The Crochet Wedding Dress

20 Sep 2022
Ivana Safran By Ivana Safran

Just about this time last year, on August 20th and 27th 2021, we dedicated two articles to the late Sr. Teresa Margaret, the Presentation Sister credited with the revival of Mountmellick Embroidery in 1971 as we marked that 50th. Anniversary. Today, just one year later we dedicate this article to another Presentation Sister from the Mountmellick Convent, Sr. Rosarii Fennelly, who passed away August 23rd 2021 r.i.p.. Sr. Rosarii, a county Laois woman, was a very well known and well loved sister and this article refers to her skill as a gifted crochet worker. Herself and Sr. Teresa Margaret were great pals and no doubt their common love of needlework was something that united them in friendship and creativity during their long lives spent in Mountmellick.

All of this came to our attention here at the museum, late September 2021, following a chance, but fortuitous meeting between our committee chairperson Ann Dowling, Rev. Fr. Micheal Murphy P.P., and Sr. Kathleen Ryan. The topic of conversation turned to a beautiful crochet wedding dress, hand made by Sr. Rosarii for the wedding of her niece Noreen to John Garry in 1974. Noreen had stored and cared for her beautiful dress for nearly 50 years and then thought she would like to donate it in memory of her beloved aunt Sr. Rosarii.
Following a subsequent meeting in the convent with Sr. Kathleen, Ann and myself, it was decided to donate the wedding dress to Mountmellick Embroidery and Heritage Museum. This new acquisition is a valuable addition to the museum textile collection. We secured funding from The Heritage Council 2022 to source museum -  standard mounts for the Wedding Dress and also 3 other dresses in the collection. The wedding dress was installed on the mount by textile conservator Rachel Phelan recently and it was formally launched on Wednesday August 24th.
Present on the occasion were Noreen and John, with her sisters Marie and Ann, her brother Matt, sister in law Betty, Sr. Kathleen and Sr. Teresa Phelan, MDA chairperson Pat Dalton, Ann and myself. The formalities and signing of the acquisition document were followed by lunch in The Hare's Corner restaurant,  which was greatly enjoyed with tasty food and pleasant conversation, memories and stories. We appreciate Noreen's generosity it donating her beautiful dress to the museum.
The Wedding Dress is installed in the dress cabinet for all visitors to admire and hear 'the story'. The other 3 dresses are currently removed from exhibition to Rachel's Dublin studio for conservation work and to be installed on the new mounts and will be returned to the museum in due course. Continued support from The Heritage Council ensures that our textile collection can be conserved and exhibited to museum standards of best practice.
Sr. Rosarii regretfully is no longer with us, but she is fondly remembered as a colourful character, full of love, kindness and fun, who enjoyed a game of bridge or whist,  and had a great sense of humour. She organised the alter servers in St. Joseph's Church, arranged the Alter candles, flowers and decorations, and she was honoured with The Benemerenti Medal, from The Vatican, Rome in 2019 for her services, and who loved to crochet, right up to the end of her life!
Our museum and town are indebted to these two nuns who spent most of their lives in Mountmellick creating and inspiring beauty.
May they rest in peace.
Marie Walsh
Museum Committee Secretary
Crochet Wedding Dress by Sr. Rosarii, 1974
The bride Noreen in her beautiful wedding dress, 1974
Sr. Rosarii holding her Benemerenti Medal