Irish Horn Rosaries

9 Mar

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When we think of Irish rosaries, our thoughts often turn to those made of Connemara marble or those with Celtic crucifixes. The Irish Horn Rosary, however, is perhaps the most symbolic of Ireland because it represents the hard work of the people of Dublin.

In 1927, the Mitchell Rosary Factory opened in Dublin and began production of rosaries made of horn, a material derived from naturally shed antlers of deer and goats. While many celebrated the creation of new jobs, there was also a cost to the city. The horn was boiled in large vats to soften it for bead making. The smell of boiling horn was extremely strong and annoyed many residents. Young girls working in the factory covered their hair with nets in the hopes of keeping the smell from clinging. There were many objections to the smell and the Mitchell Rosary Factory stopped making horn rosaries circa 1960.

In his memoir, It’s a Long Way from Penny Apples, Bill Cullen discussed his family’s work with the Mitchell Rosary Factory. In addition to the many full-time factory workers, others who lived in Dublin picked up supplies and then strung beads at home. They were paid by the decade.

Irish horn rosaries usually have a heart-shaped center and a horn crucifix with a white corpus.

To learn more about antique and unusual rosaries, read our new book, The Rosary Collector’s Guide, available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, the Catholic Faith Store, and other booksellers.

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