Galway Forged Gates Project Launch
The Galway County Forged Gates Project will be officially launched by Cllr. Eileen Mannion, Leas Cathaoirleach, Galway County Council, on Friday May 5th at 11am at The Gym, Mountbellew Agricultural College/ATU Campus, Mountbellew, Co. Galway H53 WE00.
This project, developed by the Heritage Office, Galway County Council in partnership with Skehana and District Heritage Group and Holy Rosary College Mountbellew, was funded by Creative Ireland and Galway County Council.
From simple beginnings where the Heritage Office at Galway County Council and the Skehana & District Heritage Group had independently embarked on separate initiatives relating to blacksmiths and forged gates, respectively, it was only when the two groups paths crossed that it blossomed and hence it’s title, ‘Galway County Forged Gates Project’. A steering committee was formed to include experts in the field fields of forges, implements, blacksmiths, heritage, marketing and administration and the final product is testament to their wide and varied talents.
This has culminated in a wonderful archive that captures and preserves the significance of the blacksmith and the forge as told by blacksmiths themselves and their descendants as they recall and relay their recollections from childhood memories and stories from their ancestors. These are captured on short films, audio interviews and recordings, photographs, pull-up banners and postcards with these being produced with the assistance and contributions of local volunteers and media professionals.
In Ireland, the blacksmith traditionally played an important role in the community and while they primarily shod farm horses, ponies and donkeys as farriers, but also repaired and manufactured agricultural implements, shod wheels and made gates and railings amongst many other tasks to include making their own tools of the trade. It used to be that every town and village in Ireland had at the very least, one forge and a blacksmith. Another key service which their premises provided was that of a community gathering point as a social outlet where locals exchanged ideas, advice, stories, news and without doubt some gossip as well.
Emma Laffey, as principal project co-ordinator with the Skehana & District Heritage Group, recalls “for me it started in a very simple way really as I began to notice the huge number of wrought iron gates on the roadsides as I drove to work and around the Skehana area. I started to take pictures of the more local ones, just on my phone, getting permissions from the landowners and householders as well as any story or history associated with the gates from them. It was amazing the local communities response and information they had. So I decided to put all the information I had gathered into an online hardback book as a keepsake for the Skehana & District Heritage Group. I printed a couple of copies and with Jimmy Laffey’s suggestion I sent a copy to our Galway Heritage Officer Marie Mannion, that I realised she already had the skeleton of a larger project on forges and blacksmiths in the melting pot. The rest is history and has culminated in the final product that we, as a team, now have. I found it to be a most rewarding journey along which I met and worked with so many wonderful people and learned so much from them. I am so grateful to each and everyone of them. I also learned that it is so important to capture what you can before it is too late as we have lost two brilliant participants and reservoirs of information for the project, John Mannion and John Joe Ward, just in the last few months.”
According to Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council “The vernacular forged wrought iron field gate is a very valuable, but often neglected, aspect of the cultural heritage of our rural landscape in county Galway. These field gates were for the most part forged in the local blacksmith’s forge.
They are practical and functional while at the same time are an artistic expression of the blacksmith who made them. During the twentieth century cast-iron, tubular steel and other mass produced gates became more common while at the same time the forged wrought iron gates went into decline as did the blacksmiths forge. In addition to this changing farming practices has led to many of these gates being abandoned in hedges and fields throughout the county, as the older forged wrought iron field gates became too small to accommodate new big machines entering fields. However, to the careful observer there are still many beautifully crafted wrought iron field gate to be found around the county.
Therefore, the aim of this project was to identify, record, raise awareness and knowledge of the wealth of wrought iron field gates that are to be found in the county of Galway. It sought to identify the names of the local blacksmiths and their forges. As this project shows the best way to capture this information is to work with our local communities and Skehana & District Heritage Group who have a great understanding and knowledge of their local heritage. Working with Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew we have now uncovered a wealth of our rich hidden local heritage.”
This project was funded by Creative Ireland and Galway County Council with voluntary contributions from Skehana & District Heritage Group and Holy Rosary College Mountbellew. It is an action of Galway County Heritage Plan 2017-2022
All are welcome to the launch.
For further information please see our website: https://heritage.galwaycommunityheritage.org/content/category/topics/galway-forged-gates-project
For further information please contact:
Jimmy Laffey, PRO, Skehana & District Heritage Group E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: 085 2187544
Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council email E: email@example.com M: 087 9088387