Friday, June 27, 2008

Foxford Woollen Mills

There are two things I get asked after I've been on a trip to Mayo. Firstly, did you climb Croagh Patrick and secondly have you been to the Foxford Woolen Mills? So, the weather being too bad for a climb (thankfully), I decided to try and finally make it to Foxford.

It's a pleasant enough drive from Westport to Foxford, not too many tourists on the road. I stopped off in Straide, at the Museum of Michael Davitt. I didnt bother going in, just took a photo of the sculpture (by the wonderful artist Rory Breslin). Do you remember years ago, before we had any technology, we used to scoff at the Japanese who just went round taking hundreds of photos's. They were way ahead of us...

It was raining so hard by the time I got to Foxford it was hard enough to see the directions to the Mill. I don't know why, but I had this romantic notion that the Mills would be set in a beautiful, well, old Mill, with waterwheel and everything. Instead, the car park was opposite some 'new holiday apartments', and the Mills looked more like a glorified Barn. But, I thought, that's progress for you, and walked on dying to finally feel up some real Foxford Rugs and take the tour to see the few remaining Irish weavers.

Once inside the 'Mills', It looked just like any other Tescos tourist shops. The same toys, perfumes, postcards, tea-towels, with a mix of hats and jumpers. Having worked in touristy shops for some years I don't know why I thought it would be any different. In towards the back of the shop were shelves of Foxford Rugs, interspersed with rather useless 'Lifestyle' bits and bobs, that colour-coordinate with the rugs. I felt one or two of the blankets and didn't feel that impressed. Upstairs was more lifestyley stuff, the same as any upmarkety shop. Handy expensive kitchen and bedroom stuff. I suppose to give it credit it was more Marks and Sparks than Tesco's.

I though what made Foxford Woolen Mills special was the rugs, the tours, real-life weavers, etc. There were no signs anywhere mentioning the tours, when, how long, how much, so I stopped a very young looking assistant, who directed me to the till. The woman behind the till, barely looking up said, "every 20 mins, and there's no weavers here on weekend, only the audio-visual show. Do you want to pay now?" What!!??

Well, that blew me. I know its the weekend, but its tourist season, they could rotate days. Jeez, when I worked as a weaver in a touristy place, every day was the same as another, the season was short enough. So, I declined to see the audio-visual, and judging by how many people were hanging around, so did everyone else. But at the back of my mind, a little voice was telling me to buy one of the blankets in the discount pile. You never know how long the Mills will be around for, so I grabbed one, and ran to the till before my sensible skint side had time to stop me. That was my trip to Foxford Woollen Mills, I'm sorry to say, I wasn't too impressed. Maybe next time.

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