Blacksmith and blacksmithing
Posted in : Uncategorised on by : Brendan Walsh Comments: 2
I am well aware that in advertising it is not political correct to critiques the opposition. However,when as a blacksmith, I read terms such as ‘wrought iron’ and ‘hand made’ used thoughtlessly while advertising metal work I feel the need to make it more clear to the reader the difference .
The vast number of gates and railings offered for sale today are not ‘wrought iron hand made’. The material generally used is black steel (wrought iron is no longer made commercially) and the ornamental pieces for the most part are ‘cast black steel’ and bought at the suppliers. Perhaps a more accurate definition would be ‘Cast assembled steel’ or ‘fabricated’. The visual effect of these items is good. I am not making a criticism on the structures themselves, I am defending the work of the blacksmith of which there are very little, if any comparison.
I must also say that there are trade men and women who are working in both methods and very successful. May I again emphasis I am neutral in regards method and material; my main concern is to help secure the Irish Blacksmith (and blacksmith every where) identity into the future.
The origin of Irish Blacksmith:
From ancient times up to the 1950s blacksmiths were active in every town and village in Ireland. For practical reasons the blacksmith held an important position in society.The first priority was shoeing the horse, as the economy depended totally on the horse and cart. In tandem with the wheelwright (another dead craft) the smith made the iron strap that secured the wheels for the many horse drawn trams, traps and coach’s and many other horse drawn vehicles. By using some imagination one can visualised the world that the smith inhabited.
Despite the respect and influences smiths would have surely demanded, it seems that they remained somehow detached and apolitical. Perhaps the interplay of fire, air and clay (iron been a extract of the earth) seen as the essence of life by the Philosophers at the time, somehow implied an otherness or spiritual about the forge. For what
ever reason, the myth grew around the blacksmith. The recorded facts were that the blacksmith was a strong independent man and a man of principle.
In 1798 the Irish people rebelled against oppression and many of the blacksmiths were involved in the rebellion. The blacksmith which I am personally familiar with is ‘The Blacksmith From Curreha. I was the artist commission in 1998 to create a statue at Curraha in Co. Meath in commemoration of the part played by the blacksmith.
The story was kept alive by a well known poet, a school teacher from Co. Cork called Archer. This is an extract from this poem “The Blacksmith from Curraha”
“But 98’ dark season came and Irish hearts were sore.
The pitch cap and triangle the patient folk outwore.
The blacksmith though of Ireland and found he’d work to do
I’ll forge some steel for freedom says Paud O’Donahue.”