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A black day when old Carnmoney blacksmith's closed

Floods of tears and a lifetime of regret as favoured childhood haunt was demolished

By Eddie McIlwaine

It's 50 years ago to the day since an uncaring builder wiped out one of my favourite places on Earth. On February 24, 1965 he demolished the blacksmith's shop at Carnmoney, sold hundreds of horseshoes off for scrap and silenced the clang of the hammer on the anvil forever.

The bricklayers and the carpenters who set about the job of replacing the smithy with modern houses explained that the old place where the McClean men had kept the furnace aglow for nearly six decades was in a poor state of repair and had to be levelled.

That won't stop one or two horsey men like Philip Swann of Crumlin laying flowers at the spot in remembrance of a place where the McCleans used to work with great skill and were always ready for a chat.

"There weren't so many horses pulling carts and four-wheelers on the roads any more in the Sixties as the car and the lorry took over," he remembered.

"So blacksmith shops were vanishing too. A smithy at Ballynure and another at Glengormley also became victims of the modern transport scene."

I was no longer a child, but my heart was still broken and a few tears were shed when for the last time I led my grandfather Edward Boyd's team of six cart horses from their stable on his farmyard 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 the Orange hall, which is now gone too.

It was a job I had been doing since my primary school days with Billy and Blossom leading the team there and back.

There weren't too many lads in the mid-Sixties who had giant but placid pets like mine.

But there was so much more in this haven and I enjoyed exploring the dusty corners where bridles and saddles of animals long gone still hung, every one of them labelled with a story about the days when the horse was king.

Perhaps after reading my story today Newtownabbey Borough Council will appeal for any descendants of the original McCleans 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.

A picture book of Ulster scenes including a shot of the McClean 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.

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