by Rambler 15/03/2002
ARE Milletts still trading at High St. in Belfast?
It was there that I got my first 'Belstaff' cycling cape. Big enough to cover a 'pack' of hay.
With a half-gale on my face, toiling up Chestnut Hill near Moira station, to catch the 7.50 workmen's train was no joke.
Once over it, one could see if the 'puffer' had reached the level crossing at Doghouse loanen.
If she was coming, it was hell for the leather on the last half-mile. It wasn't chestnut, one termed that hill, it was a 'B--!'
Now, Mr Andrew Gilbert, whose people have been close neighbours of mine for many generations, and even closer friends, has me over the moon.
He has got a basket-making school up and running on the hill. Well done, Andrew! I salute you.
It is particularly praiseworthy that there is no profit-making motivation. Just enterprise and public spirited community development motives.
Anyhow, my old chestnut can now be dumped. Andrew has won the game of conkers and I am left with a useless piece of string. I may get back on my bike.
Interest in the Chestnut Hill venture has exceeded expectations - already the tutor has an oversized class.
I'll leave those concerned to find a solution and issue a challenge - throw the book at them!
The book entitled Osier Culture and Basketmaking which was launched at Lisburn Museum in 1991 includes a section on the state of the craft in Bavaria where there is a prestigious national museum with artefacts from all over the world on display.
The curator is quoted as saying that he would love to include the UK or Ireland and possibly someone from Ulster ma y have responded since the book was published, but I doubt it.
If any readers have artefacts they might think about putting them on display in Bavaria with those from the rest of the world.
There are some around, but all the hints that I have dropped have been in vain.
The logistics are a stumbling block.
The Bavarians operate an important training scheme under E.U. auspices and training in the weaving of Ratan furniture is the graduation stage.
The scheme is open to trainees from here, maybe one day some of the locals who have enrolled at the 'Chestnut Hill' School of basketry will match the Bavarians in the weaving of state-of-the-art penthouse furniture to match the. imported range which is displayed in the town centre?
A pipe dream perhaps, but Ulster craftsmen have beaten off competition in many other fields down through, the years and one self-taught local basket maker is already famous internationally. It could be done.
Meantime I hope that the now defunct LEDU and the county body appointed to further rural development will take note.
Ulster enterprise does not rely on quangoes and circulars. They just get on with it. One leader is better than a host of talking shops.