December 2, 2023

Hat’s off! Talented Kilkenny milliner’s creation is perfect fit for our First Lady


A TALENTED county Kilkenny milliner was thrilled when Ireland’s First Lady wore one of her creations while meeting the King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands last week.

Gwen Walsh, who has been a milliner for 12 years, was exhibiting her collection at the Waterford County Fair at Curraghmore House in Portlaw when she met Sabina Higgins, the wife of President Michael D Higgins, who was an honorary guest.

“I knew Sabina Higgins was invited down. I just got an idea during the week before and I asked the organiser would it be alright if I made a hat for Sabina and they said that it was a lovely idea,” Gwen, from Dunnamaggin, told

“The first picture I have on Facebook is the hat I made for her. We were chatting and it was lovely and then she turned around at our table she just said ‘Would you mind if I changed it for the pink one?’ And I said no bother. ‘Because I wear a lot of pink and that would go perfectly with the outfit I am wearing on Wednesday when I meet the King and Queen of the Netherlands.’ I said no problem whatsoever, delighted to accommodate you. That’s how it happened. I didn’t know until Wednesday morning whether she was going to wear it or not,” Gwen explained.

Mrs Higgins had chosen the pink ‘Aine’ hat from Gwen’s collection and wore it to complement her outfit at the official engagement at Áras an Uachtaráin last Wednesday. “She’s a lovely warm person,” added Gwen, who is a member of Made In Kilkenny Craft Trail.

Gwen runs her millinery business, Breathnach Designs, out of the Kells Mills Craft Centre which she opened five years ago.

“I was doing millinery and I had to find a premises to work out of, so this was ideal. It’s absolutely beautiful down here at the mill. I do the millinery upstairs and I teach classes too. Downstairs is the craft shop where all the local crafters have an opportunity to sell their products to the tourists,” Gwen explains. “And Jen’s Coffee Shop opened up in the main mill 12 months ago.”

The centre is a hive of activity during the summer with the OPW giving free tours of the nearby Kells Priory from Wednesday to Sunday. Gwen and the local crafters come together once a month to organise the Kells Mill Craft Centre Market which showcases the best of local talent.

“We have a market once a month. All the crafters come together and sell their products. And we have home baking, yoga and music. Next month we are working on a French theme, because market day falls on the 14th July which is Bastille Day, so we are asking people to go French for the day,” Gwen adds.

“The market day is a great day out. They can do the walk in the priory, they can do the market and they can go have their lunch in Jen’s and browse around the stalls for the day.”

Pop down to visit and you might see some ‘Sabina’-inspired hats or check out Kells Mill Centre on Facebook:









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