Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Recalling long lost artisans of iron - how grainy picture jogged memories of an old forge on Carnmoney Hill

A photograph of the McLean smithy which was once a hive of activity on Carnmoney Hill

A tattered and floppy book of pictures arrived on my desk from a lady called Ann Lorimer and there on the middle pages was this photograph which took me back to all my yesterdays.

I was still a 10-year-old boy when I led my grandfather Edward Boyd's team of six cart horses from their stable in the heart of Carnmoney Village a mile across what we used to call Topsy Toosey (now it's just unimaginatively known as Carnmoney Road) to the smithy tucked up on a tree-lined site behind an Orange Hall.

An hour or so later, after watching the blacksmith Andy McLean and his staff shoeing and grooming Billy and Blossom and the other four whose names I have forgotten, I led them either back to the farm where they lived or into a field beside the Presbyterian church where they did their grazing.

The picture book of Ulster scenes including the shot of the McLean smithy was published by the Belfast Telegraph way back in 1945 and I'm sure it is now one of only a handful still in existence.

Mrs Morimer explains: "I picked the book up at a church sale many years ago and fell in love with the pictures."

They include the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge near Ballintoy; the Lagan Canal; the Brigg Fall, Glenavy and a shot of Slemish Mountain among others.

Apart from keeping the cart horses fit for their daily duties which saw my grandfather and his workman Fred Hoy harnessing them up to sturdy fourwheelers to haul in hay ricks from the countryside, the smithy had a full list of nuts and bolts and wheel braces and air pumps as cars and lorries became more and more part of the scene on the roads.

But there came a day when that old smithy finally outlived its usefulness and was demolished.

The Orange Hall where we used to dance summer nights away at weekly hops is gone too. The area is covered with a modern housing development and there isn't even a sign on a wall to show how this side of Carnmoney used to be.

Perhaps after reading my piece today, Newtownabbey Council will appeal for any descendants of the original McLeans who owned the smithy to come forward to talk about making sure the old place where I found so many four-legged friends is never forgotten.

An outlandish rescue mission reunited rich seafarer with his glasses

It's anniversary time again for the Titanic which on this date in 1912 had just become the greatest disaster of the ocean. You'll be glad to know her sister ship the Olympic features instead in this story today. Sometimes the Titanic can overwhelm you.

Apparently after her maiden voyage to the Big Apple in June 1911, the liner was preparing to sail back to Southampton with a rich merchant called WA Burpee on board among the upmarket passengers. Burpee damaged his spectacles just before the ship left port and had to travel without them. The shortsighted millionaire tried to have the departure delayed while the specs were fixed, but the Olympic had other important passengers on board and the captain had to stick to his schedule.

So William Burpee in New York wrote a huge cheque to his optician and also to pilot Tom Sopwith, a hero of the skies in those early days of flying. The optician repaired the specs and included a new pair in the case as well and had them delivered to Sopwith waiting patiently at a private airport.

Sopwith took off in pursuit of the Olympic, hovered low over the deck and dropped the parcel containing the precious glasses on the deck with a diver standing by in case he missed his target. Burpee was reading his copy of the New York Times within the hour. I’ll tell you one thing, health and safety regulations wouldn't allow this rescue act to happen today. I wonder if the parcel had a mini-parachute attached.

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