Derry is renowned for its historic shirt factories that functioned from the late 19th century with over 30 factories by 1903 and 7,000 women and girls in employment. Derry was a world leader in shirt manufacturing supplying the UK, countries throughout Europe and other British colonies. The assembly line approach to shirt making was dominated by the year 1900, with each worker specialising in a particular area of production. A shirt was now produced on average every two minutes. During this process, one shirt had journeyed through a total of eight workers with one collar alone requiring the skills of six workers. At the peak of shirt production in the City, in 1926 the city had 44 shirt factories employing some 8,000 of the 45,000 population. The industry provided predominantly female employment, holding a special place with the Derry people, most locals had a family member that had worked their days in the factories, many had several aunts and grandmothers on the production line.
There were three main shirt factories in Derry, The Star Factory which have been converted into modern day apartment complex, The Rosemount Factory which has been commercialised in recent years and also the famous Tillie & Henderson Factory which was once the largest shirt factory in the world with 19,000 square feet of factory space. These colossal sized 6 floored, red-bricked buildings dominated the landscape of the west bank that runs along the River Foyle.
This year, on the 22nd of August 2019, we seen a beautiful memorial dedicated to the Factory Girls of Derry that was designed by Joe Campbell and the UV Arts team which is currently displayed in the Craft Village within Derry’s iconic City Walls which is a must-see when coming to Derry. This is such a beautiful piece of art dedicated to the women of Derry that is reflecting on the heritage of the local people and capturing the true essence of how far Derry has come.
By Alex McCluskey