Blacksmiths


A blacksmith’s forge was once a familiar sight around the countryside. Billy Robson remembers a number of blacksmiths around Doagh. One of the best known was Robert Reid whose blacksmith’s shop was near the Methodist church hall. Billy is aware of quite a few old gates around the country stamped ‘R. Reid, Doagh’. Another well known blacksmith was Charlie Patterson at Burnside whose forge Leith Burgess would later buy.

In the 1950s there were still many horses at work that needed shod. Graham Andrew explained that a horseshoe might have lasted 5-6 weeks. Graham remembers that he was sent by his father to the blacksmith in Burnside to have the horse shod: ‘He just threw you up on the horse’s back and away you went down to the blacksmith, and he lifted you off it, shod the horse and threw you on again, and away you went home’. Blacksmiths also helped to adapt farm machinery from horses to tractors.

Around Toome the work of the McKees as blacksmiths was described in glowing terms by many of the interviewees. ‘There was only one place to go’, observed Frankie Dale, who acknowledged that there was hardly a farmer in that country who Jim McKee had not done some work for. Jim specialised in welding which he enjoyed for ‘you never had the same thing to do twice’. Jim’s father was also a blacksmith and Frankie calls him ‘an unbelievable man’. When it came to the time it took his father to shoe a horse Jim recalled: ‘Some of them you’d maybe get them out again in half an hour and some of them it would be an hour … and if you got a rough one it maybe took you far longer.’ The McKees had a blacksmith’s shop on the Quay Wall in Toome where the boats came in. Cahal Boyd remembered that they ‘hooped’ the cart wheels that he had made ‘with a big fire and a big steel plate’, afterwards dropping them into the Bann to cool down.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: