24 June 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Footsteps by Brian Deery

For a town and county the size of Monaghan, to host three important festivals over the one week/weekend is an event in itself. This week/weekend we welcome the Blacksmithing Festival, the Biking Festival and the Busking Festival. Although all three come together at the end of June/beginning of July they will no doubt, experience the welcome and the hospitality that the Monaghan people have to offer and go away with the desire to return to our beautiful and diverse county in the years to come. In a short article such as this it would be impossible to do justice to all the intricacies of organisation, preparation and structuring of the events mentioned but, as they all come together on the same number of days, this writer thought it would be completely out of place to mention one without including all. For this reason mention will have to be confined while all are wished a pleasant stay within our county boundaries.
“Under the spreading chesnut tree
The village smithy stands”
While ‘smithy’ was the word used in England, the common usage was ‘the forge’ in Ireland. Although both words are of the same genre ‘smithy’ never became a common expression in our country.
This writer’s first experience of ‘the forge’ came when still a pre-teen individual. Our ploughman at the time was a person called John Wee John, Doogary, Tydavnet, North Monaghan. One day I was asked if I would accompany him to the forge of Jimmy Connolly, Tirnaskea, in the same area.
To step into a forge for the first time in a young life was an experience never to be forgotten.
The first memory was the blacksmith’s fire and the redness of the coals thereon. Looking at the smith himself I came to the conclusion where ‘black’ came into the name but Sunday morning always proved my theory wrong. The huge bellows for blowing the fire into heat was the second memory. Jimmy used a short rope to manage the bellows. I had seen many smaller versions of bellows at hearthfires but the enormity of the blacksmith’s bellows is a lasting memory.
The removal of the ‘old shoes off the horse’ and the construction of the replacements would take a full ‘Footsteps’ to describe properly and may require a further visit. The anvil for shaping the new shoes came into play. The red hot iron, the hammer and the anvil, the boring of holes for the horse shoe nails and the placid nature of the horse during the entire operation are memories never to be forgotten. As Lizzie Lambe/Deery sang in our youth;
“I dream as the hammer strikes the anvil
I dream as the sparks fly o’er the floor”
Meanwhile the clientele awaiting their turn to enlist the attention of the blacksmith stood either in the forge or outside in groups and discussed the weather, the saving of the turf and hay and of course, anything else that warranted attention.
“Their theme was the theme of Kings
A theme for strings” (P. Kavanagh)
Certainly for a first visit the forge was definitely a place to be.
Change was inevitable however. The forge, once a hub of activity in the local community, gradually disappeared with the arrival of tractors and modern machinery after the Second World War. The number of horses declined and electric welding equipment was needed to repair the modern machinery. Foundry-built welded tubular gates replaced the riveted forged gates. Many blacksmiths retired. More diversified and adopted the electric welding systems. Local tradition experienced a revival after the 1970’s and a visit to the Market House in Monaghan Town at present will bring this home to visitors during the current exhibition.
The Market House and the forging Weekend
During the week Market House Arts people, Somhairle Mac Conghail, Damhnait Mc Kenna and Museum’s Noel Breakey gave me a guided tour of the current display in The Market House. The items on display are of very high quality and give a splendid insight into the craftwork being produced by the blacksmiths of today. The photographic exhibition looks back to the past and some of the ornate work achieved by the smiths of yesteryear.
The weekend ‘Forge in’ will include lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions. The highlight of the weekend will be on Saturday when the centre of the town will be closed to traffic. The 200 visiting blacksmiths will be working on panels which will be assembled into a sculptured piece called ‘Hive of Knowledge’. The finished sculpture will be placed in the Peter’s Lake area of the town. All in all an interesting and memorable event is in store.
The Cycling Events
Emyvale Cycling Club has organised a cycling event for the weekend in the North Monaghan Area. All in all approximately 400 cyclists will participate in the various aspects of the sport. The villages of Emyvale and Scotstown will be starting points for most of the events. These will include paralympics, tandem trials, time trials and road races. The programme starts on Thursday and ends with road races on Sunday.
On Saturday in Scotstown G.A.A. grounds families get an opportunity to cycle with the stars from 6.00pm. This is a chance to do a lap with the famous faces of cycling before they head off for the Tour de France.
On Sunday we have the National Road Racing Championships. The main race will leave from the Fair Green in Scotstown at 3.00pm and after a trip of 175km will finish back at the start. Truly a great weekend for cyclists of all ages.
Meanwhile five North Monaghan lads will have a Maracycle from Dublin to Belfast on Saturday 25th. They are Paul Mc Elvaney, Colm Mc Crudden, Mark Tierney, Mark Skeath and Noel Treanor.
The cyclists will leave from Dublin City University at 7.20am and sponsorship raised is in aid of ‘Co-operation Ireland’ which is an organisation that works to promote peace. The lads are wished all the best!
Organised by Adam Brennan, Paul Lavery and Chris Leonard, around seventy musicians from all around the country will take part in a busking festival at the weekend. The music will be continuous from 12.00 to 6.00 on Saturday and Sunday and will undoubtedly add to the colour and variety in the town during the ‘Forge in’. Weather permitting there will be buskers in all areas of the town.
In the evenings the musicians will converge on An Poc Fada with three bands on stage and three in the beergarden. These events will include jam sessions where all musicians will have an opportunity to participate.
This is a non-profit weekend but any sponsorship raised will be forwarded to the Central Remedial Clinic, Dublin. Again well done to the organisers and it is hoped that the weather turns out to be favourable!!
Another sort of Celebration
Coláiste Oriall – Ard Teist, Meitheamh 2011
The Cathedral spire surged Heavenwards
The grey-black, sharp-beaked, hawk-eyed crows
Hovered in the gusting wind
Rising and falling like string-puppets.
When the sun shot through the dark-heavy bulbous clouds
A bird swooped on the eely, unsuspecting worm,
Who had popped out of the yellow-flowered, green-clad, sods
Seeking fresh air
Devoured in an instant!
Not so!
The maroon-clad, anxious-faced, weary-eyed sixth years
At Leaving Certificate exams
Hovered, motionless, attention-rapt
Over the unchanging, printed word
Concrete-etched on pink and blue paper
Pondering, mind-searching, remorselessly seeking,
Another kind of fresh-aired vision
Inspiration where art thou?
P.D. B.A. H.d.i.p. phd

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