After some research recently we discovered the history behind The Country Shop opened in Dublin in 1930 not too far away from us in Stephen’s Green Dublin 2.
A very remarkable woman called Dr. Muriel Gahan who was born in County Donegal in 1897. At the age of 29 Dr. Gahan moved to Dublin where she joined the Society of United Irishwomen in 1929 founding the Country Workers Ltd.
Dublin had been through some turbulent times in the 1920’s with the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, it was a wonderful time for women coming together to establish societies such as the United Irishwomen.
Her major contribution to the world of craft came in 1930 when she opened the Country Shop in a basement of a house on Stephen’s Green, with a coffee shop and restaurant on the upper floors it became a place to be in Dublin to meet and shop especially for women of the time.
This was the first time Aran sweaters went on sale in Dublin from 1930 onwards.
Dr. Gahan would visit the Aran islands and other rural areas meet the knitters personally and began buying from them directly and selling in the Country Shop.
Dr. Gahan’s inspiration for such a shop was the realisation of the lack of respect for craft workers and their need for a retail outlet for their products. Giving women in the cottage industry of knitting an outlet to sell their goods.
In 1935 she launched the Irish Homespun Society in an effort to preserve some of the country’s homespun traditions. Exhibitions where held at the annual Dublin Spring Show. She was a founder-member of the Irish Arts Council, vice-president of the Royal Dublin Society and received an honorary doctorate by UCD in 1978.
A bursary in her honor is still awarded every year at the national crafts show.
We really have a lot to thank for Dr. Gahan, her vision for the future, her respect for Irish crafts, and fairness and equality for those craft workers.
We’d like to think we continue some of her traditions in the Donegal Shop today. Eighty years later, we focus on the homespun wool and hand knitted products, ensuring the knitters get the respect they deserve for the work involved.