Working the low bog lands, farming turf for fuel, has long been a traditional industry in Ireland. It is hard, back-breaking work – the likes of me wouldn’t last the morning. The lads that work the land would laugh at the romantic notion that there is anything ‘noble’ about it. But I think there is. The connection to the land, to their forefathers, is deep.

Bog (Irish Times)

Credit Irish Times

A local writer friend of mine, Yvonne Heavey, dashed off a poem as a tribute to the turf workers – she joined them one summer as a young teenager in the Irish Midlands. No poet I, but I jumped in and had a bash at re-phrasing her poem. It was fun. So in the style of William Drennan (apologies to him), here is what you might term a Mock Celtic Revival poem simply entitled The Turf Workers by Heavey/McCarthy.

As Drennan has told of the Emerald Isle
God saw it was good and bestowed a sweet smile
On its shores north and south, on its mountains so green
Nor did he forget the lowlands between
Though the lakes of Killarney are wond’rous to see
And the Cliffs of Moher have great majesty
It’s the lowlands so rare that God loves the best
And the lads that labour there, reluctant to rest
Ancient land, blessed soil, your gifts we collect
You give and we take, but for sure with respect
The bog lands laid down over thousands of years
Have seen laughter and love, famine and tears
Nearby the bones of ancestors who dwelled
They too worked the land, by hunger impelled
Westmeath to Roscommon, Longford to Clare
When they needed you, you were always there
So laughter done, the boys start to work
Backs bent, legs braced, not thinking to shirk
For them not the comfort of computer or pen
But ageless connection with their countrymen
With spade and with hand they dig and they turn
No clocks they watch, a few euro to earn
For these men of Ireland connect with the land
Not for them sitting down, coffee to hand
From morning to night they work steadily
The rows designated, endless to see
Fellow turf workers, I was once one of you
As a young wan I was there, summer of ‘92
Blisters, bad back, I experienced it with you
You welcomed me in, I was one of the crew
Bog dust, bog frogs, I knew them well
When the rain swept across, it might have been Hell
But you carried on, so I did too
I wouldn’t be beaten, I was as good as you
The laughter we shared, the bad jokes we told
Then on with our work, digging for gold
And at the end of each summer’s day
We’d wend our way home, counting our pay
Never doubting we’d do it again
The next day