Belfast Telegraph

50 reasons to celebrate the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Amanda Ferguson compiles a fascinating list to mark its half-century

1. The museum opened in July 1964 with the Edwardian Cultra Manor and the Duncrun Cottier's house – a traditional Ulster landless peasant's house originally from Co Londonderry – faithfully rebuilt on the site.

2. The estate on which the museum now sits once belonged to Sir Robert John Kennedy, born in 1851. He had a long career in the British Diplomatic Service. He built Cultra Manor in 1904, one of the last country houses to be built in Ireland. He died in 1936 age 84, and is buried with his family, servants and pets in a plot near the entrance to the Folk Museum.

3. The museum was one of the locations used for the 2002 movie Puckoon.

4. In September 2013, Edwin Elliott from Fermanagh held his 95th birthday celebrations at his birthplace, Corradreenan Farmhouse. Edwin's ancestral home was donated to the museum in 1969.

5. There are more than 50 authentic exhibit buildings including the recently redeveloped Discovery Farm, making it one of the largest outdoor living history museums in the world.

6. Spooky tales surround the museum with a ghost rumoured to be residing at Coshkib farmhouse.

7. Uilleann pipes made by Thomas Kenna around 1795 are one of the remarkable items in the musical instrument collection. The pipes are made of ebony, with ivory and bone mounts.

8. The red brick exterior of the corner shop in Ballycultra bears a colourful sheet metal enamelled advertisement for once-famous brand Sunlight Soap, manufactured by Lever Bros in England. From the 1890s to the 1950s, a range of enamelled signs was produced for advertisers and public authorities and they could be found in rural and urban settings.

9. Around 100 white blouses form part of the museum's textile collection. Ranging from the early 1800s to the 1940s, they describe the changing styles of this practical garment.

10. Butter-making was once a weekly task for the farm housewife who made her own country butter both for home consumption and for sale to local shopkeepers. The museum has an upright butter churn in the kitchen of Drumnahunshin farmhouse.

11. A travelling trunk in the Pound Forge House is typical of the type used in the 19th century. Wealthy people would send luggage with their servant, so clothes would be pressed and aired ahead of their arrival.

12. A new Irish dance exhibition has just opened in the Folk Gallery. A hand-embroidered dress, with crochet lace collar, made in the 1980s for the Royal Tara School, is among the items.

13. The museum grows its own willow for use in weaving demonstrations.

14. Kept beside the hearth kitchen of the Coshkib farmhouse from the Glens of Antrim, the settle bed – a traditional item of farmhouse furniture – served as a seat by day and a bed by night.

15. On display is a cast iron milepost from the main road between Newtownards and Donaghadee. This road was used as the mail route between Dublin and the port of Donaghadee.

16. Celebrity visitors include Ant and Dec, who recently filmed for Britain's Got Talent.

17. Tea Lane is a terrace of industrial linen mill houses from Sandy Row, Belfast, which retain their metal fittings for wooden window shutters. These shutters date to the late 1820s.

18. A John Fowler & Co 12-ton steamroller from 1933 is on display. It was used continuously by Belfast Corporation City Surveyors Department until 1961, including throughout WWII.

19. A shelf ornament described as 'Robbie Burns and his Highland Mary' after the national poet of Scotland is on view in the Rectory's main bedroom.

20. Mounted on the museum gallery wall is a long metal man-trap, once used on private estates to deter poachers of game birds, hares and rabbits.

21. The museum's corner shop sells more than 30 varieties of traditional sweets.

22. As you meander through the museum, you can see a variety of farm animals that would have been found in the countryside of the 1900s. Irish Draught horses, Irish Moiled cattle, Mourne sheep, pigs and poultry are among them.

23. An applique quilt in the pattern known as Heart and Dove, made at Ferniskey, Kells, Co Antrim, in the mid-1870s, is on show.

24. Erin Leach from the museum has a degree in blacksmithing.

25. Bob Johnston, the basketweaver at the museum, is a renowned award-winning weaver.

26. A traditional plough used on the museum farm over the last 20 years originally belonged to farm manager Robert Berry's grandfather Adam Jones from Clontibret, Co Monaghan.

27. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the museum in 2007.

28. Crockery on a museum kitchen dresser includes a Coalisland-made earthenware crock or pan with its familiar trailed yellow slip decoration.

29. World-famous chef Albert Roux cooked a banquet at Cultra Manor for a select audience in November 2013.

30. Woven crosses were traditionally made on February 1 each year, St Brigid's Day, to protect a house from evil. One is displayed in Cruckaclady farmhouse.

31.  A number of embroidered items are exhibited including a piece for the firm of Henry Matier and Co, Newtownards, from the early 1900s.

32.  A log cabin pattern patchwork quilt, made at Ballywattick near Ballymoney in the 1870s, is on display.

33. Coco the donkey is well known at the museum. The 12-year-old has the reputation for being a character and can sometimes be seen in the living rooms of some exhibit buildings.

34. A large saw manufactured by WB Haigh of the Globe Iron Works, Lancashire, was powered by a stationary oil engine. It was used in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, to provide sawn timber for the local community.

35. A case display of dairy items is in the Meet the Victorians exhibition including old preserved bog butter. It was discovered during turf-cutting in the 1990s.

36. The oldest cow on the museum's farm is a 16-year-old Kerry cow.

37. The turf basket has been around the homes of Ireland for centuries. In the past creels would be carried individually on a person's back or in pairs on a donkey. The museum has run turf creel workshops in the past.

38. A patchwork quilt in a pieced star pattern was made near Straid, Co Antrim, between 1880 and 1900.

39. Once popular with smokers, a hand-embroidered smoking cap from around 1860 is on display.

40. A 2014 Channel 4 Grand National ad, with horses galloping through an Irish village, was filmed at the museum.

41. In the Meet the Victorians exhibition is a violin made by Thomas Perry (1744-1818), who had a workshop in Dublin.

42. The Penny slot gas meter box on Tea Lane was once the property of Belfast City Corporation. In the early 1900s profits from the Belfast Gas Department helped to subsidise the rates and building of City Hall.

43. From the downstairs kitchen of the Rectory it is possible to look up the impressive stepped chimney to the sky above.

44. The Old Rectory stirred feelings of romance for one Belfast man. He used the venue to propose to his now wife.

45. A mounting step at Drumnahunchin was used when mounting and dismounting a horse. They were useful for women riding side-saddle, allowing the horse to be mounted without a loss of modesty.

46. The first wedding at the museum took place in Omagh Meeting House in July 1999.

47. A holed stone found in Ballyveaghmore during the dismantling of the farmhouse forms part of the Bloody Bridge exhibition. It was used as a good luck charm to protect cattle in the byre.

48. The first christening at the museum took place earlier this year.

49. The Cultra Hillclimb, the world's oldest active hillclimb, takes place every year at the Folk Museum, in the grounds of Cultra Manor. The speed competition was established in 1905, and ran for 25 years before being revived in 2010

50. There are 138 staff including head of collections management Clifford Harkness, who has worked at the museum for over 35 years.

Belfast Telegraph


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