Centuries-old cooper’s craft proves evergreen


George Smithwick is a sixth generation cooper who makes traditional wooden buckets and barrels. He is continuing a family tradition that began in the 18th century in Ireland. 

In 2015 Edward Washington and Jimmy Murray from the Sydney Living Museums' Programs team (now Experience & Learning) flew down to catch up with George to see if he could help with making us some new buckets for the education programs at Elizabeth Farm.

He was happy to show us how he worked, using tools, techniques and practises that have remained the same for hundreds of years. George also let us into what was once a very tight-knit and sometimes secretive coopering industry – and we captured it all on camera.

Since June 2016 George Smithwick’s video has achieved over 500,000 total YouTube views, which equates to more than 8 million minutes of view-time in 142 different countries. It has introduced an international audience to SLM’s stories.

The video also went on to become part of a set of new videos produced for our Convict Sydney website, exploring trades such as coopering, blacksmithing, shingling and more.

As summed up by one of the many YouTube comments:

... Sydney Living Museums [has] saved a treasure more precious to culture than you could ask.

Kenneth Brahmer, 2018

You can watch the video here:

Cooper: George Smithwick

See more Convict Trade videos

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