Tuesday June 8, 2010
After a few days of tromping around the peatlands and reading about Bord na Mona, the major thing missing from my research has been the stories of people who worked on the bogs. This morning at the pub, I had the pleasure of chatting with some men who had worked at Bord na Mona. Tom, Marty, and Liam each presented interesting perspectives about their experience at Bord na Mona-both locals and visitors, old timers as well as newer workers. While I had initially approached the interview as a means to learn about the physicality of the work of being a turf worker as well as the general process, as the men spoke together, the stories that stuck with me revolved around the experience of an industry as large as Bord na Mona moving into Offaly, a town with a population of only 300 at the time. Tom and Marty, the men who had grown up in Offaly described going down to see the Bord na Mona housing being built with their families. Tom and Marty described the transition to the work of cutting turf, and how, as many men in their towns did not go on to primary school, working at Bord na Mona represented a type of work many men were familiar with, as well as presented a welcome opportunity for jobs. Before our interview, I had imagined that mainly local men filled the ranks at Bord na Mona; I was surprised to learn that the company was actually reluctant to hire locals at first. Bord na Mona needed a large supply of workers, which meant that men came from all over the country. Liam, a “blow-in” was one of these workers who left Tipperary in 1976 to be an apprentice fitter at Bord na Mona. He discussed the banter between the workers from different counties. Learning that the men had come from all over Ireland to work at Bord na Mona, as well as hearing about the changes in Offaly through Bord na Mona’s flux-both high and low points made me particularly interested in learning about the early years at Bord na Mona, and the change that industry brought to Offaly-both in terms of the culture of turf cutting, and the culture of the county. Thanks to the Bord na Mona men I spoke to today, tomorrow I will be speaking to Bernie Jennings-he was from the Turf Development Board, which, to my understanding, was part of the county production scheme, which was the front runner that helped to form what would become Bord na Mona (in 1946). It’s this moment of flux-from small-scale production to large industry-and a changing town and culture that I’m really hoping to capture tomorrow.