The Blacksmith

A piece written for a Waterfront Hall event by New Irish Arts on Easter Saturday 2001. It's a long time ago now, but it's actually inspired by an even older piece which was, I think, written by Patrick Evans and performed by Pete Craig, fellow Bedlam "inmates", back in April 1986... I never actually saw that script, so I can't tell you whether I stole any lines, though I doubt that I retained any over the intervening 15 years.

(Blacksmith working at an anvil throughout)
Holiday-makers! Damned nuisance if you ask me! Every year it's the same Hardly any work for the ten months after Pentecost, then they all flock into Jerusalem for the Passover. And they all want a few wee jobs done when they're here. Pots and pans. Shoeing the odd horse, and let me tell you, some of the horses they ask me to shoe are pretty odd! Mending a set of scales. Watch out that's a precision instrument they tell you. Hah! That's what I think of their precision instruments! (Bangs hammer down on piece of metal on anvil then throws it onto scrapheap)
Still, shouldn't complain. Brings in the shekels. It's just they all want everything done yesterday. And if I don't get things done before the Sabbath I'll have the Pharisees breathing down my neck. And let me tell you, given the halitosis of some of those boyos, the last thing you want is them breathing all over you. Then there's the Romans. They've always got work for you. Just finished a job for them. Would be a nice little earner except they're a bit slow on the paying up. But I'm not going to dander round to Pontius Pilate and say look mate, you've had your 30 days. Cough up! I may not be trained in diplomacy, but I know when its best to put tip and shut up for fear of getting intimately acquainted with the sharp end of a legionary's spear.

Its a far cry from days gone by up in Nazareth. That's where I'm from, way back when. It’s a wee bit smaller than Jerusalem, and then some. There's a proverb about Nazareth. Did anything good ever come out of Nazareth? Aye. The road to Jerusalem! But I'm telling you, on days like this I could do with being back up there again. Good clean Galilean air. No hurry. No hassle. No Romans. No work. That's why I had to leave. I mean, it's all very good living in a one-horse town, but not if you shoe horses for a living! Most of the fellas I grew up with were the same. Head down to the sea for the fishing. Or stay long enough to learn your trade then head off to one of the big cities to make your fortune. Others took off to join the Zealots in the hills. Fighting the Romans. There may not be much money in that, but at least it’s exciting. Better than staring at the four walls in Nazareth.

Last time I was up in Nazareth they'd all gone, all my old mates. Jethro the weaver. Peter the stonemason. That waster Nathan. Even Jesus the Carpenter had packed up and gone. Mind you he had stuck it longer than most of us. Thirty years he'd been there. I thought he was part of the fixtures. But my folks say that one day he just up and went. They thought he'd just headed down to the cities like the rest of us. But then he arrives back, claiming to be the Messiah. The Saviour. Even the Son of God.

People had never been too sure that Joseph was his real Father. Word was that Mary, his mother had been putting it about a bit before the wedding, but no-one ever realised what exalted circles she had been moving in. According to my Ma, she and Joseph slipped off to their home town of Bethlehem at the time of the census, and when they came back they had a son. And here he was, thirty years later claiming to be the Son of God. Needless to say, the townsfolk told him to sling his hook.

I must say that I was a bit surprised to hear all that. He was always a nice guy. Fairly normal, if a little straight. The townsfolk loved him as their carpenter. He did a good job and never over-charged them. But I don't suppose those are the only credentials needed to be accepted as the King of Kings. Still, thirty years of living in Nazareth would send anyone barking mad No, as I say, I didn't really believe the whole Son of God bit. I heard that he was travelling around Galilee as a wandering teacher and preacher, and that seemed to fit. Fairly innocuous. But as for claiming to be the Son of God. No, my Nazareth sources must have got the wrong end of the stick, I thought...

Until last week, when who should turn up among the holidaymakers but the King of Kings himself. I didn't see him until a couple of days ago. But I'd heard about this guy from Nazareth who had gone in and ransacked the Temple market. I must confess, I'd thought about it a few times myself. I mean, that place is an absolute rip off. But to actually do it... Then, apparently he claimed that if the temple was demolished he would rebuild it in three days. I'm telling you, he'd have to be paying a fair few stonemasons overtime to pull that one off! Well, needless to say the priests didn't like all that too much, and so within a couple of days they had him in the clink on a charge of blasphemy. Then, somehow they got the Romans in on the act because the next thing was he was on trial before Pilate.

That's where I met him, early this morning. I was making my latest delivery up to the garrison. He had just been condemned by the looks of it. He was in a dreadful state; I hardly recognised him. The soldiers were having a great time. Since he's the King of Kings they'd wrapped him in a purple cloak and jammed a crown of thorns down onto his head. Very funny... Comedians like that eat babies for an encore. I just wanted to be somewhere else very quickly. I just threw my delivery into the guardhouse and left.

Another job done… not that they'll ever pay me for it. Which is a pity, because they use a lot of nails.
Shalom



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