Once upon a time, almost a hundred years ago, a south Armagh man by the name of Frank King made his way to a rural hillside in Co. Monaghan, where he set up a makeshift blacksmith’s forge in a roadside shed. He met and married a local girl, Kathleen, and moved further up Mullyash mountain, close to her family home.
King’s Forge was a thriving blacksmith’s business, and became a local landmark. Set in a somewhat remote area outside the town of Castleblayney, King’s Forge was nonetheless the scene of many a debacle, located, as it was, at the junction of a popular smuggling route across the border with Northern Ireland. Smuggling was not the only underhand activity. Castleblayney Garda Station houses a photo from the 1920s, which shows a line-up of proud policemen, standing outside the old forge, with the stash of poitín equipment they had uncovered.
Over the years, improvements were made to their humble home. In the 1930s, the Kings extended the original cottage. To one side was a henhouse, while to the other, the turf house connected their home to the forge.
As years passed and progress brought tractors and machinery to local farms, the need for a blacksmith lessened, and business slacked.
On their deaths, the old forge was left empty, and it wasn’t long before the house became uninhabitable.
In the 1970s, the forge changed hands, coincidentally to another, although unrelated, Frank King. He never made use of the buildings, and eventually put the property back on the market.
One foggy night late in 2003, I came upon the derelict building. After more than two years of house-hunting, the ‘For Sale’ sign seemed to shine like a beacon in the fog. I came back to see the forge again the following day, and six months later it was mine.
That’s not the end of the story. After two years of work on a budget tighter than the Irish economy, the day came when once again, smoke could be seen billowing from the chimney of King’s Forge.
In the meantime, numerous passers-by have stopped to tell me their tales of growing up while the forge was smoking away. As children on their way home from Mullyash National School, many were called to stop and hold a horse for a few minutes. Hours would pass, and Frank would keep them working. Others told of Mrs King, who always had the kettle on the boil, and loved callers to stop awhile.
Now the forge is once again a busy workshop, where the kiln is kept going, fusing glass into shapes large and small, in every colour in the rainbow. My mountaintop view from the studio window reveals miles and miles of perfect rural landscape, covering all the drumlins of Co. Monaghan, and much of Co. Cavan beyond. Nothing could be more inspiring.
The kitchen is now where the turf house once stood, and the kettle is still kept boiling. King’s Forge studio is open by appointment, and callers are welcome to a hot cup of tea, and maybe even a little baked treat, if they’re lucky.
Thank you for taking the time to read the true story of King’s Forge, Mullyash, Castleblayney, County Monaghan, Ireland.