"Forging" a new relationship with the ancient craft of blacksmithing

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Blacksmiths are a rare breed, but a woman working in Russborough House is re-igniting interest in the tradition

ON THE grounds of Russborough House in Co Wicklow, what Seamus Heaney termed “the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring” echoes around empty outbuildings which were once hives of activity serving the commercial and domestic needs of the big house. Old carriage buildings are boarded up, while the stables and work sheds are all long since deserted.

All except one, that is, where one of Ireland’s only working female blacksmiths is busy firing up her hearth ahead of another day’s work. The light filters through in shafts, bringing a momentary glow to rusting tools, as the forge inhales and coughs out thick clouds of smoke. Gunvor Anhøj takes small blocks of wood, puts them on top of an aged anvil and breaks them up for kindle. An air vent overhead has been installed to fan the flames while coal and coke are the primary fuels, getting the temperature in the hearth to over 1,500 degrees Celsius....

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