|In the footsteps of St Finbarre (Part 139)- Cooney's Forge|
|Written by Kieran McCarthy|
|Thursday, 23 October 2008|
Page 1 of 2
So we leave the modern and regional industrial history of the Lee Valley to delve and journey back a few decades to the early years of the Irish Free State to native local industry in Inniscarra Parish. I was first introduced to the work of James Cooney, blacksmith in the Model Village in Dripsey. He completed the railings for the grotto. Subsequently, I met his daughter Sheila Desmond (nee Cooney), a teacher, in Dripsey National School who brought me out to the site of the forge in Ballyshonin.
Perhaps what is intriquing about the work of James Cooney´s and his father Jeremiah before him is that the forge survives as a ruin and has remained untouched. In addition, the family have kept many of his tools and the day-to-day records of running the forge from the 1930s to the early 1960s. Those historical records coupled with first hand accounts of his surviving family makes an exploration of Jeremiah and his son´s James´s work very rich indeed and very helpful in creating a vivid picture of life in the forge and its role in the community. Of course for the Cooneys those objects are very much part of their links to their past and keeping them is a large part in celebrating their own personal heritage where the historical records are transformed into what could be called 'nostalgic currency'.
The original forge was about two miles from the present one, and was situated near a public house on the roadside and near a stream. The forge was closed down for some time owing to the fact that the smith took part in the Irish War of Independence and was interned in Ballykinlar internment camp in County Down during the troubles in this country. On his release from the camp, Jeremiah´s next forge was built by local help at the present site, which was considered a better centre, because of its proximity to the local creamery, the roadside, the crossroads and it was by the side of a little river called "The Sheep River". The forge for several decades was a focal point in the community. It served as a meeting place where people shared news, yarns and jokes as they waited while their repairs etc. were being done. It was very popular to congregate there on wet days as little work could be done in the fields on those days. In addition, as the forge was situated across from the creamery, it was a very busy place every morning. The late Minnie O´Mahony had a little shop next to it. The only remaining shop and agri-stores is Dan Donovan & Co. Ltd, now managed by Dan O´Callaghan.
The folklore collection goes on to describe that the walls of Cooney´s forge were of concrete and the roof was in timber covered on the outside with felt. It was a small rectangular building with an ordinary door. There was one fireplace within on a raised bench or hob. The bellows were of the ordinary fire bellows- heart shaped - two sides of timber bound with leather.
In the yard of the forge there was provision made for a second fire, which was lighted for the banding of wheels-cart wheels. The smith had the usual implements - an anvil, a rather heavy sledge, a lighter sledge, shoeing hammer, drill for boring holes in iron, large pinches, rasps, soldering iron, a vice, trough of water for cooling hot-iron, horse shoe nails, chisels of various sizes. Jeremiah Cooney made shoes for horse, ponies and donkeys. Cattle were never shod in the district. He made field gates and small ornamental, such as wicket gates, iron railings and very rarely an iron harrow. He repaired all farm implements but did not make ploughs, spades, shovels, pikes and axis. Cart wheels were banded in the open on a circular concrete slab. Jeremiah also dis some soldering, especially to creamery carts belonging to the milk suppliers of the nearby creamery.
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