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Ulster American Folk Park

D Reynolds Ropemaker

Ulster Street, building 22

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More than just old rope

Rope-making is an ancient craft that became of enormous industrial importance. But back in 1830 nearly every large town had a rope-maker.

In Dungannon, Richard Murray had one such business. He manufactured rope and twine in Irish Street. David Reynolds took over Richard Murray's business between 1846 and 1856 and continued to manufacture rope throughout the 1870s.

Rope-making was an unusual business as it needed a lot of space to operate. This one required over one hundred yards of open ground - the standard length of rope - called the rope walk. It was usually narrow and exposed to the elements. In a shed at one end the rope maker straightened waste linen threads. He took these threads to the other shed - the wheel house – where the wheel mechanism twisted the prepared threads into fine cords. These cords were then twisted into thicker rope.

In expanding towns, the rope maker’s property would become enclosed by development. Today you can still see them as a long undeveloped garden or strip of open ground. It was generally as narrow as the associated dwelling or shop which fronted the town street. In some cases the rope walk could be 300 yards long.

The remains of Richard Murray’s very old shop front were restored and placed here in the museum's Ulster Street. The equipment inside actually belonged to another Dungannon rope maker, James McKinley.

Take a look at the rope making mechanism at the back of the shop. It was used for making hundreds of miles of rope.