“What is this photo for anyway?” One of the crew enquired as I tried to get everyone on one side of the camera. “Get in the John Deere, sir,” I said. He replied: “Jesus sir if I kneel down, I might never get up again.”
Saturday wasn’t a great day for the bog, but it’s the day that this gang from the Kilmacrennan area had planned to get their turf home.
Normally the first few weeks in August are ideal with the hill nice and dry for tractors and trailers to drive in as close as possible to load the bagged turf.
But this last few days heavy downpours have made conditions very sticky.
So a few quads with small trailers got the turf to the firmer ground where it was loaded up on to every type of trailer available from an Ivor Williams to low loaders to the traditional turf trailer with the high cribs
We got a call on Saturday afternoon to say a lot was working at their turf in Glenveigh area.
These boys all turned out to be from the Kilmacrennan area when we caught up with them.
Five tractors Four quads and a four-wheel-drive jeep all landed at the Glenveigh Inn on the mountain road loaded down with bags of turf.
One of the tractors “75 DL” a beautiful Massey Ferguson was easily older than half of the crew that was out on the Hill that day.
“Seamus the nurse”
As the crew finally lined out last Saturday last for the photo they reminded me of my days out in the bog giving a man a long since passed away a hand with his turf.
He was locally known up the Glen as “Seamus the nurse” after his mother who was a nurse in Letterkenny.
Seamus Mc Devitt was a storeman in Hegarty’s Auto Services where I once worked. Its was the late 1970s and Seamus was back in Donegal after spending a few years in Boston.
In the summer evenings and the odd Saturday, there was always a few from the garage who would go out to the bog above Breenagh and gives Seamus a hand with the turf.
For a townie like me, it was an all-new experience to spend evenings in the bog footing turf, midges taking lumps out us but the craic was good.
Listening to Glen men telling you to rub the bog water on your face to keep the midgies away and not realising until you’re sitting in Babs Mc Ginley’s pub for a mineral afterwards seeing your reflection, looking more like a coal miner covered in the wet peat that dried into your face.
Looking at the crew through the lens of the camera over 40 years on, last Saturday evening they look like time has stood still especially with the old Massey’s tractors and the original turf trailer with the high cribs in the background, and a crew having the craic saving turf.
They too will go on their different way, some may be emigrating like our Seamus did or heading to college or starting work.
Over the last 30 years, I always was aware of different people young and not so young working in the bog taking great pride in the seasonal job that they enjoyed.
I recall catching up with the late Mary Mc Menamin from Kirkstown in Letterkenny at the top of Meenaroy with her husband Jim who proudly told me they were both pensioners still footing their own turf.
Or the young lad a few years before that, Anthony Browne out working at the foot of Muckish mountain busy bagging turf with his family continuing the tradition from generation to generation.
And with that, the engines are all powered up on the line of tractors quads and jeeps as they drop in behind the oldest tractor a beautiful Massey 135 and head off on the last leg of the journey home to keep the home fire burning.
Happy memories folks.