Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Bog

The photo above shows a bucket of turf and a milk jug. Both the bucket and the jug were made by Irish Travellers who follow the trade and skill of being tinsmiths who manufacture articles made of sheet metal.

The bucket, a traditional design, is made from a copper cylinder I use it for carrying and holding the turf. It is also watertight and could be used for holding liquids without fear of any leakage. Similarly the milk jug is of the same quality although made from coated steel sheet. The jug is not in use and kept solely as a keepsake.

This type of Turf is a traditional fuel cut on our local bog by a neighbour. Saving the turf (footing the turf) is labour intensive and the whole family is engaged with the work. The quality being very reliant on having a good summer with warm dry winds to blow across the bog plain and dry the sods of wet turf on two sides. By the time that each sod is put into the fire each piece will have been handled about six times.

The bog is an extraordinary place to work, for nowhere else on the land creates such a hunger or thirst. You could eat half a pig go home and consume the other half as well as drinking the Well dry!

Black bog pools stare, glassily

As dumb dark eyes to ashen sky.

Frozen fronds droop down in death

Prehistoric man long infused.

As chalk dust lies in clay form

Under grazed barrowed hill.

And brittle grass crunches as glass

Underfoot as Heron pecks hungrily.

The glazed green pond on

Skeletal sinewy sticks, long.

[17. 01. 2000]


  1. Do the tinsmiths still make those lovely buckets and jugs?

    You reap your peat bogs for warmth, as we reap our forests for the same reason.
    Every fall we load up the truck with a chainsaw and tools and head into the backcountry to select our source of heat for the following winter. Only the dead and dry need apply - trees, that is...
    We buck up the trunks beside the truck, toss the lenghs into the box and stack it neatly for the ride home.
    Once in the yard, the logs get tossed into a pile on the ground, only to be split and restacked under the deck.

    When the time comes to stoke the fire, we are warmed twice by the wood - once when working up a sweat by splitting it into stove-sized pieces and again by the warm glow of the fire.

  2. Yes the buckets are still made and by the men of the same family, who live a few miles down the road. In fact earlier this week I saw them with a new bucket on the pushbike, they tour the houses offering it for sale. I have two of them that I bought over the years, sufficient for my needs:)

  3. How is the turf placed so that it dries,? I mean does it get cut in pieces then stacked on a tarp or is it layed out flat in rows on concrete? Is it covered from rain and dew or do you just cross your fingers and hope for dry weather? Has your farming family down the road ever found any interesting bog artifacts? (We Californians are a nosy bunch at the best of times)I really like the bucket and jugs too.

  4. Elle, 5 or 6 pieces are stood on their ends with tops touching and the wind blows through drivng out the moisture. There is no better place than the bog for them to dryout. Artefacts are sometimes bodies, gold etc. As for my friends I don't think so :)

  5. Great piece and entry, Mr Heron!!!

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this - found it fascinating Thankyou


Your comments are a welcome addition to the activity of this blog however,the use of swear words is not permitted.