Article by M. Walsh

29 May 2020
Admin Manager By Admin Manager

Needlework Samplers

The word ' sampler ' comes from the Latin ' exemplum ', meaning example. Many think of samplers as decorative items, however their original purpose was practical - used to learn and record stitches and patterns. Commonly cotton and silk thread on linen, they were kept rolled up in a work basket to be referenced when a stitcher wanted to create bed hangings, curtains, or anything requiring embroidery. The earliest known English sampler is housed in the V&A museum and dated 1598. By the mid 18th century samplers had become a way of displaying skills; this is when they began to be framed and hung on walls, and by the 19th century had become educational tools used to demonstrate sewing skills. There are some priceless collections in the UK., and those with great provenance command great value. 

(above article from Antiques Journal, Period Living magazine, March 2020.)

In our museum we exhibit two samplers, one with a very detailed provenance.

It is of a rare map of Europe, embroidered in 1805 by Hannah Davis of Enniscorthy. This sampler was given by Hannah to her niece, Margaret (Davis) Beale who was married to Joseph Beale of Mountmellick.

Following the famine and the failure of Joseph's mills, he left Ireland in 1852 with his two eldest sons for Australia. He was followed two years later by Margaret and the rest of the children on the Steam Ship 'Eagle' 1854.

In 2014 Margaret's great great granddaughter, Bronwyn Mutton, from Capel, near Bunbury, approximately 200k south of Perth, donated the sampler to our Museum, and was received from her in person by me, as I was visiting Perth in March of that year.

We have the details of all the family history, and the remarkable journey of this 215-yr. old (in 2020) treasure to relate to all our museum visitors. We assured Bronwyn that it will now survive by being exhibited and preserved for the future generations of both locals and visitors alike, to view, appreciate and learn its story ,to which Bronwyn replied,'' the Sampler is a very small package of outstanding work, hope it now gets more of the recognition and admiration it deserves.''

We were looking forward to welcoming Bronwyn and two cousins to Mountmellick on 29th. May 2020, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they have sadly cancelled their trip. She did visit us in 2007 with her aunt Margaret and was so looking forward to her return visit. Hopefully it may work out in the future, and in the meantime, we send her and all our museum friends in Australia, our best regards and best wishes for good health during these uncertain times.

We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the museum and relating all our 'stories' in the near future.

Marie Walsh.