The European Heritage Open Days event at the Coalisland Museum & Heritage Centre attracted almost 1,000 people to the venue with people of all ages enjoying the opportunity to learn all about the old Coalisland Weaving Factory.
The highlights of the weekend were the guided tours by local actors Shane Coleman (who played former factory owner Jackson Clarke) and Tony Gervin (who played factory worker Peter McGrath).
Visitors were taken on a tour of the old factory and heard stories about the difficult life of the workers and the challenges faced over the years to keep the business open.
The guides expertly played their characters and the audiences enjoyed plenty of humorous exchanges between the two as they expressed a few differences of opinion about life on the factory floor.
Another popular exhibit was a knitted model of Coalisland by the ladies of the Coalisland Learn & Leisure Group. The knitters depicted the town as it would have been over 100 years ago and the model was exclusively on temporary display just for the weekend. The completed model will be on public display in the Corn Mill in November.
The former owners of the factory, the Beatty family, sent their support for the new venture. Elizabeth Beatty wrote: “My grandfather, Christopher Beatty, who acquired the Weaving Factory in 1922, and my father, George, and his brother Charles, who owned and operated the business until 1978, would have been delighted to learn of the renovation of the Museum in the old factory premises.”
She added: ““On behalf of the Beatty Family I wish to extend our congratulations to all concerned in this enterprise and we sincerely believe it will be a major attraction and benefit for Coalisland. We wish you all every success”
The Museum & Heritage Centre is managed by the Coalisland & District Development Association and the current project was delivered with the support of Lough Neagh Partnership, with generous funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund “Great Place Scheme” and Mid Ulster District Council.
It is hoped that the venue can be opened to the public on a regular basis a couple of days each week, to host group visits from tourists and community associations, to work with schools and to welcome local people who want to learn about their past. This will require voluntary support and the Development Association are appealing for local people who would be willing to help. If you’re interested, please contact the Development Association Tel: 028 8774 7419.