by The Rambler 08/03/2002
IT is 'an old chestnut' but this week I am going to revert once again to the need for something to be done to rescue the centuries-old craft of basketmaking from extinction.
I know of only two weavers of working age, and a couple of old age pensioners who have inherited the skill.
Of these only one, an old man, is still making baskets locally. He has been at it for half-a-century and managed to make a living.
He not only weaves but also grows the osiers (willow rods).
When he retires, who is there left to take his place? I have been harping on this theme for years - a voice crying in the wilderness.
All that is needed is for some person with an interest in community development to gather together a small band of neighbours who have an urge to try their hand at weaving rods, enlist the services of a competent person to give tuition, find premises, and have a go.
According, to Mrs Brid Rodgers, Minister of Agriculture and local development, grant aid should be procurable.
Is there anyone out there of the calibre that is needed?
Yes, I have heartening news. I have heard of a leading member of the farming community who has plans to have a go.
He has premises and promises, and above all he has enthusiasm and an ability to lead.
Some readers may have heard from him, for he has already identified a dozen or so potential trainees and a lady who is a well-established instructress. Premises, tools and a supply of willow rods are the basics. Osier culture has almost died out locally, but traditionally supplies of setts have been imported from Sussex.
There is an active UK Basketmaking Association which I mentioned some months ago which organises training and I know the office bearers can be relied on to give whole-hearted support to any new venture here. One Gawley's Gate man is a member of the UK body.
The gentleman with the plans hails from Soldierstown and I can tell him that osier beds, located on land where his people still farm, featured on the earliest ordnance map of Soldierstown, circa 1832. So in a sense my friend is going back to his roots.
I am not at liberty to disclose anything more at this stage, but if any reader is interested I will pass on any expression of such interest to the entrepreneur in question.
Would you be prepared to spend a few quid to train as a weaver of willow rods? Sav, a fiver for each weekly lesson? If so, drop me a line at the 'Ulster Star' address.
There could be money in it eventually since Mrs Rodgers has indicated that it might qualify under rural development.