About Us

Some History surrounding the Forge

Tom Lyons is descended from 6 generations of blacksmiths. Michael Lyons, Tom's great grandfather, was also the smith in Mountshannon. Tom began work as a smith when he left school at the age of 14 years. He did the little jobs until he was strong enough to do the heavier work, when he was about 16. He worked until 1987, when he retired.

Tom remembers : "Some days we'd be all day working, and other days you might not have so much to do. There'd be other jobs besides shoeing horses: plough irons in the spring time and mowing machines, lots of scythes - people cut the hay with scythes - had to get them ready and yoke 'em for 'em. Had people cutting the turf, then used to make sleans for them."

"And I remember then when I first started shoeing horses, the cost was 4 shillings, and now I don't know what they cost. We used to make draught shoes that time; we'd buy the bars of iron and cut out the makings of a set of shoes and redden them and make them. And we made the nails. We'd shoe about eight horses a day, especially on a bad day, a rainy day, the farmers would come by the forge. We used to put the iron bands on the common wheels. Can't remember how much we charged for that."

Tom remembers the forge being a busy place: "Always lots of lads hanging round, mates stopping off for a chat," especially in his later years when he wasn't able to do a lot, "I'd just be tipping around, neighbours and that way coming in for a chat."

During the war years, "We got in a lot of coal and iron at the start of the war, so we had it for a long time, so when we ran out we made shoes out of bits of iron, any old bits we could get our hands on, and it was very hard to work at that time. Any bits of iron that you could hammer flat and make shoes out of. We always managed to get fuel for the forge, Sparlings in Scariff always had some.

Just before the war a set of shoes was four shillings, during the war the shoes went up, first to five shillings and they kept rising and rising 'til they was ten shillings. And then after the war they went to £1.00; they kept going up 'til they were £10.00.

"We always used to make our own shoes, then in the later years(1970s) I started to buy in shoes". Tom's father taught him blacksmithing. He didn't know his grandfather, who died when he was a young man, before Tom was born. Tom's mother's family there were about 16 children, and in his father's family there were 6.

Tom had two sisters and one brother. Both his sisters are now dead. His brother is alive and lives in Mountshannon. The family all lived around Mountshannon, except an aunt and uncle who went to New Zealand and two uncles who went to South Africa and one to San Francisco. His brother learned blacksmithing as well, "A little in his young days, then he got himself a lorry and did some hauling with the lorry, and then he got a tractor and some ploughs and did some agricultural work for the farmers."

"The iron Tom used was obtained locally when he was young, and later from Limerick. "There was Cains up here in the village, they used to supply our iron, then they went out of it, then we went to Limerick with trucks and we'd get a few hundredweight of iron, a ton of coal or two."

"Shoeing wheels we did below by the lake, we got the bands ready here in the forge and then we brought them down to the lake, and a load of turf, fixed the fire below by the lake. We had the big old query stone from the mill, from a flour mill that was down below here, fixed the stone down below on the shore of the lake, the wheel would fit down on the query stone, the stock of the wheel would fit in the hole in the centre of the stone, which would give you a level base to work from."

"There was a blacksmith down the road a mile or so and then there was two in Whitegate. In Scariff, I think there was three in Scariff. They all had lots of work. Today there's no-one doing the work except one or two travelling the road, there was one chap down Ogonnelloe and then there's another chap down the road there that's English, he has a van and he shoes from the back of it."

"It was when the machinery came in the horses started to get scarce, all the farmers at one time had two horses for working the farm, and a cob or a pony for going to town, going to mass. Most people kept three, two horses and a pony and trap. And now they have none. One lad said about it, that the horse you had to pay then when it was idle. The tractor didn't cost you anything."

Written by Stuart Miles