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End of era for Aran ‘saviour’


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

End of era for Aran ‘saviour’ End of era for Aran ‘saviour’

One of the saviours of the world-renowned Aran sweater is to shut up shop after 86 years.

Anne and Ger Ó Máille are to retire from Ó Máille’s on High Street at the end of the month after a lifetime of selling handknitted garments and premium Irish made clothes and crafts to hordes of tourists and domestic visitors.

They are also one of the last stalwarts of family-run businesses in the heart of the city.

Billed as the ‘original house of style’, Ó Máille’s has nurtured a cottage industry of knitters from Connemara, west Clare and north Mayo, with as many as 170 creating items for the shop from the unique Aran stiches passed down through the generations.

That number is down to just 25 after the pandemic, women mainly from north of Belmullet, who still knit in the original style to order from oiled, unbleached homespun wool the shop buys in from Donegal Yarns and Kerry Woolen Mills.

“When these ladies go, it will be the last of a great artform. Their daughters have refused to learn, I’ve begged them to at least learn it so the knowledge of the old knitters isn’t lost forever. But I’ve lost that battle,” sighs Anne.

It is the only element of retiring that irks her after 50 years in the business. The native of Loughrea was studying history in UCG when she met Ger from Salthill.

Ger’s family opened on Dominick Street in 1938 as tailors and seamstresses, using a very large collection of hand-woven tweed sourced from Donegal.

Back then the women of Connemara would sell handknitted socks in the Galway market. Some complained to his uncle Pádraig Ó Máille that their feet would be wet after a day on the stalls. He agreed to buy some to sell in the shop.

After they flew out the door, he told them they no longer needed to get wet and he would instead sell their wares in the shop, sparking a long, fruitful relationship.

Their reputation attracted the attention of Hollywood in 1951, as Anne proudly explains.

“Auntie Sis or Máire Ni Mháille made all of Maureen O’Hara’s outfits for the Quiet Man.  She was transported to Ashford Castle by Rolls Royce, where the main filming took place, to do all the fittings for Maureen O’Hara. Some of our tailors — Paddy O’Connor and John Small — made clothes for the other members of the cast.  John Small made a waistcoat for John Wayne.

Pictured: Ger and Anne Ó’Máille: closing down. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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