Founded by Mother Arsenius (Agnes Morrogh Bernard) of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Foxford Woollen Mills have been in operation for over a hundred years and played a key part in local Mayo history during that time. The founding of the Mill (1891) as well as the nearby Foxford Music School (1923) have both been profiled in recent months, detailing the contributions of the Religious Sisters of Charity to the area. A footnote in history also links the Mill to the early years of the Irish Free State and the end of the Civil War.
In July 1922, while the Mills were still under the watchful eye of Mother Arsenius, a specially commissioned Foxford blanket was presented to General Michael Collins, the newly-appointed commander-in-chief of the Irish army. Mother Arsenius had a particular reason for sending the gift to Collins. Expansion plans for the Mills and the building of a new chapel on the convent grounds had been obstructed by civil and religious authorities but following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, clearance was swiftly granted and building works quickly progressed. One of Michael Collins’ key priorities for the State was to revitalise Ireland’s underdeveloped industrial base and Mother Arsenius credited his involvement for the Foxford expansion approval.
A month later, the blanket was still in Collins’ possession during the ambush and his subsequent assassination at Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork. Foxford Woollen Mills were closed on Monday, August 28th, 1922 to mark his death. Nurse Nora O’Donoghue recovered the blanket at Shanakiel Hospital and while it was eventually donated to the National Museum. Unfortunately it has since disappeared.
Last year, a function marked the 100th anniversary of the presentation of the blanket in Foxford Woollen Mill. In conjunction with the Michael Collins House, Co. Cork, the Mills reproduced the olive, gold and white blanket and presented it to Nora Owen, a grandniece of Michael Collins.