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8. Peat Cutting

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Peat cutting

Peat is usually cut in late spring with a tool called a peat knife or tosg (sometimes toirsgian, or tairsgeir) which has a long wooden handle with an angled blade on one end. The peat bank is first cleared of heather turfs. The peat, now exposed, is cut using the peat knife and the peats thrown out on the bank to dry. In the picture one is cutting and the other throws the peat out ; but often one person does both actions. The type of peat knife used varies from place to place depending on the nature of the peat being cut. A good peat cutter can cut 1000 peats in a day.

Once dried,the peats are carted to the croft and built into a large stack. These often resembled the shape of the croft house - broad, curved at each end and tapered to a point about 2 metres high. They varied in length from about 4 to 14 metres. Peat stacking also follows local customs and a well built peat stack can be a work of art. Peat stacks provide additional shelter to houses. A croft can burn as many as 15,000 - 18,000 peats in a year.

Click to enlarge the image, read the text then answer the following questions.


  1. Why is the peat cut in the Spring and not much later on?
  2. What might be done with the heather turfs once the peat bank has been cut?
  3. How many days work is needed to supply the croft with peats for the coming year
  4. Why do you think the use of peat for fuel is dying out?
  5. Why might it be a shame if the custom of peat cutting died out?