The Rambler 28/02/2003
FIRSTLY, some good news, Mr and Mrs Gilbert's 'Chestnut Hill' school of basketry is going strong. It was featured in a RTE TV programme lately, arranged presumably by the Instructress, Alison Fitzgerald.
The UK Basketmaking Association is monitoring progress closely and the venture is listed for mention in the Association's newsletter which circulates internationally.
Alison as also featured in the 'Lurgan Mail', earlier this month, when two primary schools, Derrymacash and Derrytrasna bad enlisted her to organise short courses in basketery.
It was nice to see both sexes involved. Boys are inclined to regard crafts as only for the girls. There is encouraging support for rural and community development at present, at Northern Ireland Office level which, hopefully. will be exploited, although the Gilberts have chosen to avoid red-tape involvement and maintain a friendly-neighbourhood ethos.
We have still a bit to go to match the German (Bavarian) support.
They have a state subsidised training school open to EU countries.
Also a National Basket Museum at Michelan with artefacts illustrating the 5,000 year history of the craft, some based on clay imprints dating from the ice-age (which I have seen!) Africa, Asia, America, India, etc., all feature but the UK does not.
The director of the museum has revealed that be would welcome artefacts from Ulster.
Now that 'war' has been declared on the plastic bag, perhaps we can look forward to the return of the willow basket to the shopping scene!
I am old enough to reminder the days when an over cheeky member of the male sex risked receiving a bash with an empty shopping basket from a lively lass, if be happened to provoke her.
The willow-basket is easily disposable as firewood. Boys what a blaze a lorry load of worn-out baskets would make in the bonfire season!
But, enough about basketery. Let me give you an eye-opener about Drumaleet, Aghalee, taken from the notes made by the army sappers who conducted the ordnance survey of the eighteen thirties.
'The late Mrs Ann Gilbert of Drumaleet gave birth to 24 separate children, the offsprings of these husbands. Her first marriage took place between the 15th and 17th years of her age and she was often called into the house from Jack Stone to play among other children and, by much flattery, got to give her child such.
Pat Brady and Catherine (alias Lavery) had an extraordinary family of 17 sons and one daughter, the children of one and the same parents.
Pat was a native of Connaught and when on a visit home he was murdered on his way. His wife married again some years after.'
There was an ancient fort on the farm of Stephen Gilbert at Drumaleet.
That name is still preserved in the name of the road junction on be B12, ie 'Stephen's Corner' at the former basket-making workshop owned by Mulholland.
Whether Stephen had any connection with the lady of 24 children is not on record. Unlikely.