THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Governor and premier at Bessbrook to mark linen firm’s centenary

From the News Letter, September 17, 1945

Booklet published in the 1980s by Department of Environment (NI)
Booklet published in the 1980s by Department of Environment (NI)

One hundred years of progress in linen manufacture at Bessbrook, Co Armagh, since the coming of the Richardson family to the district was on the previous Saturday by a visit to the “model village” by the Governor of Northern Ireland, Earl Granville, and the Countess Granville for the centenary celebrations.

Their Excellencies, who thus honoured the Bessbrook Spinning Company Ltd, with which is associated the well-known firm of J N Richardson, Sons and Owden Ltd, were accompanied by their daughter, Lady Leveson-Glover, and attended by Commander Henderson, the Governor’s private secretary.

The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (Sir Basil Brooke, Bt) the Minister of Commerce (Sir Roland Nugent) and the Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons (Sir Norman Stronge, Bt) were also amongst the guests.

An old drawing of Richardson's Mill, Bessbrook

The streets of the village were decorated for the occasion, and when Earl and Countess Granville arrived at the town hall they passed under a huge welcoming flag and amid much cheering, the National Anthem was played by the Bessbrook Flute Band.

His Excellency then inspected a guard of honour provided by the British Legion, the Army Cadets, and the Women’s Voluntary Services.

The directors of the Bessbrook Spinning Company Ltd and their wives were presented to their Excellencies by Mr R H Richardson, DL, the chairman of the firm.

A luncheon was held at the town hall which was attended by some 200 guests during which Mr R H Stephens Richardson, chairman of the company, proposed a toast to the Governor and Lady Granville, stating that, “as their Excellencies move about among the Ulster people they will find a loyalty to the Throne that is second to none on the British Empire”.

Responding Lord Granville said that he was happy to think that during the first weeks of his Governorship that there had been two occasions which were “typical of Ulster”.

He said: “One was the horse show at Balmoral and the other is the centenary of a firm engaged in one of the most important industries of the province.”

He added: “It is obvious that that the firm is flourishing after a hundred years. I believe that it is a source of pride to the management and the employees that such success has been achieved.

“I wish the company and those associated with it a prosperous time during the second century.”

In proposing a toast to “the trade and prosperity of Northern Ireland”, the chairman, Mr Richardson, said: “Of Ulster’s contribution of 200,000,000 yards in textiles to Britain and her Allies during the war, my firm produced nearly 23,000,000 yards.

“In aeroplane linens alone, the firm produced in the first year 1,318,000 yards, and, through the Irish Linen Power Loom Manufacturers’ Association, more than 3,141,380 yards, making a grand total of 4,459,360 yards.”

After the luncheon in the town hall which was attended by some 200 guests, Lord and Lady Granville drove to Charlemont Square, where her Ladyship opened a new playground for children.

Accompanied by the firm’s directors, the Governor and Lady Granville and the other principal guests also paid a visit to the linen factory.