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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/35


Sound Recording on Reel: Moygashel Garments. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Walmsley entered the garment division of Moygashel in 1952. The Moygashel group consisted of a number of companies, including Braidwater Spinning Co and Smyth's Weaving Factory. The group produced a wide range of fabrics and, although the percentage of linen produced fell, as they moved into synthetic fibres such as polyester, acrylic and rayon, the company always retained a linen base. The firm manufactured garments and relied upon the fashion industry. Given the export orientation of the firm and their involvement in a global market they were not affected by selling seasons. Demand was constant - even if individual markets were seasonal. The proportion of linen used, as well as the weight and style of linen goods processed, depended upon demand and changing trends. Ladies' garments were marketed under the name 'Strelitz' whereas the men's garments, finished in Monarch Parade in Belfast, were marketed as 'Steegan'. Moygashel strove to keep abreast of fashion styles and trends, exhibited widely, and bought designs from a number of independent designers as well as from Ken Bloomfield - their own in-house designer. Moygashel garments were sold through home shopping catalogues. Some were marketed as Moygashel, whilst others (produced for retail customers) were labelled 'Moygashel fabrics' although they were sold under a brand name. The name Moygashel became synonymous with quality and was recognised world-wide. A lot of garments were manufactured from linen blends: terylene, rayon and wool. Terylene added crease-resistant and durability properties, whereas the rayon helped lower the cost of the fabric. Moygashel bleached and dyed all of their fabrics on site. Fabric printing was carried out by Clendinnings. Garments were ordinarily only produced to order and stockpiling was a rarity. Customers could purchase exclusive rights to a particular line, but only at a premium. Although Moygashel fabrics built up a reputation for quality, the use of Irish linen continued to be a major factor in their success. Fabrics destined for export very often had an Irish linen label as well as a Moygashel label. Moygashel had a well equipped R & D department and a laboratory cum testing house. These facilities were used in the development of new fabrics, as well as part of a quality control process. All Moygashel fabrics came with guaranteed 'Quality Standards' which laid out performance criteria such as durability and retention of shape. Courtauld's bought Moygashel in 1969. In 1974 Mr Walmsley moved over to the apparel fabric division as 'Apparel Controller'. The apparel fabrics had a wider export market than the garments had. By the 1980s, however, this business had contracted sharply - leaving only two markets of significance: America and the Far East. Moygashel suffered greatly from overseas competition. European manufacturers were producing fabrics of equal quality for less money, while the Chinese soon improved the quality of their linens to acceptable apparel standards. Moygashel traded on their reputation and Irishness, as well as on their undeniable quality, to create a niche at the very top end of the market. This represented a severe down-scaling in overall output. Courtauld's soon transferred all finishing work to their plant in England. This was not successful. The work was soon being processed at Ballievey. Lamont Holdings purchased Moygashel in the early 1980s. The late 1980s witnessed a linen revival and a return to the distressed look. Mr Walmsley retired from Moygashel in 1996 after 44 years service