Expression of Interest - A History of Weaving in the Southwest Donegal Gaeltacht

Expression of interests are sought by Údarás na Gaeltachta to research and prepare written text which will form the basis of a booklet, exhibition material and a website about The History of Weaving in the Southwest Donegal Gaeltacht.

Pictiúr do sníomh dhearg

Údarás na Gaeltachta, a regional state agency, in partnership with the Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) which has recently developed a new Traditional Weaving Course in Cill Charthaigh, Co. Donegal, recognise the significant contribution the Southwest Donegal Gaeltacht has made and continues to make to the story of weaving in the county. The Story of Weaving in Southwest Donegal is a unique story which is immersed in tradition and culture. The story spans the first development agencies of the 19th century through to the support services provided by Údarás na Gaeltachta today. The development of textiles in Ireland can be traced to the Bronze Age, but the historical and cultural contexts of textiles in the Southwest Donegal Gaeltacht are very much associated with industry and the initial introduction of textile manufacturing to the area. For generations, local farmers in the area supplemented their income by handweaving tweed from woollen yarn, which was spun at home, a tradition that is well-established in the region’s sheep-farming practices. Ard an Ratha had one of Donegal’s largest sheep fairs and was a key factor in the development of the growth of handweaving in southwest Donegal.
These developments established the Gaeltacht area in Southwest Donegal as a skills and knowledge base creating a diverse textile hub, from weaving and knitting at home, to larger scale mechanised factory textile production. In 1870, Neil McNelis, Ard an Ratha, founder of Neil McNelis & Co., created one of the first homespun industries. This venture facilitated and encouraged handweaving and was further enhanced by the Congested Districts Board’s policies on the development of domestic industries in the area in the beginning of nineteenth century. Subsequently, with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, The Department of Lands and later in 1957, Gaeltarra Éireann, continued to support and develop the textile industry in the Southwest. In 1979, Údarás na Gaeltachta superseded its predecessor Gaeltarra Éireann and reinforced the state agencies’ commitment to the development of the textile industry in the Southwest Gaeltacht.
This area’s long history of textile design and manufacture created a textile cluster which developed new weaving knowledge and skills in the Southwest Donegal Gaeltacht. As innovative weaving enterprises evolved, the area gained both national and international recognition for its rich textile heritage. This heritage is a product of many generations, their innovations, thoughts, machines, and encounters and companies such as Cuan Tamhnaigh Teo, Snáth Dhún na nGall, agus Stiúideo Dhún na nGall, Cill Charthaigh are all part of this story.

The Project – a guideline:
Údarás na Gaeltachta in conjunction with the Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) seeks expressions of interests/proposals to research and compile The History of Weaving in the Southwest Gaeltacht of Donegal. Interested parties may wish to consider the following key topics:

  • The history of weaving and textiles in Southwest Donegal, focussed around the weaving centre of Cill Charthaigh;
  • The historical context, the evolution of skills and materials, the story of wool including examples of folklore on the subject;
  • An account of some of the key players in the historical development of spinning and weaving in the area:
    • The role of McNelis & Co., (1870-1903) Ard an Ratha.
    • The role of the Congested Districts Board.
    • Alice Hart’s (1884) involvement in the development of the textile sector.
    • Alexander Morton & Co’s carpet factory, which ultimately employed 600 people in four textile manufacturing factories in Killybegs, Cill Charthaigh, Anagaire and Croithlí between the 1901-1904.
    • Micheál Óg Mac Pháidín’s (Cill Charthaigh) contribution to weaving in the Southwest Gaeltacht.
  • Gaeltarra Éireann and Údarás na Gaeltachta’s involvement in the development of the textile sector.
  • The people’s story; their creativity, their response and adaption to the continuing challenges of modern production and marketing and new trends design, and sustainability. This may include interviews with key-players in the industry, past and present.
  • The new traditional weaving course has been developed by the Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) in Cill Charthaigh, Co. Donegal.

The budget for this work will not exceed €4,500.

The Application and Timeline
Please submit your expression of interest via email to Micheál Mac Giolla Easbuig, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Doirí Beaga, Co Dhún na nGall,, including the following details:

– Relevant background / related work experience
– Samples of similar projects undertaken
– An outline plan of proposed methodology
– Costings/ timeline
Submission of Interest via email, please.
Please submit electronically via email to before the deadline provided for in (a) below.

(a) Closing date for submissions                            Closing date 16:00hrs, Tuesday 05 April 2022
It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that their submission is complete and is received by the designated deadline.
(b) Queries
For additional information, all queries should be emailed to Micheál Mac Giolla Easbuig, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Doirí Beaga, Co Dhún na nGall,, 074 9560100.