I’m not easily distrac … ooh, SHINY thing …

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree…

No, this isn’t going to be a post about old nursery-rhyme songs, Winston Smith, Mr Charrington and 1984, apposite as that might be when it comes to current times and trends in UK and US politics. Instead, it’s a reference to a poem by Longfellow, entitled “The Village Blacksmith”, the first verse of which runs:

Under a spreading chestnut tree

The village smithy stands;

The smith, a mighty man is he,

With large and sinewy hands;

And the muscles of his brawny arms

Are strong as iron bands.

Now, I suppose I could pass as a mighty man (in a certain light) and my hands are large-ish and somewhat sinewy. I’m not too sure about my brawny arm muscles being strong as iron bands (not yet anyway) but I suppose two out of three isn’t bad. More importantly, there is a spreading chestnut tree outside and, under it, you will indeed find the village smithy. Our current home was the “Drummore Smiddy” for probably the best part of a century, although the forge fell into disuse around twenty years ago. Almost everything is still there though (but for the anvil) and, ever since moving in last year, I have been increasingly fascinated, tempted and inspired by looking at the old forge and the assortment of dusty and rusting tools and equipment around it.

I’ve always been fascinated by machinery and devices made from metal and I definitely have more of an affinity with metalwork than, say, woodwork or stonework. Under the circumstances (and with new and exciting creative ideas buzzing around in my head like never before) it made sense for me to find a blacksmithing course where I could learn some of the basics and not only find out whether I really liked it but also discover whether or not I’d be any good at it.

Enter a great guy by the name of Andy McKenzie of Feather Forge in Glasgow. I have now done two one-day training courses at Feather Forge, as well as attending a five-day intensive workshop that he held earlier this year up near Lochgoilhead. So far, I have learnt the basics of forge and fire management, hammer technique, a bit of tool-making and the various other basic skills required around the blacksmith’s forge. And I absolutely love it to bits. It’s exciting and interesting and inspiring and just immense fun! I wish I’d done it years ago and – as I say in my About page – I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.

Next step is to bring Drummore Smiddy (or Finefiew Forge as it’s going to be called) back to life. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort, possibly a fair bit of cash and I’m going to have to keep developing and honing my skills along the way. Wish me luck!


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  1. Hi mate…… spoke with Bobby Downie in the Lochans today whilst collecting tractor. He is the vintage dude repair man for thd area. Asked him he knew of an anvil in a farm shed, barn etc……. sorry pal, he doesn’t know of any. All those he knows, are being used. Will keep ear to ground for ya.

    • Thanks Colin. Luckily for me, I have, in fact, just acquired an anvil! And from a local farm too. It’s only a little ‘un (about 1 cwt) and is in need of a bit of cleaning and restoration, but it seems sound and should be very workable.


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