Have you got your Balbriggans on?

 

Did you know that Balbriggan was once a byword for stockings – just like biro is for ballpoint pens? Queen Victoria wore them, as did the Czarina of Russia – and Balbriggan was so world famous for the quality of the undergarments produced there that John Wayne can be heard, in some of his westerns, to “put his balbriggans on”.

The Smyth Co factory building (above), where hosiery, from embroidered silk stockings to hardy men’s combinations, were made for nearly 200 years, finally closed its doors in the 1980s. The building now houses restaurants, shops and workshops, and is being celebrated in an art project by Martina Coyle, commissioned by Fingal County Council. Coyle has recreated, in silk, a bridge that once connected two factory buildings. She spent the winter months painstakingly hand stitching a beaded design on to the fabric, and the seams of the bridge will glow under UV light in the dark. A ghostly reminder of former glories.

Efflorescence, by Martina Coyle, will be on view from March 7th-11th at Railway Street, Balbriggan, weather permitting. For further information, see fingalarts.ie