A Day in the Irish Bog was a typical experience for most of our Irish ancestors – harvesting the heat for the fire for the long winter ahead. Here’s just one story from the Irish bog…
Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. How are things going in your part of the world today? We are definitely feeling a chill in the air both morning and evening as the autumn advances here in County Cork. There is a pungent smell of peat smoke above many of the houses across Ireland’s rural villages to beat this chill.
Many of our Irish ancestors would spend days on the “bog” in their parish – digging peat (we call it turf in Ireland) with a special shovel called a “slean” and then setting it out in low piles to dry on the surface for a few weeks. Days in the bog were filled with hard work, plenty of laughter and a lot of stories and socialising. By the time autumn set in, the turf was stacked in neat piles outside the cottages – ready for the worst of the weather.
Today’s letter features a story from one of our Green Room members – and was probably typical of the humorous stories that were shared around the fireplace in the evening.
Over now to Simon O’Flynn – an all-round great Irish story-teller.
Turf cutters and Pilots.
By Simon O’Flynn.
Turf cutting was always considered an important part of rural life in Ireland. A day of honest toiling in the bog had almost romantic connotations. Providing shelter and heat for your family, “by the sweat of your brow” was indeed considered to be a noble occupation. In truth it was a hard, back breaking job carried out in all weather conditions. My story is about two brothers who spent most of their days turf cutting.
Pat and Seán were twins. Of the two Pat was the bright one and Seán was the quieter. Because Pat was the ‘’boss’’ he had the skilful job of using the “slean” to cut the sods. Seán would then quietly stack them in low ricks to dry.
One day while having tea and a break from the digging, Pat declared that he was tired of these backing breaking conditions and decided to seek another way of making a living. He said that he had heard that easy money could be made in Australia. He had calculated that between them they had just enough money to get them there and they should give it a go. Seán quietly nodded in agreement.
On arrival in Australia they were ushered into the immigration department. After filling the forms for new arrivals Pat was the first to be seen by the immigration officer. The official gave one look at his occupation details and shook his head and said …“there are no opportunities for a turf cutter in Australia”…. he continued…”most people in Australia have never even heard of turf……. application rejected”. Seán was next in.
Some time passed before Seán returned. “I’m in”….., he told Pat. Pat grabbed the form; now permitting Seán to work in Australia. “YOU SAID YOU WERE A PILOT” exclaimed Pat.
“Yea” says Seán – “you dig it……I pile it!”
Qantas, the Australian National Airline, have an outstanding safety record. The above post should not deter anybody from flying with them or any other airlines in Australia.
Thanks very much for that Simon – you seem to have a bottomless pile of stories tucked away in that memory of yours. That’s it for this week – do feel free to leave a comment below and share the stories and surnames from your own Irish family tree. We do look forward to you joining us again next week.
Slán for now,
Mike & Carina.
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