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Lem Anthony's Forge


When I came to Fogo first more than a few years ago now, one of the buildings that I would pass on a daily basis near the canal, was what was called Don Anthony's Garage. More often than not, though, it was referred to as Lem Anthony's Forge, as indeed it had been just that for many, many, years. Indeed, it could have called an 'institution' here because, like the churches and shops, it was a meeting place, sometimes for business, sometimes for a chat, and many time to get a break from the bitterly cold weather outside. It was a popular with the school children, who were always particularly welcomed. But first a little about blacksmithing. First the name. There are many who associate the word 'black' with the way the smith may have looked, thinking perhaps that he was that colour from the type of work he did. Actually, blacksmiths work with 'black' metals, typically iron. The word 'smith' originates from the word 'smite', which means 'to hit'. Thus a blacksmith is a person who smites black metal, Most likely he had a clean face, especially our Lem! Blacksmithing goes back to ancient times, and it is believed that the first blacksmith was Tubal Cain (not to be confused with Cain), written about as well in Genesis. I am remembering him, as perhaps many of you of my vintage do, from a poem by Charles Macay, and called Tubal Cain. I'll end with a verse from that poem.

The View From Fogo Island - When I came to Fogo first more than a few years ago now, one of the buildings that I would pass on a daily basis near the canal, was what was called Don Anthony's Garage. More often than not, though, it was referred to as Lem Anthony's Forge, as indeed it had been just that for many, many, years.

Indeed, it could have called an 'institution' here because, like the churches and shops, it was a meeting place, sometimes for business, sometimes for a chat, and many time to get a break from the bitterly cold weather outside. It was a popular with the school children, who were always particularly welcomed. But first a little about blacksmithing. First the name. There are many who associate the word 'black' with the way the smith may have looked, thinking perhaps that he was that colour from the type of work he did. Actually, blacksmiths work with 'black' metals, typically iron. The word 'smith' originates from the word 'smite', which means 'to hit'. Thus a blacksmith is a person who smites black metal, Most likely he had a clean face, especially our Lem! Blacksmithing goes back to ancient times, and it is believed that the first blacksmith was Tubal Cain (not to be confused with Cain), written about as well in Genesis. I am remembering him, as perhaps many of you of my vintage do, from a poem by Charles Macay, and called Tubal Cain. I'll end with a verse from that poem.

Lem Anthony from Fogo was a household name all over Fogo Island, Change Islands, Indian Islands, Carmanville, other places along the Straight Shore, and Gander Bay, particularly with the men. There were many requiring his services, but mostly they would have to for and anything having to do with 'shoeing' horses, 'runners' for sleighs, spikes for building wharves, small anchors for boats, and anything having to do with boat engines and the like. I said that the building was an institution here in Fogo, and it would be just as appropriate to say that Lem himself was an institution. Children, I am told, would stand in awe as he would hold a piece of red-hot iron with a pair of tongs in one hand, and a huge hammer in the other. As he worked sparks flew off in all directions as the hammer came in contact with the red-hot iron. That's pretty exciting stuff, that we from Barr'd Islands would have loved to see.

There were many who felt that Lem had missed his calling, or that he had another calling, that he held simultaneously. He was fervent in his religious duties on the Sabbath, and at other times when his guidance and solace was needed. Every Sunday he took his family to church, but instead of sharing his seat with his wife, Marjorie, daughter Elsie, and sons Ross, Don, and Howard, he often conducted the service. Those who remembered him said that, not only did he expound the word of God in The United Church in Fogo (now closed) but he did the same in a more informal and different way from a dusty forge to a congregation of children, especially. Incidentally, Lem had two brothers who were ordained in the sacred ministry. And, on a personal note, I remember as a small boy, Ross Anthony working for a while in Earle's store in Barr'd Islands. Are there some of you reading this who are remembering the poem "The Village Blacksmith" by Longfellow? Perhaps you are recalling this stanza:

He goes on Sunday to the church,

And sits among his boys;

He hears the parson pray and preach,

He hears his daughter's voice,

Singing in the village choir,

And it makes his heart rejoice.

Like so many historic landmarks in rural Newfoundland, there is not a trace of that historic building now. It is fairly safe to say that the majority of children going to school don't know what a blacksmith was, or that at one time there was a vibrant forge here in Fogo. I do not mean to chastise anyone for that. It is just a fact of the times. I wonder sometimes if a marker of sorts might not be placed there with the pertinent information. The fishing stage like that forge of the past may be undergoing the same fate. Fortunately efforts are being made to restore some of them. I did say that I would end with a stanza from a poem that I enjoyed in High School, from the poem Tubal Cain. If you are recalling the rest of that poem, you may be thinking, like myself, that Tubal Cain was of a different demeanor than our gentle Lem. Lem certainly doesn't fit the stereotype descriptions of blacksmiths from the classical literature I often indulge in. I seem to recall from that, that the country blacksmith was one of a strongly individualistic, boasting, swearing, noisy men, associated mostly with other men. Oh, well.

Tubal Cain

Old Tubal Cain was a man of might

In the days when the earth was young;

By the fierce red light of his furnace bright

The strokes of his hammer rung;

And he lifted high his brawny hand

On the iron glowing clear,

Till the sparks rushed out in scarlet showers

And he fashioned the sword and spear.

And he sang "Hurrah for the handiwork!

Hurrah for the spear and sword!

Hurrah for the hand that shall wield them well,

For he shall be king and lord!"

Now, just before I end this piece, I want to give you a little bit of trivial, that I think is just a little pertinent. You may have heard the expression, 'case-hardened' meaning 'bad', and incorrigible. My poor mother often said that I was such. The word, though, was originally used in blacksmithing, and means giving a steel surface to iron by carbonizing. I doubt that Lem ever did that, but who knows?

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