Basket Making in the Suir Vally

The ancient craft of Basket making or Willow craft was being carried out in the Suir Valley for many generations.But unfortunatly the craft is dying out because there is very little use for baskets except for decoration .In this project I will look at

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For this project I have talked with my Grandfather,who worked with a family of Willow Craftsmen. When he was a young man.He has told me most of what he knows about the craft and he has shown me what baskets are made from and where the willows grow and how they are cut and saved:

Reeds growing near Mullinahone for cultivation

Steps in making baskets

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Using a Bodkin to splice the sally

Base firmly woven

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Patsy Cahill master basketmaker

There are many different types of willow and the ones which grow in the Suir Valley are known by their local names as

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Stages in saving sallys. After cutting sallys are stacked and stored in standing position. Before being used they must be soaked in water to make them pliable. Sallys may also be different colours.

Willows are cut when the branches are young and flexible,these are the best for making baskets because they are easy to work with for weaving. The young Willow Branches were cut and gathered into bundles.These bundles were tied with a very thin Sally branch,which was called a ‘gad’.The bundles were gatherd in one place on the river bank close to where they were cut.When there was a big enough load was gathered a barge type boat would come along and collect them and bring them up the river to Carrick - On - Suir to the people who made the baskets.

Who made the baskets ?

The best known willow craftsmen in the Suir Vally were the Shannahan family from Carrick - On - Suir Co. Tipperary. The Shannahans operated from there premises in Chapel street where they trained and employed many local people in the craft of Basketmaking . Another Willow craftman in Carrick - on - Suir was Mr Thomas Weston who had a business in Carrick - Beg .According to my Grandfather Mr Weston cycled each Saturday from Carrick - on - Suir to Waterford with baskets piled high on the front and back of his bicycle and sold them to the shopkeepers in Waterford..This was during the years of the second world war 1939 - 1945 when there was no such thing as boxes or cardboard so baskets were used for many purposes. The Shannahans were probaly the most famous Willow Craftsmen they made many different types of baskets and different types of ‘wicker furniture’.

Laura, Kate and Leisha

How baskets were made ?

When the Sallys were brought to the Shannahans work shop they were selected into diferent sizes and quality that would be used for.For example sallys that were used for making cran baskets [for measuring fish] need not be the same quality for making furniture the basket that were used for rough work did not need to have bark removed and these were often made out of Green Sallys [ with sap still in the wood] the best Sallys were the ones which were cut between October and March when the sap was not in the wood.This was also good for the stock of Sallys because when the spring would come the new years growth would grow from the old stock. Sallys that were used for furniture were first soaked in boiling water.This made the skin peel off very easily and it also made the sally cane very tough and strong these canes were woven to make wicker chair and babys cribs and other decoraitve and useful pieces of furniture.

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Variety of craft

This project is by Kevin Jones 5th class 1999.
Added to Jan 9 2001

by Niall, Darren, Kate, Cathy, Laura, Leisha