Munich remembered

Harry Gregg died today

My teen years coincided with the rebuilding of one of the greatest teams seen in England, Man Utd. Manager, Matt Busby had a winning wonder team in the late 50s. However, the Munich Air Disaster robbed him of some of the era’s greatest players. Once he had recovered from his own injuries, he set about forging another side to take the world by storm.

I was hardly a fanatic Man Utd fan as my football knowledge was pretty scant but the story of the air disaster captured my interest.

The signing and debut of the superstar from Belfast, George Best with his film-star looks however made me an eventual life long fan of Man Utd. The lads bought me a match ticket and stadium tour apart of a weekend in Manchester for my 50th birthday.

The death of Harry Gregg, the Man Utd goalie of that era today caused me to reread articles of the time. This poem was written by Harry about the Busby Babes and is a particularly touching account if the disaster.

The Busby Babes

How they laughed, they loved and played the game together
Played the game and gave it every ounce of life
And the crowds they thronged to see such free young spirits
My good God, there wasn’t many who came home
Roger Byrne, Mark Jones and Salford’s Eddie Colman
Tommy Taylor, Geoffrey Bent and David Pegg
Duncan Edwards, Dublin’s own boy Liam Whelan
My good God, there wasn’t any who came home
There are those gone down that long, long road before us
But each morn we try and keep them in our sight
In memories’ eyes, the Busby Babes are all immortal
The Red Devil spirit lives and never died. (Harry Gregg)

The Aran Sweater

As the GANS rep for Feltmakers Ireland, I am often fortunate to attend really interesting talks on craft. One such was Vawn Corrigan’s presentation on the history of the Aran. However, her story’s links to my mother and aunt were what fascinated me most.

Coincidentally, my son’s visit today wearing a jumper knit by MY mam for HIS dad prompted this post.

Aran knit by Marie O’Loughlin for her son-in-law

The Aran Sweater is named after the set of islands off Irelands West coast. However this is not where it was first created.

The origin of the Aran sweater can be traced back to Guernsey, an island 400 miles South-East of the Aran Islands. Guernsey trade relied on fishing, and the clothing requirements of fisherman were quite demanding – durability, repairable, stain resistant, easy to move about in,and probably most important, warm and water proof.

The population of the Aran Islands was increasing in the early 1900s and they decided to explore ideas of how to improve their standard of living on the island. One idea was to invite Scottish fisherman to share information on their skills. They brought some Scottish ladies (probably their wives!!!) who showed the womenfolk how to knit sweaters for a living.

So the Irish ladies took the idea and made it their own and by 1935, the Irish version of the jumpers was in such demand that they came onto the Dublin markets!

By the 1950s, the USA market had opened (thanks in no small part to popularity of the traditional music group,the Clancy Brothers). The 1960s saw Marie my mother, and Josie, her sister, among the growing workforce of knitters throughout the country who were employed to meet the growing demand for jumpers and cardigans. (My mother was thrilled on a visit to Clerys to spot one of her jumpers with a quaint little tag stating: “This garment was hand knit by Marie in her little cottage in the west of Ireland.”)

Shay benefitted from the home industry when he received a jumper for his 30th birthday.

Something about Aran Stitches

The patterns on Aran sweaters are based on Irish Tradition each stitch represents a different meaning and symbolizes something of importance. Here are some of the more popular stitches.

Recent Aran History…

Generations after its creation, the Aran sweater is still going strong. The aran sweater made the list of iconic fashion pieces featured in an exhibition in Manhattans Museum of Modern Art. Chosen because of its impact on the world during the last century, it has remained popular in the entertainment industry and fashion world alike.

The National Museum of Ireland loaned one of its oldest sweaters for the exhibition, where it was placed beside other fashion elites such as the Birkin Bag, Wonderbra, a pair of Levis 501 jeans dating back to the 1940s, and an assortment of little black dresses.