Flax and Its Preparation in Ancient Ireland

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER XXII....continued

2. Flax and its Preparation.

The preparation of flax is described in old Irish authorities, especially in the Brehon Law, though not in such detail as that of wool. One of the names of this plant is still preserved in a great number of the European languages, the forms slightly varying, but all derived from the root lin. The Greek word is linon; Latin, linum; English, linen; A.-Sax., lin; Russ., lenû; &c. This shows that it was cultivated by the western Aryan people since before the time of their separation into the various nationalities of Europe.

The Celtic tribes who first set foot on our shores, brought a knowledge of the plant and its cultivation with them; and corresponding to all the names given above, is the Irish lin [leen], which is still the word in universal use for flax. Besides the evidence of philology, our own records show that linen was manufactured in Ireland from the earliest historic times. It was a very common article of dress, and was worked up and dyed in a great variety of forms and colours, and exported besides in large quantities to foreign nations. So that the manufacture for which Ulster is famous at the present day, is merely an energetic development of an industry whose history is lost in the twilight of antiquity.

The flax, after pulling, was tied up in sheaves and dried, after which it was put through various stages of preparation like those of the present day. After spinning, the thread was finally wound in balls ready for weaving.

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