Worst year ever for cutting turf in County Limerick

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

WILLIE Keane has been bringing home turf from Gooig bog for over 70 years and this is the worst year he can remember.

WILLIE Keane has been bringing home turf from Gooig bog for over 70 years and this is the worst year he can remember.

He estimates that only half of the turf was saved this year in the Castleconnell bog compared to a normal year. 2012 was certainly no normal year.

Generally turf is cut in March/April and let dry in the wind.

“There’s an old saying that the only place to dry turf is in the bog but not this year.

“We got thunder rain, it wasn’t showers at all it was downpours,” said Mr Keane.

“If the weather suits it is cut in April and if you got any kind of dry spell you could be bringing it home a month afterwards. That didn’t happen,” added the well known Castleconnell man.

Mr Keane has been going down to the bog since he was a young fellow of six or seven and can remember when Gooig was divided by the Land Commission around 1939.

“We always cut turf for the fire. We’re all our life going to Gooig bog but there is turf over there now and people are trying to save it at the minute.

“You would nearly want waders to go in there!” said Mr Keane.

In any other year all the turf has been taken home but there is plenty left in the bog.

“Normally it is all ready to go in the month of June and July and you’d bring it home in your own time,” explains Mr Keane.

By mid-September the only people left in Gooig bog are walkers or nature lovers.

However, this Monday Dave Gaynor photographed Lisnagry men, Jack Hall and Padraig Power, hard at work.

As the picture shows they are stacking it up on a pallet to keep it off the wet ground.

Mr Keane says any person who brought home turf this year “earned it”.

After the turf is cut with a hopper it is dug out with a digger in rows.

Then as soon as is starts drying it can be turned and made into small footings to get it off the ground. But when the ground is so wet anything that is in the ground won’t dry.

Second footings are done with what is left in the bog.

The problem this year has been that some turf couldn’t even be cut because it is submerged in water.

“A lot of turf up the bog, on the Newport side, has been lost. It wasn’t accessible, it was covered by water.

“Even some lines when they were cut kind of stuck together, just muck. That is there at the present time.

“There is turf there and they won’t be able to save it, they won’t be able to touch it. You couldn’t physically get it, it’s not going to be got at this stage,” said Mr Keane, who sums it up by calling it a “salvage operation”.

A bad year for turf due to the weather is a familiar story. “Every facet of agriculture – it is the worst I can remember. From fruit growing to corn cutting to turf to silage, everything.

“You had cattle and cows going in to houses in the month of June and silage pits only covered maybe a fortnight or three weeks being opened.

“There is an awful lot of bad fodder made too,” concluded Willie Keane.