An extremely rare gold watch presented by the people of Lisburn to an American whaling captain has gone on display at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum.
A recent addition to the museum’s internationally-acclaimed collection, the watch was purchased from an American auction house.
“The watch was presented to Captain Moses Nickerson (1812-71), a native of Massachusetts, USA. He captained the Mary Edson, a ship chartered by the Lisburn-born A. T. Stewart (1803-76), one of America’s richest men,” explained Research Officer Dr Ciaran Toal.
“Stewart sent the ship, laden with supplies, to aid the people of Belfast and Lisburn in the 1860s. The American civil war had blocked shipments of cotton to Ireland, leaving the Irish weavers who depended on it for their living destitute.”
Dr Toal added: “The Cotton Famine was devastating for Lisburn; without cotton little weaving was done and entire families were left without money for food or clothing or the means to pay their rent. People were at first reduced to living on boiled cabbage or one plate of porridge a day, but soon starved. A poor harvest in 1863 made the disaster worse, as competition for work drove many farm labourers into an equally distressed state. The whole episode killed off the cotton industry in Ireland.”
Stewart was born in Lissue, Lisburn, and after emigrating he set up a department store in New York, becoming one of the United States’ wealthiest men.
The watch is displayed alongside a history of the Cotton Famine, as well as a number of recent acquisitions to the museum’s collections.
The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am - 5pm and entry is free.
For more information log on to www.lisburnmuseum.com/events/new-collections-summer-2017-exhibition