by Kathleen O’Rourke
After a brief lunch of soup and sandwiches we loaded back on the bus for our tour of Triona Woolen Mills where the owners and weavers hand create Donegal Wool. During our tour we learned that they used only lambs wool and that they did all the various steps involved in weaving by hand, including the stringing of the looms which involved stretching over 1000 strings into their proper positions. We received a demonstration of weaving from one of the owners who was a fifth generation weaver.
The tour also included a bit about the various symbols in Irish commonly used in Irish jewelry; they showed us the Irish Harp which is they symbol of Ireland, not the clover as so many people think, we learned the difference between Saint Patrick’s cross, which is traditionally shown with a circle behind it, and Saint Brigit’s cross, it was traditionally made from reeds which is reflected in the design. They also showed us a variety of Claddaugh rings; they explained that the heart symbolized love, the hands friendship, and the crown symbolized loyalty. The rings ranged from simple gold to gold with real diamonds and emeralds.After our tour we were free to browse the shop and try on the various products. We quickly learned that the rings were real gold and being sold for 450 Euros at the cheapest. Even the generous 10% student discount the owners offered us wasn’t enough to bring the rings into our price range. However most students left with at least one new addition to their suitcases. From hats and scarves to the long sweaters we all left the shop a little warmer, though this warmth may have come from the complimentary Irish Coffee we were offered before we departed.