s children in Duncrun, following the early death of their mother in 1923. Margaret was incredibly resourceful as she grew potatoes, rhubarb and gooseberries in the garden and was a keen home baker, often making scones on the griddle and soda bread in a pot oven. She provided good food for the children – porridge or eggs in the morning, bacon or other meat for dinner.  

Margaret's great-niece Ann Heaverton recalls her memories of Margaret at Duncrun. HOYFM.DSA2022.3

-Me mother and her three brothers were raised by Margaret Clyde, for mammy’s mother died when she was just seven. So as the father had to work, he stayed in Coleraine and came home with the week, but Margaret Clyde raised the four of them. And, eh, I more or less having no granny, looked at her as a granny, and like, we visited her regular, at least once a week. So there’s not much about Margaret and her home that I don’t know. Considering the fact I was always very nosey, and had my nose stuck in everything [laughter]. But I have fond memories of her, and I admire that woman, like for bringing up four children the way she did, and going by photographs that I have, they were well put on, well clothed. I presume her being a great needlewoman, that she made the clothes herself. She was a very very handy woman and I admire her so much, and have fond memories of her as well.

Thanks to Margaret’s niece Mary, we know that she was a thrifty person – never in debt, never a penny wasted, all scraps of material were saved. She would have boiled flour bags with soda and leached them to remove any of printed text on the bag. These were used to make sheets and cloths as Margaret’s passion was making patchwork quilts for the house, using her own homemade quilting frame. Quilts, cushions and rag rugs were made to match.  

Margaret was the last person to live in Duncrun and she resided there until the 1950s. However, due to poor health she had to move to a more modern house and passed away in her nineties.

Margaret Baird (née Campbell), Ballyveaghmore Farmhouse

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A smiling older woman looks at the camera in a black and white photograph. She is sitting outdoors on a bench wearing a long dark dress,
Margaret Baird. HOYFM.L3377.10

After Margaret and William Baird were wed in 1875, in Annalong Presbyterian Church, they settled in Ballyveaghmore Farmhouse which became their family home.  

Margaret had 10 children; 7 of whom were still alive during the time of the 1911 census. Most of her sons were agricultural labourers as well as stone dressers in the nearby Mournes. Margaret’s daughter Annie, aged 14, was working as an embroiderer, probably in an outworker capacity like Rose McBride and Margaret Clyde.  

We don’t have a known occupation for Margaret however, she was likely a housewife, carrying out many of the domestic chores and caring for her children. Margaret and William also looked after their grandson Tommy when his parents died. Tommy was the last member of the family to live in the house and during his time there he made very few changes to the house. 

Mary Jane Magill (née Guiney), Meeting Street Houses

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A black and white old photograph of a family, wearing somewhat Victorian/Edwardian clothes, standing in front of a bicycle shop.
The Magill family. Photograph courtesy of Alison Smith.

Mary Jane married Joseph Robert Magill in 1895 and by the time of the 1901 census, she was living in a house in Meeting Street, Dromore with her husband of six years, two young children and a her brother.  

In contrast, during the 1911 census, living quarters get a little crowded as Mary Jane is now living with Joseph, six children, her brother and a boarder. Mary Jane carried out domestic duties at home and known to be able to read and write. Her daughter Mabel was able to provide us with an insight into the work Mary Jane undertoook at home and her weekly routine.  

“Monday was laundry day, Tuesday ironing day, Wednesday sewing, Thursday was used for extra jobs that we hadn’t time for on other days. Friday was dusting and cleaning day, and Saturday was shopping day. Sunday we attended Sunday school at 9am, church at 11 o’clock with father. Mother stayed home with the baby and to make dinner. After dinner we got ready for the afternoon Sunday school at 3pm, then home again for tea at 4.30 and back to church with mother at 6 o’clock. Supper was at 7.30pm and then the family sang hymns till 8pm and then to bed.”

“Mother worked for Dickson’s [Dixon’s?] factory as a ‘folder’. This work was done on a table about four ft. long and two ft. wide. A steel plate about three inches wide and three ft. and a half long was attached near the front edge of the table. To the right of this plate a vice was attached and it was connected to a pedal near the floor which mother operated with her foot while she turned down hems on handkerchiefs, all sizes except rolled hems which were rolled in by the hand sewers. Sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, huck towels, were also hemmed by mother...There was always enough of work to keep mother busy.”

Abigail McCullough (née Canmer), The Old Rectory

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Abigail McCullagh and her three daughters
Abigail McCullagh with three of her daughters. HOYFM.SCH2022.46.2

Abigail married Frederick McCullagh in 1862 and Lismacloskey became her home.  

She was a housekeeper and had five children however, two of them sadly died of tuberculosis in 1889. By the time of the 1901 census, Abigail was living with her husband, sister-in-law, daughter Margaret (a Post Office clerk) and a farm servant.  

After a period of illness, Frederick died at Lismacloskey in 1904, soon after his death, a great deal of stock, crop and implements were sold. 

By the time of the 1911 census, two of Abigail’s daughters were living with her, Margaret and Emily Jane (a teacher) along with a domestic servant. The same year, the Rev. J. J. Browne wrote the following letter to Margaret.

“While sorry to know your dear father and my very old friend has been summoned from you all to a higher and happier sphere, I am glad you, mother and sisters are still here to comfort and help each other. I distinctly remember you and your sisters at Duneane School and also attending the Sunday School, as well as Duneane Church. It seems to be a long while ago since you commenced as a Telegraph learner in the Belfast Post Office; how anxious your mother was then about your welfare as well as your sister Annie, when she went to the Kildare Street (Dublin) Training College. I was very surprised to hear and also thankful that Emma [Emily Jane] is a teacher at the old school, and at home with mother, who requires and deserves one of you with her, especially after the death of your father...

Your mother I think is wise in selling her farm, for it would be hard for her to look after it at her age.”

Abigail McCullagh died at Lismacloskey in 1918, aged 82. Abigail’s occupation is listed as a farmer. This suggests that after her husband’s death, she had to take on some of his duties on the land. Abigail’s daughters Margaret and Emily Jane continued to live in the house until the death of Emily Jane.


 

The census archive is an invaluable resource for helping us to understand more about what life was like for the residents of the Ulster Folk Museum. Coupled with our extensive sound archive and folk life journals, these collective resources help us unravel the people's stories of the past.