Nicolas Grimshaw, ‘Father of the Belfast Cotton Industry’.
On 11 November, 1778, Grimshaw received the thanks of the Belfast Charitable Society, who were directors of the local poorhouse. This was because he had given the poorhouse a machine for carding cotton by hand, and also a spinning wheel. For the six months previous to the thank you note, some of the children had been employed in making cotton yarn by hand.
Six months after the thank you note, the Society considered a proposal made by Robert Joy and Thomas McCabe, two members of their committee. The proposal was that the manufacture of cotton in the poorhouse should be begun on a large scale. These two would provide the machinery, and they agreed to pay a fixed sum for each spun hank of cotton yarn (the labour and use of premises being provided by the Society). The Society would get the revenue it badly needed, and the children would be trained in a skill that would help them find employment as adults. The plan was approved, and carried out. Its success was such that within ten years, nearly 14,000 people were employed in cotton manufacturing within a fifteen mile radius of Belfast (though we know that didn’t last…).