Elizabeth Knott Graydon
This remarkable woman created an interesting Industry in the Newport area that relieved the poverty of stricken citizens during the late 1700’s.
Little is known of Elizabeth Knott from Dublin until she married Reverend George Graydon at Newmarket in Co. Cork on 16th May 1795. They spent time at Wilford Lodge (originally a residence of the landowners O’ Donnell family) about five miles from the town of Newport, Co. Mayo between 1795 and 1803.
During late 1797 Elizabeth Graydon set up a Straw Bonnet Industry in the Newport area that gave employment to over two hundred children. At that time straw bonnets were imported from England and Italy at a cost of 100 Guineas a year. She received Patronage from the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin they awarded her 25 guineas for the use of promotion of the industry. Elizabeth presented them with a bonnet together with a sample of the local Irish straw cost of 100 Guineas a year. During 1800 Elizabeth approached the Royal Dublin Society requesting assistance for the provision of a flattening mill, also to establish a school for the straw bonnet industry in Dublin. [i] Her hats sold for between 4 to 26 shillings while the girls earned between 4d and 1 shilling for their labour while very small girls earn from six to fifteen pence per day. [ii] The manufacture of straw bonnets; prepared by removing the ears of grain, cutting it into lengths, and then tying them into small bundles. The bundles were bleached and dried using machines specially produced for this purpose. The straw was then made up into plaits. It is not known how large an operation the bonnet industry grew to be but it was a great example of Elizabeth’s regard to improve the local people’s circumstances. Graydon has left an account of the Straw Bonnet Industry’s “Initial attempts to establish the industry were greeted with scorn and contempt, but soon it was regarded by all in the area to be of great importance, and a number of schools were set up in Mayo recognized by persons taught by Graydon’s.” also that ”the improvement which had followed in the cleanliness and even neatness of the persons, clothes, dwellings of these working children, forms are proof as striking as it must be pleasing, of the beneficial tendency of this little manufacture.” [iii]
Reverend George Graydon
George was the son of George Generosus Graydon and Jane (Maxwell). He had one sister also three brothers. When his father died, George and siblings were left in the custody of Sir Kildare Dixon Borrows, Bart of Gilltown. George Graydon entered Trinity College in November 1769 he graduated five years later with a .B. A. Degree, was conferred with an LL B during 1782. He worked in the medieval parish of St. Michael’s and All Angels on High Street, Dublin between the years 1791 – 1797. He was Vicar of Burrishoole from 1793 up to his demise also he was Preberdary in two other churches simultaneously. He was an Explorer plus a Collector of Volcanic Specimens. Graydon was elected the 100th member of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, (the Society for promotion of Arts, Polite Literature and Science.) He served on the council of that learned body, also served as secretary for foreign correspondence for two periods. [iv]
During 1791 he left for Italy to observe at first hand the features of the Volcanic Terrain. He collected rock samples from Vesuvias. On his return to Ireland Graydon donated large collections of lavas, other rocks also fossils to the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. He published two Papers on the subject of Fossil fish and an igneous intrusion for Vesuvias area. Graydon’s diary of travels and Catalogue of Specimens are now housed within the Dept. of Geology at Trinity College, Dublin. Considerable information re Graydon’s interests is available in the form of letters catalogues and diaries at the Royal Irish Academy.[v]
When her husband George died during 1803 Elizabeth kept a record of her administration of his Estate up to April 1807 when she had finalized his funeral affairs. The 11 page document shows that George lived a comfortable life he was responsible for heavy debts incurred by his brother Robert who had predeceased him by three years. As well as the debt of 400 pounds himself he had acted as joint security for his brother’s debt (he paid these off by arranging a loan with his friend William Borrow) he took out a life insurance policy for 1,000 pounds. Elizabeth was forced to sell all her belongings but was left with a shortfall of 184 hundred pounds. The sale of effects; were Graydon’s Mineral Collection went to Trinity College for one pound, his paintings collected two pounds plus seventeen shillings and nine pence, his book sales amounted to three hundred and four pounds. Elizabeth Knott Graydon left her home at Burrishoole on 11th November 1903. By 1804 she was living at no.14 Merrion Square. Dublin. [vi]
[i] Patrick N. Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari (1993) Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole. Cathair na Mart, Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 13, Pages 90-101.
[ii] National University Of Maynooth, McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Mayo. Dublin: Printed by Graisberry and Campbell, 1802. 630.94173 McP S
[iii] Patrick N. Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari (1993) Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole. Cathair na Mart, Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 13, Pages 90-101.
[iv]Patrick N. Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari (1993) Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole. Cathair na Mart, Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 13, Pages 90-101.
[v] Patrick N. Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari (1993) Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole. Cathair na Mart, Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 13, Pages 90-101.
[vi] Patrick N. Wyse Jackson and Ezio Vaccari (1993) Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole. Cathair na Mart, Journal of the Westport Historical Society No. 13, Pages 90-101.