IRELAND-L ArchivesArchiver > IRELAND > 2003-06 > 1057026366
From: "Jean Rice" <>
Subject: [IRELAND] P. J. CURTIS (Kilnaboy, Co. Clare) - Blacksmiths/"The Charm" (WESTROPP)
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 19:27:41 -0700
BIO: P. J. CURTIS lives in Kilnaboy, Co. Clare. He is an award-winning radio presenter and the author of "Notes from the Heart" (1994). His most recent publication is "The Music of Ghosts - A Burren Miscellany (collection of essays, stories and poetry) with photographs by Mike MULCAIRE. He has also written a several-page story accompanied by old photos in the July-Aug 2003 issue of "Ireland of the Welcomes" magazine. Here are a few excerpts...
P. J. CURTIS shares -- "My father (Pat Joe) was a Blacksmith; his father before him was a Blacksmith and his father before him... Indeed it would seem that the family had been involved in the 'smithy' trade for as far back in memory could hold and even further. They were blacksmiths and horse-lovers and carers of animals when they arrived in the county and to the burren in the mid 1500s. They were, more than likely, involved in the 'smithy' trade when they arrived in Ireland on invading Norman sailing-ships from northern France sometime in the 15th century. It is said that every CURTIS family had at least one blacksmith in the clan. It would seem that with this ancient trade traditionally came the knowledge of the more arcane gift of 'Healing.' In one branch of this family this 'Gift' found expression in offering cures, often life-saving, to many human ailments. In his travels around Clare in the late 19th century, celebrated historian and author T. J. WESTROPP, beca!
me aware of the family's 'Cure' - also called 'The Charm.' My grandfatehr was the local Blacksmith when the historian travelled here. WESTROPP wrote: 'I am told that a Curtis of Kilnaboy, near Corofin, cures liver complaints, bleeding, and cows that have swallowed potatoes. He puts his human patients on their backs on his anvil and pretends to strike them with his sledge hammer. The patient then drinks forge water. All the family has the gift of healing. A legend says that St. Patrick's horse lost a shoe near Kilnaboy and their ancestor shod it gratuitously. The saint therefore endowed the family with the Power and people even return from America to be cured by the smith.' -- 'Folklore of Clare,' T. J. Westropp, org. pub. 1910-1913."
CURTIS recalls the many sounds of his childhood -- "From the first light and early cockcrow the farmyard bustled with life. Cows had to be milked, cow-cabins cleaned and fresh straw shaken on floors. Cattle had to be foddered in the fields and pigs, hens, geese, ducks and bronze turkeys and their broods had to be fed and counted daily - a visit from the neighbourhood fox could cause havoc in the henhouse. These chores were all done to a cacophony of sounds - mooing, bleating, chirping, quacking - all in rhythm with the clanging of milk-buckets and creamery cans, feeding pails and tins, barking dogs and cawing crows and magpies. When winter days fell like a magic spell on the burren and life and time itself slowed to a crawl, the Forge and my father rarely saw an idle moment."
He remembers... "the clear, rhythmic "Clang" of hammer on iron; of steel on steel; the deep, bell-like tone of resonating anvil; the arcing, spitting fiery showering of sparks; the pungent aroma of sweat and burning hoof, the fierce hiss and sizzle of red-hot metal being plunged into a stone-trough of iron-brown water; the stamping of horse hooves on a cobblestone floor and the snorting and bit-chomping of an impatient animal. All these sounds and smells are a backdrop to men conversing; sometimes in hushed whispers, sometimes loudly and punctuated often by raucous laughter... The old Forge stood for almost two centuries in our farmyard... I am 2-3 years of age and I reluctantly retreat to stand out of harm's way some distance from the forge door; my father having seen me pull playfully at the tail of a waiting horse, had shooed me away to a safe distance... The Forge, with all its dark, shadowy corners and hidden secrets was, I soon learned, a place of many dangers; a forb!
idden place where only adult men (even my mother never entered here) conducted some strange ritual on a daily basis..."