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Working Life

Blacksmithing

At work in the smithy at Kirland of Glencairn

Description:

 

John McCall in the smithy at Kirkland of Glencairn. Dr Werner Kissling, 1958.

 

Dr Kissling took photographs of blacksmiths to illustrate their skill and we don't know very much about the lives of individuals in his photographs. However, we know more about the life of the man in this photograph.

 

This is John McCall in his smithy at Kirkland. It shows him standing over his anvil, hammering white-hot metal which he is gripping with tongs.

 

John was born in 1888 in Kirkland and is around seventy years old in this photograph. He was one of thirteen children and grew up in the cottages opposite the smithy. His father and grandfather had been blacksmiths at Kirkland before him and he learned his trade from them.

 

He lived in Kirkland all his life except for a brief time during the First World War. He used his skills to work as a farrier for military horses on the Macedonian Front. However, one of his brothers was killed at Gallipoli during the war and John became a pacifist for the rest of his life.

 

John met his wife, Hilda Dennison, in London during the war. They moved to Kirkland together where John continued his work as a blacksmith. At that time Kirkland had no electricity or running water.

 

John and Hilda had three children, none of whom became blacksmiths. The family story is that John insisted that they should not follow in the trade the day he made more money selling petrol from a pump by the roadside than he did from his skill as a blacksmith.

 

John continued to work until he died in 1961.

 

Dr Werner Kissling (1895-1988) was a German photographer and ethnographer who spent most of his life documenting Scottish crafts, architecture, and agricultural practices. He was associated with Dumfries Museum from the mid-1950s until his death in 1988.

 

With thanks to the family of John McCall for additional information.

Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
PP/KISSLING COLLECTION, blacksmithing/16
Digital Number:
DMPG361n
Creation Date:
1958
Copyright:
Dumfries & Galooway Council