See how blacksmiths and tinsmiths plied their trade in traditional Ireland.
Tinsmith Bernard Mongan photographed in 1965 as he worked at his roadside encampment at Cahermorris, Co. Galway.
Working at encampments along the side of the road, the tinsmith, known as a tinker, made tin containers and repaired damaged ware such as saucepans and buckets. His family would sell his goods from door to door, along with other goods that rural households might want, from almanacs to needles or scrubbing brushes to wooden pegs.
As working horses were common in Ireland, harness makers were much in demand. The strength and durability of a set of harness was important because of the farmer’s dependence upon the power of horses to perform so many everyday tasks. A harness maker could take up to seven years to learn his trade.
The blacksmith was regarded as the chief craftsman and was respected and recognised for his important role in the community. He made and repaired a very large range of objects from gates to domestic cooking ware and agricultural and craftsmen’s tools. He was also the farrier, responsible for shoeing horses and donkeys.
The blacksmith would sometimes add a decorative flourish to his work with the addition of ornamental scrollwork.