With thanks to Woodend & District Heritage Society. The society meets every Wednesday, 10am-4pm, at the old court house in Forest St, Woodend.
Here at the Redmonds’ forge in Woodend not only could you get your horse shod or your wagon repaired but you could be sure of a warm welcome.
Having started out under George Hewett, the township’s earliest-known blacksmith, Johnny Redmond set up his own business next to Islay House, in High St, in 1882.
The story goes that Redmond once put a set of shoes on Ned Kelly’s horse when the bushranger was passing through Woodend. According to his former apprentice “Snowy” Kane, the blacksmith didn’t realise who the customer was “until somebody who knew Kelly personally told him a few days later”.
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Johnny Redmond died in 1918, aged 71. His son John Jnr followed in his trade and continued working out of the premises until the early 1950s. The shop burnt down in 1972. More than 100 years old, it had fallen into disrepair and was awaiting demolition.
The Redmonds were well known for their generosity. When John Jnr died in 1963, the Woodend Star said this:
“Johnny”, as he was popularly known, was highly regarded by the whole community, his cheery nature and happy smile, at all times, winning many friends.
The newspaper added that even when his health began to fail he would go the aid of “many of our young folk” who needed horses or ponies shoeing, often travelling “many miles to assist”.
One local summed it up by saying that the forge was a great meeting place, with a similar atmosphere to the pub. Men used to call in for a chat and to share district “talk”.
✍️ Richard Padgett
Forging History, by Jane Holth and illustrated by Joycelyn Moreland, tells the stories of the blacksmiths of Newham and Woodend. Woodend & District Heritage Society. $15.
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