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William Murray Drapery Shop

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William Murray opened a shop in the downstairs rooms of the family home in Moy, County Tyrone. By 1910, William was selling groceries along with drapery goods. Nearly 70 years later the family shop closed and the building was left unoccupied.

In 1985 the original shopfront was taken to the Ulster American Folk Park where it was installed and the interior of the drapery shop was recreated.

William Murray's drapery shop

William Murray's drapery shop

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Moy, County Tyrone

Moy, County Tyrone

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Market town

Market town

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Drapery shop

Drapery shop

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Murray family

Murray family

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Original shopfront

Original shopfront

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Shop interior

Shop interior

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William Murray Drapery Shop

Image: William Murray's drapery shop on the Ulster Street at the Ulster American Folk Park © National Museums Northern Ireland
William Murray's drapery shop on the Ulster Street at the Ulster American Folk Park © National Museums Northern Ireland

The town of Moy was prospering, and it was here that William Murray set up his home and business on Killyman Street, the main route from the town to Moy Trew Railway Station.

William Murray was born in 1857 in County Armagh. He was the son of a farmer. He married Louisa McKee, a farmers daughter from close to Banbridge in County Down, in 1884. William and Louisa had nine children.

In the 1901 census, William and his family lived here along with a servant and lodger. The premises is described as a dwelling house, with nine windows and one door at the front.To create space for a shop, two rooms were made into one, and an iron column added in the centre of the room where the supporting wall was removed. Large plate glass windows with an entrance ‘foyer’ were installed to allow plenty of space for displaying shop goods.

Moy, County Tyrone

Image: Moy with the river Blackwater in the foreground BELUM.HOYFM.WAG.1773 © National Museums Northern Ireland
Moy with the river Blackwater in the foreground BELUM.HOYFM.WAG.1773 © National Museums Northern Ireland

Moy is in County Tyrone on the Tyrone/Armagh border. It is separated from County Armagh by the River Blackwater. The Armagh village of Charlemont is just across the river on the southern side.

A market town

Irish Country Horse Fair, Saintfield BELUM.Y.W.05.86.1 © National Museums Northern Ireland
Irish Country Horse Fair, Saintfield BELUM.Y.W.05.86.1 © National Museums Northern Ireland
Moy Trew Station, 1950s, taken by Weatherup, Armagh County Museum collection
Moy Trew Station, 1950s, taken by Weatherup, Armagh County Museum collection

Moy was a busy market town. By the mid-1800s, there was significant trade in corn, timber, coal, slate, linen and livestock.

Goods were transported by boat to Belfast and Newry using the Ulster and Newry Canals, an advantage that placed Moy above many rural towns.

The nearest railway station was Moy Trew, two miles north of the town. By the 1890s, Belfast was just an hour’s journey away by train, Dublin two and a half hours.

Moy was famous for its horse fair which attracted buyers from all over Ireland, and from across Europe. According to tradition, horses from Moy fair took part in the Crimean and Boer Wars, and were used by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. Moy Horse fair images are available in the Lawrence collection of photographs held in The National Library of Ireland.

Children were given the day off school on fair days, as the town was too dangerous to cross through with crowds of people and livestock. (Source: O Dalaigh, Art P, The Moy Castle or Roxborough House, in Duiche Neill, Journal of The O’Neill Country Historical Society, No.7) .

 

The drapery shop

Image: Rolls of fabric and a large pair of shears behind the counter in Murray's Drapery shop at the Ulster American Folk Park. © National Museums Northern Ireland
Rolls of fabric and a large pair of shears behind the counter in Murray's Drapery shop at the Ulster American Folk Park. © National Museums Northern Ireland

William was a draper by profession and earlier in his career he specialised in selling woollen fabrics.

However, the late 1800s brought changes in retail. Beforehand, customers would have gone to a shoemaker for shoes, hatmaker for hats and so on. Now, shopkeepers were beginning to buy in ready-made goods to sell, and customers could purchase a range of items under one roof.

By 1910, William was selling groceries along with drapery goods, and through the lifetime of the shop, the family continued to sell this mixture of goods.

An inventory of the contents of the shop in 1925 reveals a wide and varied collection of drapery goods and fabric; tweeds, suiting, flannel, corduroy, serge, costume and blouse cloth. William also stocked a good supply of undergarments for men, women and children and did a busy trade in boots, shoes and corsets. The grocery end was basic; sugar, tea, flour.

William traded with a variety of manufacturers and merchants in Belfast and England

The Murray family

Family photograph of William and Louisa Murray with three of their daughters and two of their sons © Barbara Daelick Cooper, great granddaughter of Mary Sarah Murray.
Family photograph of William and Louisa Murray with three of their daughters and two of their sons © Barbara Daelick Cooper, great granddaughter of Mary Sarah Murray.
Mary Sarah Murray © Barbara Daelick Cooper, great granddaughter of Mary Sarah Murray.
Mary Sarah Murray © Barbara Daelick Cooper, great granddaughter of Mary Sarah Murray.

William’s last will and testament of 1923 appointed his wife Louisa and his daughters Emily and Florence (Florrie) as his Executors. His son Henry in New York received the sum of £100 and his daughter Mary Sarah, who trained as a teacher and emigrated to Canada, the sum of £50. Joseph, who had also emigrated to Canada, was left the sum of £300. Joseph served for Canada in World War 1 with 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry, was gassed and returned to Ireland to be cared for by his parents. He worked as a milk inspector in the Moy area.

Another son, Samuel, worked as a Weights and Measures or Tax Inspector. He changed religion from Methodism to Catholism and married Margaret Gaffney from Cavan. He was cut off from the family.

After William’s death his wife Louisa took over the running of the shop and was followed by daughters Emily and Florrie. Florrie, who married name was Graham, continued on with the business until it finally closed in 1979.

 

Recreating the shop

Murray's shopfront in its original location on Killyman Street in Moy, prior to being brought to the Ulster American Folk Park, 1985. © National Museums Northern Ireland
Murray's shopfront in its original location on Killyman Street in Moy, prior to being brought to the Ulster American Folk Park, 1985. © National Museums Northern Ireland
Numbered pieces of the shopfront. © National Museums Northern Ireland
Numbered pieces of the shopfront. © National Museums Northern Ireland

Facing deterioration, Murray’s original shopfront was taken into the Ulster American Folk Park in 1985, and a copy rebuilt on the original site in Moy. Before dismantling, each piece of the shopfront was numbered, scale drawings were made and photographs taken.

The interior of the shop was recreated from information gathered from the original building in Moy, from recollections of local residents, and from trade manuals of the time.

Shop counters and shelving salvaged from another Ulster drapery shop are used to fit out the interior. Ulster American Folk Park craftspeople made precise copies of original pieces to fill in any spaces.

Image: Pat O'Donnell, Assistant Curator, and Janine Diamond, Collections Skills Initiative Northern Ireland Trainee, discuss suitable paint finishes for Murray's shop counter base units.
Pat O'Donnell, Assistant Curator, and Janine Diamond, Collections Skills Initiative Northern Ireland Trainee, discuss suitable paint finishes for Murray's shop counter base units.

Stocking the shelves

Image: Pat O'Donnell, Assistant Curator, selecting appropriate fabrics for display in the recreated Murray's shop, assisted by shopkeeper Edward. © National Museums Northern Ireland
Pat O'Donnell, Assistant Curator, selecting appropriate fabrics for display in the recreated Murray's shop, assisted by shopkeeper Edward. © National Museums Northern Ireland

Inventories, account books, local newspapers and trade manuals, even clothing from the museum collection, provided clues for stocking Murray’s shop appropriate to a business in a small town in rural Ulster.

Most original pieces of clothing and costume from the early 1900s are too fragile and vulnerable to display in a shop setting. Woollen and silk fabrics and feathers are attractive to moths, for example, and dyes can fade when exposed to light for prolonged periods.

Shopping list in hand, we found modern day suppliers of fabrics, clothing, footwear and haberdashery similar in quality and design to match our early 1900s research.

As today, shops in the early 1900s tended to have a particular flow to where the goods were placed, enticing customers to make further purchases. Following interviews with owners of the few surviving old fashioned drapers shops locally and consultation with trade manuals, we were able to work out where best to display different goods within the shop.