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TITLE
Peat - part 1
EXTERNAL ID
PC_SEANCHAS_ILE_PA003(1)_1
PLACENAME
Islay
DISTRICT
Islay
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ARGYLL: Killarrow and Kilmeny
DATE OF RECORDING
2007
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Lena McKeurtan
SOURCE
The Columba Centre, Islay
ASSET ID
2718
KEYWORDS
energy
fuel
oral history
island life
audio

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Islay resident Lena McKeurtan (LM) talks to Emily Edwards (EE) about the tradition of peat cutting. The interview, which is in two parts, is in conducted in Gaelic.

The following is a transcription:

EE: It's on now.

LM: When the frost is over you cut the peat. If you cut peat and it freezes, it just breaks apart. It would just break up. We cut peat on, up at Bunnahabhain, the hill there at Bun na h-Abhainn. And, when we cut peat, on Ardnahoe, that land. And now, you had cutters. Some who were cutting peat and they'd use a spade. That's a spade, a peat-spade. And some marking out -

EE: What is marking out?

LM: Marking out means, you are, you have a fork and you take it with you and the cutter, he cuts the turf. It isn't like the Lewis folk. The Lewis folk use their feet but the Islay folk use their hands.

EE. Oh, aye.

LM: Arms, arms, hands -

EE: Aye.

LM: - they use. And you put the spade down onto it, and cast the turf on top of the bank and then the markers are there putting rushes on the turf. And it's a point and fork with two small feet on it. But it could have had three in the old days there would have been just two small feet on it and you would thrust that into the turf and put it up neatly on top of the peat-bank. The first peat that you cut out of the bank was normally spongy peat, this means that it's mossy. But the next peat under becomes much darker. That's the black peat, it's much easier to cut but they are lifted higher onto the bank. When you are cutting the spongy peat at first you go a bit out from the peat-bank, and you leave it out on the top of the peat-bank and with that you leave room for the spongy peat, the black peat and you put the black peat down like that. And the odd time if there is a good depth, maybe three turfs out from the middle of the bank and three turfs deep in every bank. And, well, there was always, I don't know how many inches maybe a dozen inches or something but maybe fourteen, there's something like that. There was room for you to stand and a wee bit more, a wee bit more than that, room for you to stand on the bank. But we cut peat, down back a bit further. We cut an extra piece off the top there. The first thing you would do, you were getting a large spade and you cut down the bank as long as the bank went. The odd time they are long and you don't do it if they are long. You cut down twice, twice, like the width of two spades, between the thing, that's how you get it. That makes it into chunks like, say, two, ten, a dozen inches. They would cut through and there you get it as a lump. Did you ever hear this word mentioned?

EE: No.

LM: Well, it is, they are like a lump, a wee bit of round iron or something like that, it is round. That is joined, like a stave in a wall, wood in a wall, it is a bit round, you know, they don't throw down, it's a wee bit bent. And on top, there's a crossbar, and that is on the length [???] at the bottom. You stand like that and you are, your legs, using that on the sod to take it off and we are like that over [??] and that is falling in the bottom below until the top of the peat-bank is clear and there's nothing left. And then, some are below and they're - when all the peat has been taken out, the spongy peat and the black peat, the bottom is left and there isn't peat there, you put the sods there were over the top. You have it neat and after that you put the ground back as it was and years afterwards you can't see that there was peat down there. Do you understand?

EE: Yes.

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Peat - part 1

ARGYLL: Killarrow and Kilmeny

2000s

energy; fuel; oral history; island life; audio

The Columba Centre, Islay

Seanchas Ìle

Islay resident Lena McKeurtan (LM) talks to Emily Edwards (EE) about the tradition of peat cutting. The interview, which is in two parts, is in conducted in Gaelic.<br /> <br /> The following is a transcription:<br /> <br /> EE: It's on now.<br /> <br /> LM: When the frost is over you cut the peat. If you cut peat and it freezes, it just breaks apart. It would just break up. We cut peat on, up at Bunnahabhain, the hill there at Bun na h-Abhainn. And, when we cut peat, on Ardnahoe, that land. And now, you had cutters. Some who were cutting peat and they'd use a spade. That's a spade, a peat-spade. And some marking out -<br /> <br /> EE: What is marking out?<br /> <br /> LM: Marking out means, you are, you have a fork and you take it with you and the cutter, he cuts the turf. It isn't like the Lewis folk. The Lewis folk use their feet but the Islay folk use their hands.<br /> <br /> EE. Oh, aye.<br /> <br /> LM: Arms, arms, hands -<br /> <br /> EE: Aye.<br /> <br /> LM: - they use. And you put the spade down onto it, and cast the turf on top of the bank and then the markers are there putting rushes on the turf. And it's a point and fork with two small feet on it. But it could have had three in the old days there would have been just two small feet on it and you would thrust that into the turf and put it up neatly on top of the peat-bank. The first peat that you cut out of the bank was normally spongy peat, this means that it's mossy. But the next peat under becomes much darker. That's the black peat, it's much easier to cut but they are lifted higher onto the bank. When you are cutting the spongy peat at first you go a bit out from the peat-bank, and you leave it out on the top of the peat-bank and with that you leave room for the spongy peat, the black peat and you put the black peat down like that. And the odd time if there is a good depth, maybe three turfs out from the middle of the bank and three turfs deep in every bank. And, well, there was always, I don't know how many inches maybe a dozen inches or something but maybe fourteen, there's something like that. There was room for you to stand and a wee bit more, a wee bit more than that, room for you to stand on the bank. But we cut peat, down back a bit further. We cut an extra piece off the top there. The first thing you would do, you were getting a large spade and you cut down the bank as long as the bank went. The odd time they are long and you don't do it if they are long. You cut down twice, twice, like the width of two spades, between the thing, that's how you get it. That makes it into chunks like, say, two, ten, a dozen inches. They would cut through and there you get it as a lump. Did you ever hear this word mentioned? <br /> <br /> EE: No.<br /> <br /> LM: Well, it is, they are like a lump, a wee bit of round iron or something like that, it is round. That is joined, like a stave in a wall, wood in a wall, it is a bit round, you know, they don't throw down, it's a wee bit bent. And on top, there's a crossbar, and that is on the length [???] at the bottom. You stand like that and you are, your legs, using that on the sod to take it off and we are like that over [??] and that is falling in the bottom below until the top of the peat-bank is clear and there's nothing left. And then, some are below and they're - when all the peat has been taken out, the spongy peat and the black peat, the bottom is left and there isn't peat there, you put the sods there were over the top. You have it neat and after that you put the ground back as it was and years afterwards you can't see that there was peat down there. Do you understand?<br /> <br /> EE: Yes.