Elizabeth Knott Graydon
This remarkable lady 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 & 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 also Italy at a cost of one hundred guineas a year. She received patronage from the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin; they awarded her twenty-five guineas for the use of promotion of the industry. Elizabeth Knott Graydon presented them with a bonnet together with a sample of the local Irish straw cost of one hundred guineas a year. During the eighteenth century she approached the Royal Dublin Society as she requested assistance for the provision of a flattening mill, also to establish a school for the Straw Bonnet industry in Dublin.
Cost of Products
This link stated that Graydon’s hats sold for between four to twenty-six shillings while the girls earned between 4d & 1 shilling for their labour: very small girls earned from six to fifteen pence per day. (see McParlan James Statistical survey of the county of Mayo 1802 National University of Maynooth Graisberry & Campbell Dublin.
Re manufacture of straw bonnets they were prepared by the removal of the ears of grain, cut into lengths, then tied into small bundles. The bundles were bleached then 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 yet it was a great example of Elizabeth’s regard to improve the local people’s circumstances.
Elizabeth Graydon has left an account of the Straw Bonnet Industry: ‘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.’
Reverend George Graydon
George was the son of George Generosus Graydon & Jane (Maxwell) & he had one sister also three brothers. When his father’s demise occurred George with his siblings were left in Sir Kildare Dixon Borrows, Bart of Gilltown’s custody. George Graydon entered Trinity College during November 1769. He graduated five years later with a B. A. Degree then conferred with an LL B during 1782. He worked in the medieval parish of St. Michael’s & All Angels on High Street, Dublin between the years 1791-1797. He was appointed vicar of Burrishoole from 1793 up to his demise. He was preberdary in two other Churches simultaneously. He was an explorer also a collector of volcanic specimens. George Graydon was elected the one hundredth 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. He also served as Secretary for Foreign Correspondence for two periods.
During 1791 George Graydon departed 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 with an igneous intrusion for Vesuvias area. His diary of travels & catalogue of specimens are now housed within the Department of Geology at Trinity College, Dublin. Considerable information re Graydon’s interests is available in the form of letters, catalogues also diaries at the Royal Irish Academy. His demise occurred during 1803.
Following her husband’s demise Elizabeth kept a record of her administration of his estate up to April 1807 when she had finalized his funeral affairs. The eleven-page document displayed that George Graydon lived a comfortable life: though he was responsible for heavy debts incurred by his brother Robert who had predeceased him by three years. As well as a personal debt of four hundred pounds 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 one thousand pounds. Elizabeth Knott Graydon was forced to sell all her belongings but was left with a shortfall of one hundred pounds & eighty-four pounds The sale of effects included: Graydon’s mineral collection that went to Trinity College for one pound, his paintings collected two pounds & seventeen shillings & nine pence, his book sales amounted to three hundred & four pounds.
Return to Dublin
Elizabeth Knott Graydon left her Mayo home at Burrishoole on 11th November 1903. By 1804 she was living at no. 14 Merrion Square. Dublin.
Wyse Patrick N. Jackson & Ezio Vaccari 1993 Volcanoes and Straw Bonnets: the Graydons of Burrishoole Cathair na Mart Journal of the Westport Historical Society. (Pages 90-101)
One may view information of survey at this link: https://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/digital-book-collection/digital-books-by-county/mayo/mayo-statistical-survey/