When I meet him in Co Wexford, blacksmith Finin Liam Christie is just back from winning the Mjonøy Blacksmith Challenge, held in Vinje, Norway. And he’s preparing to head off to exhibit as just one of two European blacksmiths at the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil Conference in the US.
So just who is this globe-trotting blacksmith with his ‘have anvil, will travel from Coolgreaney’ attitude?
“My passion is traditional steel and ironworks, that means using the old means without modern welding. Nothing is welded. I make traditional gates, railings, tools, swords, axes, commissioned sculptures, bottle openers, hammers, train sets. I get orders from Australia, Brazil, the UK, the US, Germany – all over – and all from my Facebook page.
“I worked in the CIE railways in the 1980s, just like my grandfather before me (James Christie, who worked as general foreman blacksmith in the Midland Great Western railroad in Broadstone Dublin). I was even taught by guys who my grandfather taught as apprentices. Even though I was five when he died, I started using my grandfather’s tools as a boy to make things.
“Later I was a contractor for Dublin City Council for 16 years and employed 18 men.”
He worked on government buildings, city parks and county council houses and a lot of restoration of old gates.
Then the recession hit him in 2009 … Fortunately, the tide turning business-wise this year.
“The most unusual thing I ever made? A full size ram for the challenge in Norway. We worked for five days from 7am til 5pm.
“The most unusual thing in the workshop? This anvil sent to me from the US by the American Blacksmith Society in thanks for my work promoting traditional blacksmithing. It weights a half a tonne and was built in 1870.”
Finin is also a model steam train hobbyist.
And… he teaches classes out of his workshop!
Interview and photos: Deirdre O’Flynn