To some, she’s simply one of Youghal’s best known florists but, to others, Kay Curtin is an authority on one of the East Cork town’s most famous traditions. Kay is one of the few people who still knows how to make Youghal needlepoint lace — and she’s fighting to keep the tradition alive.
One of a group of women who meet every week to make beautifully detailed Youghal lace collars, cuffs, and fans, Kay, a softly spoken mother of four, is passionate about her hobby, something instantly clear to anyone who pauses to look at the window of Condon’s Florists this week.
In celebration of Culture Night this Friday, Kay has filled it with photographs of the lace as well as some samples.
There’s huge interest in Youghal lace around the world, says Kay, who regularly deals with tourists from as far away as the US and Germany.
They come to the town seeking information — the lace has its own range of 100 separate stitches and is known for its hallmark shell border, recalling the town’s marine history.
It takes about three months to create a piece of lace the size of an A4 page. A small piece of it sold for £6,000 (€7,500) at auction in London recently, says Kay.
Queen Victoria’s coronation veil was made of Youghal lace and Kay has an old photograph of an intricately worked Youghal lace fan presented to Princess May by the Earl of Crewe.
Kay inherited the tradition from her mother and grand-aunt. Kay, who began making lace two decades ago, believes there’s strong tourism and export potential in the craft and feels young people could benefit from learning the trade.
About 10 years ago she set up a lacemakers’ group of about 14 women who meet every week at the local library. “We’re trying to keep it in the town. It was part of Youghal for so long, and there’s still great interest in it,” she says.
* A lacemaking demonstration will take place at Condon’s Florists on North Main St in Youghal as part of Culture Night on Friday, from 6.30pm to 9pm.
By Áilín Quinlan
Wednesday, September 19, 2012