Supported by Galway 2020’s Small Towns Big Ideas programme, for the first time in almost 250 years, the ancient craft of iron smelting will be revived in spectacular fashion in the village of Woodford with the Furnace Festival 2018.
Throughout the international iron smelting festival, which has been organised to revive interest throughout East Galway in this ancient tradition, newly-built shaft furnaces will flare into life on the slopes of the Slieve Aughty Mountains.
The festival will see a guild of eight people train as iron smelters, operate the furnaces and produce the iron which will be forged into a variety of artefacts. The group of smelters will be trained in the skill of bloomery smelting by master smelter Lee Sauder, who is over from Virginia to supervise the training programme.
Craftsmen and smiths from the USA, Poland, Germany, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, England, Wales, and the Netherlands will also be taking part in the festival. “These craftsmen represent some of the best talent around and include some of the most experienced smelters, master blade smiths and even a German secondary school teacher who managed to put iron smelting on the local school curriculum,” says Furnace Festival co-founder, Paul Rondelez.
Paul Rondelez is one of the country’s leading experts in the history of iron production in Ireland. He founded the festival in 2016 with Ger Madden, a local historian and the first person to publish on the Sliabh Aughty furnaces.
Throughout the duration of the festival, the East Galway Family History Society will also have an exhibition in the heritage centre on early iron production in Ireland, with a special focus on Woodford. A scale model of a 17th Century blast furnace, just like the one which operated in Woodford, will also be on display at the centre.
To see our fascinating history come to life, and for a fun family day out, pop out to Woodford from 25 to 26 August.
Find more information on the Sliabh Aughy Furnace Project Facebook page.