Today, McConville’s is a working museum, hosted by Eugene and Felix McConville, whose grandfather, also called Felix, built the present mill. The linen connection, however, came from his wife, of the Mussen family, Huguenots who had arrived in Lisburn to bring their know-how to Ulster’s fast developing linen industry in the late 1600s.
Eugene and Felix will first show you how flax was scutched [isolating the fibres which will be spun into linen yarn] in ancient times. Then, after a fascinating trip to their museum, inspecting the working steam engines Eugene has reassembled, not to mention a vintage camera, comes the piece de resistance.
Felix sets in motion the mill’s great water wheel, which dates from 1875, and was beloved of Harry Ferguson, the ‘father of modern agriculture’ who grew up nearby. In the main room there is a roar as the rollers and scutching machines, the same as were used until the mill’s closure in 1955, spring into motion.
Take away this basic mechanisation and the process hasn’t changed since the Egyptians worked their flax by the banks of the Nile thousands of years ago.