Is it a woman’s prerogative to be late? Master Blacksmith Michelle Parker certainly doesn’t think so – however on 16th October 2008 (on what she describes as one of the most important days of her life) she made history – twice in one day!
Self employed Worcestershire business woman and senior lecturer in blacksmithing at Warwickshire College, Michelle is now the first professional female blacksmith to be appointed as a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. This is in their entire 700 year history, since being incorporated by prescription by King Edward I in 1325.
The Company awards a range of certificates, diplomas and medals which recognise different degrees of ability and quality of workmanship. Michelle was also selected to receive a bronze medal, recognition of the outstanding quality of workmanship she has produced at her own forge in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire and her Blacksmithing teaching at Moreton Morrell.Warwickshire
“It is only since 2004 that ladies have been admitted to the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths” said Christopher Jeal, Clerk to the Company. “While there have been many ladies who have received a Company award, the Court Luncheon and Awards ceremony that took place at Stationers' Hall in the City of London on 16th October, was the first time that a working lady blacksmith had been admitted to the Livery of the Company. We congratulate Michelle Parker on that achievement and it was enhanced by her award of a Bronze Medal on the same occasion.”
But Michelle almost missed the pomp because a London cabbie was relying on sat-nav rather than traditional street knowledge and she ended up miles away from the ceremony across the other side of the city.
Arriving an hour late, the historic society decided to make an exception and for the first time on record held the Court open so that Michelle could be sworn in as a Liveryman, So, instead of taking the oath in front of just a handful of people she then had to read it to an audience of more than 200.
“I was nervous enough to start off with”, she says, “but before so many people I was petrified. It was such an important occasion and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. Everyone was lovely and very supportive and I’m just grateful they held the Court open for me – they’ve never done this before – so I made history for a second time that day.”
Richard Bacon, overall manager for this area in Warwickshire College, is delighted. “I am very proud of Michelle and pleased that her achievements have been recognised in this way. Since she joined my teaching team blacksmithing courses have gone from strength to strength. Not only is she incredibly skilled, but her passion for her craft inspires new budding blacksmiths. Our students now regularly win top awards at prestigious shows.”