Memories of my father’s Forge

Heritage Week brings to mind the old ways of yesteryear. My father, Jimmy Hussey, at the age of 15 years, in 1933, trained as a Blacksmith/Farrier with his brother John Hussey in his forge in Ballinlough.

  My father hailed from Emlagh, Castleplunkett and married a local girl, Annie Ganley, from Drishaune, Kilmurray. Together they raised a family of ten children.

  My father bought a site in 1937 from Brody Kelly who owned a bar in the village at that time (now Tom and Bonnie Garvey’s) to build his own forge in Ballintubber.

  Work commenced to build the forge with the help of his brother Mike Hussey (Emlagh) and his cousin, Pake Hunt, Miltown, Castleplunkett.

  My father opened for business in 1938 and it was a fitting trade to be in at that time! After helping my mother on the farm, there could be up to fifteen horses and more waiting to be shoed, many of them paid for over a pint in Garvey’s.

  As a girl, I loved to blow the bellows and tap on the anvil. You could hear the ring for miles, not to mention the ‘smell of the burning hooves’. There was something about that smell, it captured the whole village with Jimmy Hussey’s forge on one side of the village and Paddy Boyle’s forge on the other.

  Today many primary schools take their students on field trips to the forge to take photographs, videos and educate the children on the working ways of yesteryear. In those days it was all about the working horse – from taking you to Mass of a Sunday on the horses trap to ploughing and tilling the land, and of course horses were used by threshing machines where corn was sent to the mill for flour while the straw was used to bed down the cows.

  Not alone would my father shoe horses but he also treated infected leg wounds and was a dab hand at it, so successful that vets would call out to Jimmy Hussey’s Forge to find out how he was getting the results!

  As time evolved the working horse became obsolete and the tractor took over with more sophisticated machinery/equipment. My father found the need to upgrade his skills and attended Roscommon Vocational School on Lanesboro Street in 1957-1958 to learn fabrication and welding.

  My father came first and second in Ireland with some of his projects and was asked by the school to become an instructor.

  A man before his time, he continued to perfect his skills by going to England and working in Iron and Steel foundries, manufacturers and engineering companies where he learned to perfect his work with precision.

  His heart was in his forge in Ballintubber and many stories of Jimmy Hussey’s work are told by the locals in Garvey’s and Kenny’s pub to this day.

  As I conclude, I can’t but mention that in 1970 my father and mother came to America with me to visit family and also met up with Pat and Martin Garvey, who were living in the Bronx at that time. My father’s nephew Jack Donovan was a detective in New York City Police Department so Billy Donovan took my father to visit a forge in Mount Kisco NY. There my father got a job shoeing New York City Police Department horses.

  As Billy Raftery said, he was a man before his time! As I recall my fathers working forge and achievements it sure brings a tear to my eye. He is a man I’m very proud of, as I am of my dear mother.

  ‘Jimmy Hussey’s Village Forge’ still stands proudly today having been restored by his two sons Michael and Patrick in keeping with the beautiful Tidy Towns historical heritage village of Ballintubber/Ballintober, Co. Roscommon.

  Jimmy Hussey’s Forge of 78 years will be open to the public for a demonstration on Sunday, 17th July, 2016, for Heritage Weekend. All are welcome to stop in.