Norn Iron Tees – Wile good T-shirts so they are hi!

Omagh designer and founder of Norn Iron Tees – Rhoda McClure.

Sweet to the beat. Just got myself a new pair of gutties and they are deadly, hi. Happy days! You know what I mean like?

In case you didn’t recognise it that was some of the ‘local spake’ which has now been immortalised in T-shirt form thanks to Omagh designer Rhoda McClure and her online clothing business – Norn Iron Tees.

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The 36-year-old former Omagh Academy pupil takes everyday colloquial sayings and slogans and turns them into amusing pieces of clothing.
The concept started six years ago while Rhoda was working in England, when she heard a barman use the phrase ‘stickin out’.
This got the creative juices flowing and the designer came up with her first Norn Iron Tee.

The success of the ‘Stickin’ Out’ T-shirt – using a phrase I personally had never heard before – meant that within a period of just six months Rhoda was in a position to hand in her notice as a marketing and design manager and set up Norn Iron Tees as a full-time business. This also allowed her to move back home two years ago.

Her range soon expanded and now includes about 300 colloquialisms emblazoned over a variety of T-shirts, hoodies, aprons, bags, unisex pants and gifts for men, women and kids.

However, it was one T-shirt in particular made famous by YouTube phenomenon Barry ‘The Blender’ Henderson’ which helped catapult Norn Iron Tees into the next stratosphere.

Viewed by thousands online over the past few years, the ‘Gutties’ T-shirt helped boost the ever-expanding business.
“His (Barry’s) uncle actually bought it for him as a present and I got quite a few sales out of that with so many people seeing it on YouTube,” said Rhoda. “Over the years the Gutties T-shirt has been the most popular and that has to be as a result of Barry the Blender.”

As well as capturing long-standing phrases that have been passed down through generations, Rhoda prides herself on being innovative and responding to topical breaking stories.

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Most recently this has been evident through her latest release – ‘Fleg Wars’ in the design of Star Wars in reaction to the union flag protests.
The other is ‘Horse it inty ye’ in honour of the horsemeat in your burger and the sugar in your tea, horse her inty ye Cynthia for she’s the girl for me. Sorry I am getting a bit carried away with all this Norn Iron spake.

Looking back on her whirlwind journey in this surprising change of careers, Rhoda explained, “In 2007 I was living and working in Huddersfield after studying art and getting a degree in product design. I had a friend who ran a T-shirt business who was like my guru. I had one T-shirt design (Stickin’ Out) and was getting really good feedback. English people would come up and ask what it meant, while you also got the odd comment from Northern Irish people who knew what it was.

“I set up the website, just for a bit of a laugh really to see how it went and it all grew from there. I found that I was selling so many I could leave my job and concentrate on it full-time which was good for me as I was looking to branch out on my own.”

Continuing to build up her range, Rhoda said she is continually getting suggestions and is always open to new ideas. She said she has tried to cover as many areas of ‘Norn Ireland’ as possible.


Rhoda continued, “Customers come and tell me slogans that I have never heard before. At Christmas a guy from Dungannon told me I had to create a ‘Leg-end’ one but I had never heard that even though I’m from Tyrone. There really is different catchment area for sales as some mean more in certain towns and counties.”
While 70 per-cent of sales are at home in Northern Ireland, Rhoda said her range of T-shirts are becoming really popular with ex-pats in places like Australia and Canada.

Although she has been running the business for six years and has sold thousands of T-shirts all around the world, Rhoda said she still gets a huge buzz of excitement when she sees someone wearing one of her creations.

She said, “I walked into a pub a month or so ago and saw a guy wearing a Gutties T-shirt and it took everything I had not to run up to him and tell him where it came from.

“One of the good things about the T-shirts is that they are a talking point – if someone doesn’t know what it means, you can get chatting to them and explain it.

“If they are from here, they will automatically know why the T-shirt is funny, no matter where in the world you might happen to bump into a fellow Northern Irish person.”

Rhoda’s designs can be found at  www.nornirontees.com

Norn Iron Tees translator

Stickin Out = Brilliant.
Wee Buns = That task was easier than I though it would be.
Craic Dealer – a person who is the life and soul of the party.
Big lawd = A rotund gentleman.
Bout ye = How are you doing today?
Hallion = An outrageous soul.
Happy Days = Happy days.
Strabanistan = Strabane
Strabanimal = A native of Strabane.
Scundered = Lacking enthusiasm.
Blootered = having had a little too much to drink.
Gutties = running shoes.
Banjaxed = No longer working.
Wind yer neck in = Please alter your tone and reflect on what you have just said.
Yer ma’s yer da = ?????????
Only Sleggin = It was merely a joke.
Leg-end = someone of legendary status.
Wee Dote = a small person who is lovely.