Blacksmiths and Farriers
In his poem Felix Randal the poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins, envisages the farrier at the 'random grim forge, powerful amidst peers fettling for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal'. The poem is a very fine profile of Felix Randal the farrier and it reminds many of us of our own memories of the village blacksmith.
The forge was a centre of village life in days gone by, a meeting place for the men of the surrounding townslands. According to Kevin Danagher the smith was an expert horse handler and was wise in all the ways of curing sick and injured animals. He would just as readily cauterize a wound or pull a tooth for a human client. His favourite method of removing a tooth was to attach the offending molar to the anvil by a strong cord and then to present the victim with a red hot horseshoe at close range, whereupon the sufferer drew his own tooth!
I do not know if the smiths and farriers of Cashel did any dental work but they were expert in many other ways. Paddy Hogan, who ran a very neat establishment in Boherclough St., was one of the leading farriers in County Tipperary and was in constant demand from racehorse owners. On the big double door into his establishment was proudly proclaimed in bold lettering: 'Patrick Hogan, Smith and Farrier'. He showed his skill at the Cashel Agricultural Show in 1923 when a set of his horseshoes won first prize. His daughter, Breda, has still got that set of shoes.
Another establishment was behind Mattie Dunne's in Canopy St. It was owned by Mikey Ryan who was a noted all-round man at his trade. His helper was Mikey Gayson. Another Ryan had a forge behind Mrs. Mai Walsh's bungalow on Main St. Jimmy Lawrence recalls watching the work in progress on his way home from school.
A little further down Main Street, where the Cashel Co-Operative store stands at present, a Mr. Ashwell had his establishment. He was an expert on agricultural machinery breakages and welding was his speciality.
A brother of Jim Sheridan the N.T. in Dualla, had a forge where Jinimy Lawrence has his garage today in William Street. In fact the remains of the forge can still be seen. He came from Ballinahinch and had a forge in Ballytarsna also. He died young.
Peter O'Sullivan had a forge in Sullivan's Lane, off Friar Street. He was a great little smith and used to go to Dargan's for a pint in his apron after shoeing a horse.
Where are they all gone now? Not one of them remains. Of course there were many more horses around them. Fr. Ryan used to keep a horse. Murphy of Hillhouse always kept a few hunters. Christy 0'Connor, a stableboy was killed at Lowergate. Miss Corby kept two horses. There were a load of jarvey horses. Suttons had horses drawing coal from the Railway station. Lar Ryan (Andy) kept horses in Ladyswell for bringing mail to and from Gouldscross.
A whole way of life has passed away. To quote again from Kevin Danaher on the role of the blacksmith in society that he made the tools for every tradesman, and to crown all, he also made the tools for his own trade. He made the tailor's needle and the sailor's anchor, the shepherd's crook and the forester's axe, the carpenter's saw and the thatcher's knife. Spades, pitchforks and scythes, nails, hinges and locks, handsome gates and ·fireirons, griddles and brands, buckles for the harness maker, bands for the cooper, the weaver's lamp and the fisherman's gaff. If a housewife broke a fine willow-pattern dish, the smith drilled holes in it and put it together again with stitches of iron wire. When the miller wanted a pivot for the great millstone, the smith made that and when a little boy wanted a spear for his top, the smith made that too. There was no craftsman more busy, none more versatile, none more respected.
Post Advertiser, April 18, 1986, Vol 1 No 18