Uncle Jim

My Uncle Jim …. Not my Uncle Jo
Was the village blacksmith I’d like you to know;
Animal husbandry, farrier and shoe-smith
Were words not found in his limited word-list.
When Jim his anvil was bashing and banging,
The whole of the village could hear the clanging,
And folk would say “Just listen to him
He’s venting his spite on some iron again.”
Well you can’t leave a nag without a shoe,
Not when it’s got some ploughing to do;
Nor can you ride in a novice’s race
On a pony that’s lately slipped a plate.
The Smithy was near to the village school,
And we kids made it a kind of a rule
To gather around old Jim’s fierce blaze
Till the school bell summoned for morning praise.
I remember the haze in that clouded roof,
Where it drifted around, but found it ‘scape-proof;
And the fumes that from the clinkers arose
Caught the back of your throat and tickled your nose.
Old Jim pumped the bellows with all of his might,
His muscles stood out … an impressive sight.
Beads of sweat on his brow would stand
Till he brushed them away with the back of his hand,
And he sang a song, his voice deep and gruff,
‘Jeremiah, blow the fire. Puff. Puff. Puff.’
When the fire built up to a maximum heat
he plunged in a rod at its fiercest ‘seat’,
And when white-hot he removed it with pincers
With handles that measured a modern metre.
Laid on the anvil, at th rounded end,
He bashed and bashed till it started to bend;
Now if his movement was clear out of plumb
And he chanced to strike his finger or thumb,
The word that he used was just a mild ‘ouch’;
Both his furnace and swear words he managed to douse.
Youthful admirers whose favour he curried,
Those tender minds he would never have sullied.
The old leather apron that he’s worn for years
Hung from his waist all tatters and tears;
Little protection it afforded him now,
But to part with it … well he wouldn’t know how.
You could hear a horse approaching the shop
With familiar sound of ‘clippety clop’.
But, minus a shoe … P’raps minus the ‘clop’.
The nag seemed to know what it had to do,
Raised a leg, and offered a hoof.
Jim tucked it between his knees with a care,
Established a platform its weight to bear.
Placing a shoe in its proper position,
Inserting the nails with the greatest precision.
Just once, for what reason, he got it all wrong,
Jim was sent sprawling the cobbles along;
There was no more clanging all summer long.
So life went on … till suddenly it didn’t
For Jim had succumbed to his Master’s bidding.
An uncanny silence has hovered the ground
Now poor old Jim is no longer around.
His apron droops from the same old pin,
A constant reminder of Uncle Jim.
Sometimes when upon my pillow I lie
I fancy I hear him clanging the sky.
In a rendering once, by the Heavenly choir
I could swear I heard the name ‘Jeremiah’.
(Anne Hunt nee Turner)
The Smithy’s now gone but the yard is still there
And his grandson (another Jim) took great care
To build the old anvil into a stone wall
So we shouldn’t forget how his ancestors toiled.
For some forty years this monument ‘stayed’,
Uncle Jim’s great great grandchildren around it have played;
But one night in December thieves took it away
…. the end!