1908 - Postcard from the Ballymaclinton Irish ‘village’ at the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition in London

Fake villages were regular attractions at fairs and exhibitions throughout Europe and North America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the most elaborate in an Irish context was staged at the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition in White City, London. Called Ballymaclinton it was erected at a cost of £30,000 by McClinton’s Soap of County Tyrone and ran for the entire six months of this major commercial fair. For the entry fee of sixpence, visitors could explore several dozen full-sized ‘Irish’ buildings – variations on the thatched cottage with examples of cottage industry performed inside – as well as replicas of Blarney Castle, complete with Blarney Stone, the St. Laurence Gate in Drogheda, an art gallery, a round rower, a Celtic cross and a reconstruction of the ancestral cottage of former United States president William McKinley. The village was populated by ‘colleens’ – some 250 women lived and worked there – and a fully operative Post Office sold souvenir postcards extolling the complexion-whitening power of McClinton’s soap.

Further reading:
Stephanie Rains, “The Ideal Home (Rule) Exhibition”, Field Day Review 7, 2011
Shamina Ahktar “The Irish Village of Ballymaclinton”

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