Tay in the bog

Me mother would wake without asking, just as daylight seeped into the sky
The rest of the clan would in due course arise to the glorious smell of the fry

Me father in service would loll down the stairs and give the auld dog a quick rub
Fix up a ponger of scalding hot tay and nestle in tight to the grub

There was boxty and rashers, pudding and eggs and hardly a spoken word said
Meself and me sisters would light on the scraps while me mother sat chewing her bread

The tractor was topped up with diesel before me father would call for the dog
Our neighbour Tom Kenny would hop on the box and the three of them take for the bog

Inside me mam lit a candle that Lord Jesus might stave off the rain
Then she tidied the house and washed all the clothes and never once thought to complain

Us childer we loved when the turf were cut as we knew we’d the day off from school
There’d be biscuit tins full of sandwiches and flasks full of tay as a rule

We’d hit the road in the afternoon and tumble our way to the bank
Where the workers were stooped with more to be done before the tay could be drank

We’d root and we’d dig and we’d carry some turf but mostly just get in the way
Till me father would look up, straighten his back and finally call for the tay

Briars make berries for banquets and Tom Kenny said ‘hunger’s good sauce’
We wolfed down the grub from our glár covered hands and nobody giving a toss

And we learned how to work into evening as the midges were eating our heads
But the rule was we stayed till we finished so there was no contemplating our beds

God you’d sleep that night without asking, after scrubbing the dirt from your hide
Cleaning your nose and your ears and your mouth and wiping the mould from your eyes

You’d be happy as well come the winter in the hearth warming glow of the day
With the burn of the bog long lost in the fog that never felt so far away




My earliest memories of the bog are those referenced in this poem. It was a time just before the modernisation of the turf cutting process and the transition to a process reliant on heavy machinery.

My father had a 20 Diesel tractor and a transport box and that was all that used to go for the box. Himself and the help would cut the turf with a slane and draw it from the bank to spread it out for drying on the grass area allocated.

On the days that that they were cutting us children would only be in the way but we were part of the tea and sandwiches delivery team and we got a taste of the work that was to be done. We might spend longer on the bog when the turf was being turned or built into clamps and on these days we might be expected to contribute more than the tea.

It didn’t matter that you were off school for the day because that was part of our education as well, as important as any lesson you might learn in school.

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