Tom Mahon and James McCullough (both ML276) have been supporters of the Belfast Masonic Funds for many years, so when they invited us to have a tour of them at labour in The National Trust's Patterson's Spade Mill, followed by a barbeque, we jumped at the chance.
So on the sunny evening of Thursday 1st August 2019, a delegation from The Belfast Fund's found ourselves in Templepatrick at the last working water-driven spade mill in daily use in the British Isles.
There we were treated to an informative lecture on the history & culture behind the humble spade, followed by a demonstration of red hot billets of steel being removed from the forge and fashioned into spades using the mill’s massive trip hammer. We were transported back in time by the sound of the hammers and the heat and smells of the work, which hasn't changed much since the Patterson family first started making spades back in 1695.
The Mill was passed down through the generations until 1990, when the last of the Patterson spade makers passed away and the National Trust took on the property.
After the tour Jonny Gray was on hand with a BBQ to make sure that nobody had hunger pangs from watching all that hard work.
Blacksmithing classes are available at Patterson's and some of the party expressed an interest in returning to take part.
Tom & James deserve our thanks, for giving us a real insight into what was once common, but now almost completely gone, and thanks to Jonny for all his work.