Morgan O’ Flaherty reports on a classic, 1980s Ford TW-20 that’s still at work cutting turf in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland.
Joseph Finucane is a contractor from near Kilflynn, County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland, and he was bought up on this 1980s Ford TW-20 during a time when cutting turf was still something that every household did.
They would go to the local bog, cut the turf and the peat and then light the fire to boil the kettle so you could have a cup of tea! As the peat creates so much smoke and sulphur, placement of the fire was very important. After discarding the top sod, which was thrown away back into last year’s trench you would start cutting with your specially shaped implement.
It was all very labour intensive; after cutting, two people would be laying it out and others carrying it, depending on the time of year and the weather. The sods would be arranged into a pyramid shape and, at that point, the turf should be fairly dry. After that back-breaking process, you would load the dry peat onto the trailers so that they could be pulled away, mostly by Ferguson and Massey Ferguson models.
This process would go on all summer long as you stocked up for the winter months, as peat was used in Ireland for heating houses and was free – it was even sold at fuel stations until very recent times. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the job started to get mechanised with the invention of different turf-cutting machines.
I remember one machine in particular; it was just a bucket that would shape the sods of peat and put them on the bank. There is also a peat lifter known as the ‘sausage machine’, that was like a chainsaw or trencher cutting through the bog. However, the most popular machine was the ‘Turf Hopper’ as fitted to the Ford TW-20 and built by K&H Manufacturing from Kildare, Republic of Ireland. That company manufactured them for Bord Na Mona, the ‘kings of turf harvesting’ of course, which were used to power various power stations, but that’s all changing now.
In fact, K&H made the hoppers and supplied the tracks and fitted different types of power tractors on top, mostly Massey Fergusons or Fords, but there were others. Today there is only a handful of people still cutting peat every year, which has gone out of fashion on environmental grounds, and hasn’t got many years to go. But the TW-20 cutter is still capable of a good day’s work.
In fact, there is a Morgan O’Flaherty video of this machine at work on YouTube – do go and have a look; it’s well worth it just search for, Morgan O’Flaherty Machinery of Ireland.
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