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The old Blacksmith

In the late 80’s I was working for a local motor factors delivering vehicle parts and one of my customers was Harry an ‘old school’ blacksmith, a lovely old chap, he must be  in his 90’s by now. He’d always put his smoke covered kettle on the forge whenever I called, ready for a cuppa with him, I’d stand and watch him at work, forging the iron into weird and wonderful shapes, as easy as we could shape a piece of putty. In his earlier days, he used to shoe horses too, till age and flighty young horses got the better of him. There was none of the ready forged shoes for him, each shoe was made unique to the horses he shod. A master at his work.

During the 90’s when I was doing a photographic course, one of the modules I chose to do was a Photo Essay, the idea being to tell a story through photographs. I used to love watching Harry at work, and thought it an ideal subject, to tell the story of a horse shoe.

He was only too happy to let me photograph him and the following photos are some of the ones I used for my module, taken with B/W film, these are scanned from my negatives.

This is Harry, holding the sign I painted for him.

The old forge. I often drive past, but it is all locked up and quiet these days, Harry long since retired, as another trade of yesteryear slowly dies.

This is my lucky horse shoe that Harry made me many years ago, it is made from a shoe nail, I still carry it with me to this day.

The making of the horse shoe can be seen here on the slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have just heard the sad news that Harry died on 15th January 2014.

RIP old Harry x

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12 thoughts on “The old Blacksmith

  1. Is there no end to your artistic talents? Photography AND sign-writing?? I don’t think I’ve ever been into a blacksmiths, just walked past, so your slideshow (nice captions ;-)) really brought it to life. I guess you got good marks for your module?

    • Thanks for yor compliments K, I’ve always been happier using my hands rather than my brain 🙂 I’ll have a dabble in anything artistic, but I’m a bit of a jack of all arts, master of none.
      I was very happy when I got a distinction for this module though 🙂

  2. Except of course you are using both. Despite being an academicy sort of person, ie writing skills, I detest the view that something manual is inferior or not as ‘clever’. While A has manual skills regarding his trade, he can also rattle off the relevant chemistry regarding products and how they react. A bit like photography I guess, when we were talking about developing agents (or whatever you call them). What is interesting is that for my sort of work, all you need to do is think (and suck up to people) and then write. For other jobs, like photography, craft trades etc, you need a good visual eye, manual dexterity, – and – you still need to know the theory. I’m great with the Land Rover manuals and telling A what to do – but ask me to do the same task? …..

    I’m not surprised you got a distinction. I think you were right too, it was great subject matter, so you probably got points for an imaginative choice to start with. Then the forge looks so interesting, you have a moving (as in motion) story, and the heat comes out really well on the B&W, giving it that great contrast. I wonder what they teach on C&G these days??

    • You’re doing your thinking/writing skills down a bit there by saying ‘ALL you need to do’ you make it sound easy, but believe me to someone not endowed with a brain that works that way, I find it hard to think of the correct words I need. And ‘big’ words 😕 I often have to resort to the dictionary to find their meaning 😯
      It’s taken me 5 minutes to write this 😆

  3. Lovely pictures, not really qualified to talk about them save to say I like them. My grandfather’s family all lived on a smallholding, they were underwoodsmen. One of his barns had a small forge left over from the days of horse power. Your photographs reminded of childhood exploration of the dark recesses of the barns.
    Makes me feel like learning the craft and buying his forge!

    • Thank you (for some reason at a quick glance your name looks like pigeon :oops:)
      What a lovely thought, learning the craft and buying the forge, there would certainly be plenty of job satisfaction doing so.

  4. This is Brilliant. The ‘B’ became unintentionally upper case using my cell phone, but it fits so will leave it.
     
    Like stepping back in time. Have never seen a forge. Makes me wonder where the horses nowadays get their shoes.
    Anyhow, thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you.
      Due to old Harry not shoeing horses anymore, the photographs for the completion of my Horse Shoe Photo Essay were taken of a modern day farrier at work.
      I dare say the cosseted race horses are different, but for the likes of Josephine Bloggs, and me when I had a horse, the farrier turns up with a selection of various pre-shaped shoes, choosing the nearest size for the horse in question, this shoe is then heated in a portable gas oven, then re-shaped to fit the trimmed hoof.
      I’m certainly not knocking the modern day farrier, but Harry would trim the hoof to the shape required, then make the shoe to fit each hoof, and by making the shoe thicker/thinner in certain areas he could correct any gait problems too.
      In a way I guess it’s a bit like us having a pair of shoes hand made specifically for our feet compared to buying a mass produced pair.

  5. hi Vicky, my names Jack Green, Harry is my Grandad as im trying to become a blacksmith myself in the footsteps of him i searched his name and dunnington forge and this post came up, i was just wondering if theres any chance you could e-mail me the photos of him and any other photos you have of him and the forge that werent put in this post, i hope you can help, thank you.

    • Hi Jack,
      How lovely that you found my post about Harry.
      How is he keeping? I often think about him when I drive past the old forge.
      Ask him if he still remembers Vicky from Reddiparts.
      I have many (probably nearly a 100) photos that I took that day, is there anything particular you’re after?

  6. Another special Harry 🙂 This is so like my Dad’s and the G.O.’s old mate’s workshops… they were wonderful places. How wonderful that Harry’s grandson contacted you.

    • There is something fascinating about the old workshops, a bit like an Aladdin’s cave.
      The power of the Internet, as you found out too with your post about your aunt Emma.
      I actually took the requested photos to Harry’s grandson, as I found we live in the same town.

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