These new Derry Girls GAA-style jerseys are so popular they have saved one of Derry’s last-surviving shirt factories.
O’Neill’s Sportswear has released five colorful Derry Girls jerseys, featuring images and quotes from the hit show. A yellow and green jersey features Sister Michael with her legendary eye roll, and the quote “Sweet Suffering Jehovah,” while another has an image of the girls (and the wee English fella) and the words “Derry Hurls.” All of the jerseys are stamped with the Our Lady Immaculate College crest.
Journalist Mark McFadden reports that “Derry used to be the shirt-making capital of the world. At one time it had 44 shirt manufacturers. A few weeks ago it seemed like the city’s last surviving shirt factory would close - until it was saved with a little help from the #DerryGirls.”
Back in May 2019, Smyth & Gibson announced the closure of their Derry factory with the loss of 34 manufacturing jobs. The company was one of the last traditional hand-made shirt firms in Ireland and the UK, which had been in business for more than 25 years.
On hearing of the closure, however, sportswear giant O'Neills, who hire over 900 people on the island of Ireland, immediately took on 20 workers who were facing redundancy.
The initial plan was to add the staff to the 700-strong workforce at the sportswear company’s state-of-the-art manufacturing headquarters in Strabane before O'Neills took the decision to help preserve the last remnants of Derry’s centuries-old shirt-making tradition by breathing new life into the beautifully restored former railway station building at Victoria Road.
Derry used to be the shirt-making capital of the world. At one time it had 44 shirt manufacturers. A few weeks ago it seemed like the city's last surviving shirt factory would close - until it was saved with a little help from the #DerryGirls. @UTVNews @nicolacoughlan pic.twitter.com/vlW5X5GH7V— Mark McFadden (@MarkMcFadden) August 21, 2019
And now, the staff are working in the all-new "Derry Girls" range "keeping stitching alive in the city which was once Europe’s shirt manufacturing capital, employing thousands of mainly female workers."
“It has been an exciting time for our business growth in the North West. We re-opened the factory in June re-employing 20 of the existing staff and we are now launching our ‘Derry Girls’ jerseys also made in the city," said Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Ltd.
"In addition to the opening of our O’Neills sports superstore in Waterloo Place last year, this investment demonstrates our continued commitment to employment in the North West. We hope fans of the TV series will enjoy wearing the new jerseys as much as we have delighted in seeing them develop from design stage to the vibrant garments which are now proudly on display in our Derry, Strabane and Magherafelt superstores.”
"The jerseys look brilliant! They are lovely vibrant colours, I can't see them not flying off the shelves," said Zoe Carlin, one of the former Smyth & Gibson workers now employed by O’Neills, who is proud to see the four generations of shirt-making in her family connected with the biggest TV show of the decade.
"My granny was born in Newcastle in England and when her parents passed away she moved here with an aunt and uncle who worked in factories so that's where she started too, then my mum and then me.
“I started when I was 17 but a few years ago I was made redundant and by that time there weren't that many factories around so I worked in a call centre, but I got made redundant again. Then I worked in a fast-food outlet before a friend from my factory days asked me would I come into Smyth & Gibson, so I went back to the shirt making but got made redundant for a third time after I'd been there for seven years.
"O'Neills came in very recently and got the factory going again. We started working on a few sports jerseys and then moved onto the ‘Derry Girls’ jerseys.”
The jerseys range from €35.00 for kid sizes to €50.00 for adult sizes. You can buy your own Derry Girls jersey from www.ONeills.com