Footing turf on a Connemara bog
I have mixed emotions about bogs; on one hand I have distant memories of youthful days spend dodging hard work on my grandparents’ bog in Cavan, on the other hand as a photographer I am always attracted to their dramatic colours, textures and tones.
Traditionally turf was cut in May from the peat bank with a turf cutting spade called a sleán. It was then tossed up onto the bank where it would be caught by the ‘turf catcher’ and carefully laid out in rows. The turf was then left to dry a certain amount before being turned over by hand to dry the other side of the sods – a more back-breaking job you will struggle to find.
When the turf had dried enough to stand on its end it had to be ‘footed’ - as can be seen in the turf to the left of this photograph. This involved taking a number of sods and ‘footing’ them together to form a mini pyramid. This allowed air to move between them and helped the drying process. Once dried the turf could then be ‘clamped’ which meant building them into large mounds to help shield them from the worst of the elements before they were bagged.
As a bank of peat was cut away over the years it could then be drained and fertilised to create a ‘moss bottom’ which became a fertile ground on which to grow crops.