GALLERY: Illawarra has a ball at Bulli Show

They began seven decades apart, but the oldest and newest attractions of the Bulli Show were just seven feet apart on Sunday.

Ray Lincoln, 84, began life as a blacksmith at the tender age of 14. His table, which he stood behind hammering red-hot strips of metal into small ornamental horseshoes, was only metres from an animatronic dinosaur petting zoo.

“Blacksmithing is done now, I just go around to shows to keep active,” Mr Lincoln, from Bargo, said.

“There’s still an interest in it though, you meet some nice people and they have an appreciation for something handmade. People still appreciate the skill, it’s something to see the skill.”

Working mostly with horseshoes, Mr Lincoln has seen the price for shoeing a horse go from $1.70 in 1951, to up to $150 today. He said he shod the first porterhorses in the country, and saw the first dressage and showjumpers arrive in Australia. But while the trade of blacksmithing has all but disappeared, he said the skill of farriering – of looking after and shoeing the feet of a horse – is in more demand than ever.

“The skill has changed very little in my time, it’s the same procedure used for the last 100 years,” he said.

“There are more young men working in the trade now than ever, with race horses and work horses and so on, and the men now are doing a great job.”

At 84 – “I’m 85 next month” – Mr Lincoln travels around to a small handful of shows each year, bringing a small portable furnace and anvil to hammer small strips of metal into souvenir or keepsake pieces. A long career in the region means a lot of people recognise him; even if he doesn’t necessarily recognise them.

“I enjoy still doing it because I get people coming up and telling me that I shoed their mum’s horse all those years ago,” he said.

“They tell me the name of the horse and I remember the horse. I tell the person I can’t remember their name, and they say ‘well I was only a little kid back then,’” he laughed.

Just metres from the animatronic dinosaur display, Mr Lincoln said that while the trade of blacksmithing has disappeared due to cheap, factory-produced overseas imports, many people still have a fondness for the skill involved in turning a hunk of lifeless metal into something functional, useful and even beautiful.

“Everything now is fabricated and machine-made. Those companies sell it for cheaper than our materials cost us,” he said.

“But there is still that appreciation for something handmade, something individual. You can appreciate the craftsmanship and the effort.”

“People still like that.”

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