Though known as Galway Shawl (Seál na Gaillimhe in Irish) these heavy garments, worn by the women all over Ireland, were actually designed and manufactured in Paisley, Scotland. They were then shipped to the Galway Woollen Mills that added the fringe (scóga).
The pattern of the shawl and the way to have it on often identified the woman wearing it and her status: these items were expensive and therefore inherited or acquired by the bride-to-be. The women reserved them for special occasions and for Sunday Mass.
The shawls were square and worn folded over. The colours were those of natural wool, the tan being the most common, but the pattern of the decorations, as said, often was nearly unique.
Underneath this "good" garment, the women usually wore a lighter everyday shawl, which was generally hand-knit or crocheted
The Galway Shawl
In 1952 the film "The Quiet Man
" made the Galway shawl very popular. In this movie, Maureen O'Hara wears it in the scene of her talking to Micheleen, the matchmaker. This eye-catching garment was so charming that Maureen kept the shawl for herself after filming the movie.
has given the name to a romantic, old Irish ballad whose first lyrics are as follow:
At Oranmore in the county Galway
One pleasant evening in the month's of May
I spied a damsel; she was young and handsome
Her beauty fairly took my breath away
She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And 'round her shoulders was the Galway shawl
Today these shawls are very rare, some of them are exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland-Country Life in Castlebar or jealously treasured in private collections by the families in the Gaeltacht. Some gorgeous examples are on display at Tigh Plunkett Pub in Sconce - Lettermore.