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Former Horsmonden Forge apprentice Shaun Donaghy's ashes blasted into the air

By David Gazet

An explosion sent the anvil rocketing up 30ft and, at the apex of its arc, there was a second bang and a flash of light, scattering Shaun Donaghy’s ashes into the air.

For family and friends of the 22-year-old, there was no better way of saying a fond farewell to a man known as much for his sense of his humour as his love of the forge.

Mr Donaghy, a former apprentice at Horsmonden Forge, who lived in Uckfield, East Sussex, died alongside his girlfriend Amy Novkovic, 27, in March when their van spun out of control and hit a tree.

Shaun Donaghy died in a car accident in March
Shaun Donaghy died in a car accident in March

Michael Hart, a fellow blacksmith, friend and mentor said: “He was very hard working and very determined, very easy get along with and a great laugh.

“I sat with his family and friends and we all wanted to do something for Shaun.”

Together, they spread Shaun’s ashes at Glynde Forge. They were incorporated in a gate he had designed when it was made. For the final send-off Mr Hart hit upon the idea of anvil firing.

After extensive safety tests, a group of 15 gathered at Horsmonden Forge off Goudhurst Road to watch the explosion.

The ashes were strapped to a delayed fuse which ignited seconds after the initial charge. Both bangs were heard across the village.

The set up of the anvil prior to firing
The set up of the anvil prior to firing
The aftermath of the firing
The aftermath of the firing

Mr Hart added: “I have spoken with Shaun’s mum and she has said that she is very proud that Shaun had such amazing colleagues and friends within the blacksmithing community who have been amazingly supportive to herself and the family. The anvil tribute was a wonderful and appropriate way to celebrate and remember Shaun.”

It derives from a tradition celebrated on St Clement’s Day on November 23, which mostly died out in the 20th Century.

On Old Clem’s Night, as it is also known, blacksmiths would pack gunpowder into a hole in the anvil before igniting it. As well as being a nod to the patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths, it was also a way of testing the anvil’s durability.

Mr Hart, 29, hopes to bring the custom back to Kent with a smaller firing on the village green.

Mr Hart said: “I think Shaun would have found it hilarious. I am really keen to do it in the village, either on St Clement’s Day or the summer fair.”

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