"He chartered a plane and came out on a day trip, he came out in the morning and left around teatime"
‘Dr McDreamy’ was so enamoured with a handknitted Irish jumper he picked up in a Dublin store that he sought out where it was made, in Inis Meáin on the Aran islands.
Dempsey went out of his way visit the idyllic isle, which is the middle sized one of the Aran islands and there to greet him were workers from the acclaimed Inis Meáin Knitwear factory, which made his prized jumper.
And Patrick (55) got a special presentation of a Michael D tea cosy from Inis Meáin Knitwear employee Anne Howard (60), who makes her own homemade line of the presidential specialities.
“Apparently Patrick had gone into Louis Copeland one of the days and bought one of the jumpers and really liked it and loved the story and the whole narrative behind Inis Meáin knitwear ,” explains Anne.
“The company has been going since the 1970s and was founded by Tarlach de Blácam and Áine Ní Chonghaile.
“Patrick just fell in love with the whole story and he is very much into kind of slow fashion and that kind of thing. Slow fashion as opposed to fast fashion, which is Penneys and so on.”
The 20-plus strong workforce were in for the surprise of their lives when they heard that the Hollywood star wanted to see first-hand the results of their handiwork.
“He came out and wanted to meet the workers,” beams Anne. “I just do a bit of hand finishing. Its nothing very taxing. I do four hours a day and then have the rest of my life and enjoy the scene.
“So, he came out and spent the whole day, he pottered around the factory. He wanted to know what everybody did and what part everybody played and then we all went outside and had all these photographs.
“He chartered a plane and came out on a day trip, he came out in the morning and left around teatime.”
Anne makes her own Michael D tea cosies, which cost €35 a pop and makes them under her label ‘Woolly Heads’.
“I gave him the tea cosy and I didn’t know if he knew what a tea cosy was,” she recalls. “ He said, ‘oh I do, I drink tea’ and he had seen the cosies in Wicklow when they had gone for a coffee or whatever. He was delighted with it.
“I explained to Patrick who Michael D was and his interest in the arts and TG4 and so on. He was quite interested.
“I asked him ‘do you want to come for a swim with us , we are going later?’. He said he would, he had the togs and all. He was brought off and they had to do a fashion shoot on the beach, so the swim was abandoned.”
Anne originally saw a Michael D tea cosy on Gogglebox and decided to make her own line.
She originally hails from Carrick-on Suir, and although most of the town in in Co Tipperary she considers herself a Waterford woman.
“We moved out to Inis Meáin about five years ago,” she explains. “ I was working in Carrick-on-Suir with the health board, I was doing youth, family and sport.
“My youngest son Calum had been doing a project on school on the Aran islands and he kind of found out that you could get a scholarship and move in with the Bean an tí (woman of the house).
“But he was only 11. I said ‘jeez, we can’t let him off’. We all took a year out just so he could come to school here, himself and his brother. We just liked it so much that we ended up staying.”
Calum (17) has now finished sixth year, while brother Tommy (19) has done his first year course in NUIG from home. Their father, Hugh Kennedy, is a farmer in Co Kilkenny and travels back and forth to see his family.
Anne also has an older daughter, Catherine, from a previous relationship. Her father died when she was 11 and she now lives in Australia with two daughters, Anne’s grandchildren.
“The two boys both went to Gaelscoileanna at home so they are fluent Irish speakers,” she notes.
“The weird thing is there are three families from Carrick-on-Suir living on Inis Meáin. There are three counties which meet there, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. I would consider myself Waterford, my husband Kilkenny, my neighbours Tipperary so we all fly different flags.”
Anne hasn’t met Michael D in person herself yet.
“He has been on the island though,” she confirms. “The first year we came out they have an island competition, whereas all the islands have a Gaelic football competition and Michael D came out to present the prizes and Sabina came out.”
She also reveals another famous person has her specialised tea cosies – U2’s The Edge.
“The Edge has one of my Michael D cosies, as well as my Sabina one,” she smiles. “ Sabina is a coffee one, as she is quite tall.
“Ned O’Hanlon, who works for U2, asked me to make them for his 60th birthday as a present.”
Anne is still smitten with Patrick and his day on the island.
“He seems very genuine, interested in people, the place and had a genuine sense of awe about the island and the people and craft, a very nice, intelligent, warm guy and very well spoken,” she exclaims.
Dempsey had a vested interest in learning about the Aran craft on Inis Meáin.
He is a business partner with KA/NOA, a slow fashion brand in the US, and has designed a collection with Bleusalt.
While in Ireland, the actor also came across designers like Hanna Hats of Donegal and Louis Copeland & Sons, where he picked up a made-to-measure suit to bring back to America.
He orginally arrived in Ireland in May to shoot Disenchanted with Amy Adams, and toured much of the country on his downtime, including Donegal, Derry, Mayo and Galway, as well as Dublin and Wicklow.