'On a day when we were going to Balreagh bog my father got up early '

Audio Player

File: http://www.lifehistoriesarchive.com/Files/FGS03.pdf

Dublin Core


'On a day when we were going to Balreagh bog my father got up early '


Frank remembers going to Balreagh bog with his father.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




This item is protected by original copyright

Access Rights

This content may be downloaded and used (with attribution) for research, teaching or private study. It may not be used for commercial purposes without permission.


Frank Gaynor

Is Part Of

Childhood and Early Life


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Clondaliever, Westmeath

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


On a day when we were going to Balreagh bog my father got up early. My mother helped him pack the requirements for lunch into a basket. He was usually on the road with the horse and cart by 8 am. Myself and Paddy would follow by foot sometime later. We went to the bog only during the summer months. If it was raining heavily either we did not go at all or we came home early. Consequently days spent on the bog were mostly dry days, and frequently they were warm and sunny. It is not surprising then that the bog is remembered as a kind of holiday resort. The journey from our house to Balreagh bog by road was about three miles and involved travelling in the shape of a large S. Along the way my father would stop briefly for a chat with anyone he met. He was very unlikely to meet anyone that he did not know. The greetings and conversations were mostly about the weather, but the word weather was seldom mentioned. It might go like this: 'Morra Matt. Morra Mick. What d'ya think? Will it hold? Oh, you'd never know. It wasn't lookin too bad there last night. No, you're right there, it wasn't. Please God we'll get a break now for a while. I'd better keep going anyway or I'll get nothing done.' The distance by foot was much shorter as we walked almost in a straight line from the beginning to the end of the S. This brought us across our pump field, over a hill where lambs and calves liked to run and jump and play. In the next field we were likely to see rabbits scurrying out of the grass and back into their burrows. When we reached Balreagh road at Nulty's house there was a narrow road in front of us that led straight to the bog. On a good summer's day as we trotted down this narrow dusty road barefooted we enjoyed the feeling of the warm dust between our toes. As we returned home in the evening time we were always alert, hoping to see a fox or a badger. One evening, as our eyes scanned the area below us, we noticed some movement in the long grass. As we watched excitedly we soon realised that it was a man and a woman who were hard at it. They seemed totally unaware of our presence. Balreagh bog was covered by heather. Underneath the heather was a soft spongy layer that was no good for turf. The next layer would produce brown turf. Deeper layers produced black turf. Each family in the area had their own section of the bog, called a turf bank, where they cut turf every year. The first couple of days on the bog each year were spent preparing the bank for cutting. This involved clearing away the heather and dumping the spongy layer in last year's bog - hole. My father employed a man to cut the turf. He started with an area about 5m square. Using a special spade, called a slane, he cut the sods one by one and threw them up. As soon as we were strong enough for the task Paddy and myself took turns at catching each sod as it came off the slane. The sods were placed on a special wheelbarrow and taken some distance to a suitable place where they would be dried by the wind and the sun. A certain skill was required to throw the sods off the wheelbarrow without breaking them. When he had finished the first floor, the man with the slane would level the cutting area and start cutting the second floor. This process continued until water eventually came into the cutting area and made further cutting impossible. This usually happened after about the eight floor. The man with the slane usually worked in a non - stop rhythm that kept us on our toes for a couple of hours at a time. It was hard work but enjoyable with plenty of good humour and laughs. Coming up to midday my father would head off to his special lone tree where he would light a fire and boil the kettle and maybe a few eggs. We waited anxiously for the signal to join him. The first hopeful sign was the smoke from the fire. Next we would see his white head as he waved his hat, indicating that lunch was served. The slices of boiled bacon, my mother's bread and the boiled eggs all went down sweetly on the bog. The turf was handled many times before it was put on the fire: we returned to the bog to turn each sod from where it had been thrown from the wheelbarrow; we returned later to stack the sods into small heaps called footings, and later into larger heaps called clamps; when they were dried out the sods were taken across the bog to the road, and stacked there until they were taken to Clondaliever by horse and cart or by lorry. The sods were thrown by hand into the cart or lorry, and thrown from the cart or lorry into the turf - shed at Clondaliever. Years later the turf was bought from Bord na Mona and delivered to the house; all we had to do was throw it into the turf - shed.




Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


This item has no location info associated with it.

Social Bookmarking