Photograph kindly donated by Ordette Webster
My grandfather, Joseph WEBB (1898 - 1985) was a ropemaker of Dungannon. Situated in Geraighty's Lane, Union Place, the business first began in 1880 after Mr James McKINLEY obtained permission from the Earl of Ranfurly to clear the 120 yard laneway of rubbish. Joseph WEBB began work there around 1913 and was rewarded for his loyalty when, about 1947, the business was passed on to him.
Since the days of the Pharaohs, the principle of rope making had not changed much. Power was derived from the spinning of a large wheel from which rope belts were attached to small hooked spindles. My grandmother, Lizzie WEBB nee CROSS (1898 - 1973) or uncles (Noel or Joey) would spin the wheel, making sure the spindles were revolving at an even rate so that Joseph, who payed out the yarn strapped round his waist, could walk backwards at a slow pace, evenly liberating the fibre. At a hand signal, at the end of the laneway, the wheel was stopped.
Preparation was done on wet days when bales of linen yarn were opened & hackled through 10 inch steel pins. The bunches were tied in streaks which were tied around the spinner's waist.
The yarn was first spun into twine & by twisting multiples of three strands, all classes of ropes were turned out. After spinning, the ropes and twines were treated with water to smooth the strands & give a clean finish.
The wheels are now on display at The Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh