Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Lord Mayor in stitches as 'knitting tourists' spin him a few yarns

By Patrice Dougan

It might not be what he usually does in his spare time, but Belfast’s Lord Mayor proved he’s not afraid to pick up the knitting needles and give it a go.

Niall Ó Donnghaile wooed 23 women from the US and Australia — in Belfast on a knitting retreat — with tales of his granny’s crochet skills at the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in the City Hall yesterday.

However, the Short Strand man did not inherit her needlework expertise and raised a smile as he posed with a pair of oversized knitting needles.

Having failed to knit one or purl one, he had to settle for chatting to the women instead.

The group of avid knitters are in Northern Ireland as part of a retreat in which they get to tour the country and knit at some of our most famous sites, including the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

The trip has been organised by Lisburn designer Maggie Jackson, who has been working in the fashion industry for 34 years.

Now based in Michigan, she teaches knitting alongside ventures including her own range of yarn and a number of books.

Her most recent, Maggie’s Ireland, showcases some of her designs in scenic places around the island, North and South.

The trips follow on from this and take knitters to some of the places in the book.

“This is the third knitting trip to Northern Ireland and the other places in Maggie’s Ireland,” she said.

“It’s about the history of Northern Ireland — whereas most people go to Dublin and Southern Ireland, I’m bringing them to my homeland.”

As well as the Causeway, the women will also be visiting places like the Aran Islands and other areas with historical links to the woollen and textile industries.

But while he may have worked his charm on the women, he admitted he hadn’t picked up any knitting tips from them.

“When it comes to anything that involves hand-eye co-ordination I tend not to be any good,” he laughed.

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