The skill and strength of the blacksmith has been bending metal to the desired shape for well over 4000 years in Ireland. Using the heat of the fire in his forge to make the metal flexible, he then shapes it using a variety of tools, many of which he makes himself.

In Ireland, the blacksmith traditionally played an important role in the community; he not only shod horses, ponies and donkeys as a farrier, but also repaired agricultural implements, shod wheels and often made gates and railings. It used to be that every town and village in Ireland had at the very least, one forge and a blacksmith. The Irish blacksmith provided an important service for those who had horses or for people who required his skills in metalwork.

Before cars, tractors and other
heavy-duty motorised equipment took over day-to-day haulage tasks in agriculture and transport, the horse was a vital component of society. The blacksmith not only ensured that horses were shod, but also made and maintained useful metal items used around the home or on the farm.

After the Second World War ended, with increasing prosperity, cars, larger tractors and powerful agricultural machinery undermined the reliance on horses and more traditional farm machinery. These economic and technological changes, led to the demise of the blacksmithing art in Ireland. Many
blacksmiths retired, emigrated or sought alternative forms of employment. Some focused on producing more ornate metalwork rather than doing practical jobs, such as a farrier might do, but these people feared that they were the last of their breed.

Thankfully, since the late 1970s there has been a resurgence of blacksmithing in Ireland.   Certain groups and societies were formed with the intention of keeping blacksmithing traditions alive and open to new practitioners.

Today in Ireland, there is a distinct divide between contemporary farriers and their work with horses, and blacksmiths, who produce wrought iron work using traditional methods. The Irish Master Farriers Association has contemporary Irish farriers’ interests to heart, whereas the Irish Artist Blacksmiths Association caters to the needs and interests of the Irish blacksmithing community.

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