|Thomas Steele and Sons - one of the blacksmiths in Glenavy. In 1914 a Stoneyford man stole a set of tap and dies belonging to the proprietor and ended up with two months imprisonment and hard labour.|
`Under a spreading chestnut tree, The village smithy
The smith a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron brands '
THE opening lines of a poem by Longfellow called "The Village Blacksmith" from an 1879 book used by schools in the district for reading practice.
The poem aptly describes a once familiar scene in most townlands in the district - the blacksmith's shop. The sound of the bellows blowing and those synonymous with the forging of metal have been lost.
Once at the centre at the rural community, the smithy, a focal point, was the place where stories and gossip were exchanged, all now confined to the history book.
An excellent example of a forge forms part of "Ballycultra Town" at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. Originally the forge had been sited in the Ballinderry area, County Antrim. I recall hearing a tale of a young boy, who for the first time had looked into a blacksmith's forge as he passed by on his way home from school. He couldn't wait to relate this experience to his mother when he reached home.
"Mother," he said. "I saw a man making a horse today."
"Surely you must be mistaken," his mother replied.
"No mother, I'm not. He had the horse nearly finished when I looked in. He was just nailing on the feet!" The introduction and use of the tractor in the agricultural community led to a steady decline in the amount of agricultural horses in daily use on the farm. Some blacksmiths adapted from their traditional farriery role to include vehicle work.
Tap and dies were an integral part of a blacksmith's tool box. In 1914 one individual from the Stoneyford area fell foul of the law, after he stole a set of tap and dies, valued at £3, from the blacksmith's shop run by Thomas Steele, in Glenavy. The culprit pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour.
Thomas Steele and his colleagues would have been "dab-hands" in the art of farriery. A hard winter would not put a stop to the workforce in the local quarries, farms and carting businesses within the district who relied on the horse in the important role of transportation.
Stories have been related to me of horses being yoked in carts and setting out on frosty mornings at the commencement of their day's work. On occasions the road surfaces in the district were covered in ice and horses slipped and fell. A fallen horse was a disaster, often with fatal consequences, therefore it was vital that the horse was shod in accordance with the working conditions. A 1922 book in my possession titled "The Art of Horse-Shoeing" by A.B. Mattison informs us that the most simple and temporary procedure to overcome the aforementioned problem was the use of "frost-nails." These were a series of nails driven into the shoe of the horse. They were considered a temporary measure because they had a habit of loosening and were difficult to secure
Other more permanent and effective methods included "roughing" the shoes, however repeated "roughings" due to prolonged bad weather could lame a horse.
Another method was to use steel "sharps." They could be compared to the spikes on the modern day football or rugby boot. During the fitting of the horseshoe, holes were made by punching through the heels and toe, if required, and "tapping" it. A thread was formed on the sharp to fit the horseshoe. When the sharps were not required the holes in the shoe would be filled in with a blank or piece of cork.
story was related recently to me by an old friend about the local man who called to see the blacksmith one winter. He was having his pony shod and fitted out with a set of "sharps" or "cockers" as they were referred to. As the owner of the pony intently watched the blacksmith fitting these to each shoe, he asked "Where would it be possible to get a spare set of cockers?"
"Oh, Redmond Jefferson's in Bow Street" came the reply.
The gentleman further enquired as to what size he should ask for. "Seven sixteenths. Ask them for seven sixteenths," the blacksmith replied.
"Ach, that'll be easy to remember," the gentleman retorted. "Sure that's the number of Frank Leckey's lodge -716"
LOL 716 "Frank Leckey's Lodge" Stoneyford - was an orange lodge number allocated to a lodge with a warrant dating back to 1798. In the early 1820's records show the lodge number was assigned to a lodge in the Lisburn District that met at the Deerpark, under the auspices of a James McMillan, Worshipful Master. In about 1857 the lodge became part of the Magheragall district after a restructuring.
In 1884 the lodge was given permission by the Order to use the name 'Stoneyford True Blues."
In 1908 the lodge was meeting on the Saturday "on or before the full moon" in the Stoneyford area. In 1912 they were holding their monthly meetings in the home of a Thomas McConnell in that area.
The lodge appears to have continued in existence to about 1956. There were no returns filed to the County Antrim Grand Lodge in 1957. LOL 716 was a relatively small lodge with a membership ranging between 13 and 22 members.
Frank Leckey was one of the members of the Orange Institution who attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Orange Hall in Stoneyford in 1898. It was the meeting place of LOL1253, a lodge still sometimes referred to as "Fleeton's Lodge" after one of their members a William. J. Fleeton who was a District Secretary.
Some of my older friends informed me that LOL 716 met in a barn on Frank Leckey's Stoneyford farm which was known as "Green Gate." I was told the farm formed part of the land acquired by the Water Commissioners in that area. Frank was one of the participants in the regular Friday and Saturday night dances held many years ago in what was once a schoolhouse on the Sheepwalk Road outside Lisburn. The building is still in existence today. Frank was renowned locally for his tap dancing. The Friday night dances, both at the Sheepwalk and in other halls throughout the district, carried on into the early hours of the morning. The dancers left their place of entertainment on foot, sometimes covering quite a distance, making it home in time for the morning milking session.
Frank Leckey also served as a member on the Lisburn Board of Guardians, and is believed to have been a Select Vestry member at St. John's Parish Church, Stoneyford.
He passed away on the 7th March, 1944 aged 79 years at his Barnfield Road home, Derriaghy. At the time of his death he held the position of deputy Worshipful Master of LO.L. 716. A request appeared in the local press for the officers and members of the lodge to attend his funeral to Blaris. The members of the Lisburn Board of Guardians held a minute's silence as a token of respect and sympathy. His wife Maria died on the 6th February 1954.
"L.O.L. 716" and "seven sixteenths" have both now been confined to the pages of history.
Thanks to the staff at the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Cregagh Road, Belfast for their assistance and permitting access to their records.
The Digger can be contacted via The Ulster Star office, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.