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18 May 2022

Salvaged 200-year-old metal from Carrick church roof transformed into Blacksmith sculpture

Salvaged 200-years-old metal from Carrick-on-Suir church roof transformed into Blacksmith sculpture

Welder Ger Kirwan from Rathgormack, who is constructing the Blacksmith with the sculpture’s designer Denis Moules at Dungarvan Men’s Shed

Steel forged by hand in Carrick-on-Suir two centuries ago for the roof of a Carrick-on-Suir church has been turned into an 11ft sculpture of a blacksmith that will be erected on the Waterford Greenway later this month.
The Blacksmith is made from the iron braces, nails, bolts, nuts and washers salvaged from the old roof of St Molleran’s in Carrickbeg when it was replaced during an extensive renovation of the early 19th century church between August 2016 and April 2017.
The recycling of the steel that held together the church’s wooden roof trusses for close to 200 years into an artwork to be enjoyed by visitors to the Waterford Greenway for years to come is the culmination of a project spearheaded by Dungarvan Men’s Shed and volunteers from Carrick-on-Suir and Rathgormack.
Michael Cass of Dungarvan Men’s Shed said the Blacksmith is being donated to Waterford Greenway in collaboration with Waterford City and County Council.
It will be assembled and erected at Durrow on the Greenway in two weeks’ time in co-operation with Waterford Council Greenway team members Johnny Brunnock, Johnny Flynn and Noel Fitzgerald.
The sculpture will be mounted on a base made by Waterford County Council and will be accompanied by a plaque explaining the story behind it.
The pitch pine roof trusses of St Molleran’s Church and the steel fastners that held them together were salvaged by Mick Norris from Garravoone, Carrick-on-Suir during the renovation of the church. He stored the materials in a shed on his farm and offered them to a number of organisations in Carrick-on-Suir.
Some pieces of timber and roof brackets were used by Carrick-on-Suir Workhouse Burial Ground Restoration Committee to make a cross and seat for the infants plot at St Francis’ Paupers Cemetery in Carrick-on-Suir, the restoration of which was completed last year.
The cross and seat made for the cemetery were made by Dungarvan Men’s Shed members, who also took up Mick Norris’ offer to bring the rest of the materials from the church roof back to life.
Michael Cass recalled how they got a pleasant surprise when they visited Mick’s farm and discovered the tangled heap of waste timber and steel had huge historical significance for many people.
He said St Molleran’s Church was originally built in 1336 and rebuilt in 1827 so the salvaged wood and steel had sheltered more than six generations in that place of worship.
Michael approached fellow Dungarvan Men’s Shed member Denis Moules and asked him to design a structure that would incorporate the metal remnants from the old church roof.
It’s believed they were hand forged at William Leviston’s nail makers located on Carrick’s Old Bridge. It was one of 14 nail makers in Carrick-on-Suir listed in Slater’s Commercial Directory of 1846.
Denis Moules recalled when he first saw the pile of steel, he noticed they were forged by hand. No two pieces were identical.
“The first thing I thought of was to design some form of person, so I drew a few sketches and the Blacksmith was born. I hoped it would be a celebration of the people who first crafted this amazing amount of metal.”
He collaborated with welder Ger Kirwan from Rathgormack in finalising the design and working out how the sculpture should be laid out and welded together.
He said the design of the Blacksmith went through a few minor changes since the first drawing but it’s still the same sculpture he envisaged. It will be 11ft high and weigh a quarter of a tonne when fully erected.
Ger Kirwan took on the task of welding the steel pieces together to create the sculpture. He said the sculpture is divided into three separate sections that will be assembled on the concrete base at Durrow next to form the Blacksmith.
It’s his first time to work on an artistic sculpture and he estimates the project took him about three days to complete.
Despite the great age of the steel and the rusty appearance of its exterior, he had no difficulty working with the metal.
“The steel itself was perfect and I was well able to weld with it. The fact it was under the cover of the church roof the whole time meant it was out of the weather for the past two centuries. It lasts forever,” he told The Nationalist.
Michael Cass paid tribute to both Denis and Ger for all their work on the project. He pointed out that Ger Kirwan gave his time, effort and skills free of charge to the project.
Michael Cass also paid tribute to fellow Men’s Shed member Dick Clancy (84) for all his help with separating the wood and steel and to Mick Norris for salvaging them.
He said the Blacksmith “celebrates and remembers” all the people who crafted the steel pieces forged by hand on one of Ireland’s oldest bridges in Carrick-on-Suir.
“It is a tribute to the local blacksmiths or ‘Gabha’ who worked in their forges located in every parish all over Ireland and all construction and metal workers of the past.”
Dungarvan Men’s Shed members are also working on turning the timbers from the church roof into benches for the Greenway. Michael Cass hopes this heritage project inspires other groups like theirs to get back up and running after the pandemic.

Pictured below: Michael Cass and Dick Clancy of Dungarvan Men’s Shed taking the trusses apart last July at Crehana, Carrick-on-Suir before transporting them to the Men’s Shed

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