‘By Strength and Virtue’ is the translation of this motto for the Worshipful Company of Farriers. And they don’t come any better than Grahame (so named after Kenneth Grahame of Wind in the Willows), our local farrier. This is a scene that has changed little since horses first started wearing metal plates on their feet. The only difference is that in times gone by, you would have taken the horse to the local smithy to be shod. Something I remember doing as a child when I would accompany my godmother, hacking several miles to the forge when her hunters needed new shoes. I loved it then, as I love it now. There is something so timeless about it all. Thoroughly enjoyed watching Tommy disappearing and reappearing between clouds of smoke as Grahame worked from the back of his mobile forge, grinding the rough edges off the new ‘plates’, and discarding the ‘toe clippings’ on the floor, And in less than an hour, Grahame had left having fitted Tommy with a set of sparkling, clattery new shoes. Thank you Grahame. Full of admiration for the skill of this traditional craft.
All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end and square,
Set there immoveable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.
–Seamus Heaney, 1969