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TITLE
Cutting Peat in Scotland
EXTERNAL ID
HCD_CARD_068
PLACENAME
Ashaig
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Strath
PERIOD
1950s
SOURCE
Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre
ASSET ID
12890
KEYWORDS
fuel
energy
landscapes
Cutting Peat in Scotland

This photograph shows James and Morag MacInnes of Upper Breakish, Isle of Skye working at their peat bank not far from their home. For centuries, peat has been the main source of fuel for the Highlands. It is a free source of fuel, in an area where the cost of coal and its transport would have been out of reach for all but a few households. Getting peat to the fuel stage is time consuming work, with the whole family called upon to contribute to the task.

Nearing the end of April, the rough, surface turf of the bank is skimmed off leaving the peat ready to be cut. A special iron is then used to cut down into the soft, heavy, black peat. Different areas and individuals had different styles of peat iron, usually homemade, with a sharp blade to make a clean right angled cut. The peats are then thrown out on to the grassy banks and spread out flat to dry. Depending on the weather this can take several weeks. They are then stacked with three peats in a tent shape and one on top to allow drying on all sides. Later in the season when they are completely dry they will be carried home, and very often built into impressive stacks by the house.

In this photograph the MacInnes' are making three cuts into the bank with the peat bricks being just under half a metre in length. The bricks will shrink and become very light when dry but at this stage are heavy and fragile to lift out to the bank. Depending on the quality of the peat, even when completely dry, you need about five times the amount of peat as you would of coal, to produce only half the heat value. The MacInnes' peat bank stretches behind them, with much cutting to be done.

The background scene shows Broadford Bay, with the village of Broadford in the distance, and Beinn na Cailleach (732m) rising behind.


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Cutting Peat in Scotland

INVERNESS: Strath

1950s

fuel; energy; landscapes

Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

Dualchas Postcards

This photograph shows James and Morag MacInnes of Upper Breakish, Isle of Skye working at their peat bank not far from their home. For centuries, peat has been the main source of fuel for the Highlands. It is a free source of fuel, in an area where the cost of coal and its transport would have been out of reach for all but a few households. Getting peat to the fuel stage is time consuming work, with the whole family called upon to contribute to the task.<br /> <br /> Nearing the end of April, the rough, surface turf of the bank is skimmed off leaving the peat ready to be cut. A special iron is then used to cut down into the soft, heavy, black peat. Different areas and individuals had different styles of peat iron, usually homemade, with a sharp blade to make a clean right angled cut. The peats are then thrown out on to the grassy banks and spread out flat to dry. Depending on the weather this can take several weeks. They are then stacked with three peats in a tent shape and one on top to allow drying on all sides. Later in the season when they are completely dry they will be carried home, and very often built into impressive stacks by the house.<br /> <br /> In this photograph the MacInnes' are making three cuts into the bank with the peat bricks being just under half a metre in length. The bricks will shrink and become very light when dry but at this stage are heavy and fragile to lift out to the bank. Depending on the quality of the peat, even when completely dry, you need about five times the amount of peat as you would of coal, to produce only half the heat value. The MacInnes' peat bank stretches behind them, with much cutting to be done.<br /> <br /> The background scene shows Broadford Bay, with the village of Broadford in the distance, and Beinn na Cailleach (732m) rising behind. <br /> <br /> <br /> This image may be available to purchase.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href= "mailto: skyeandlochalsh.archives@highlifehighland.com" >Skye and Lochalsh Archives</a>