Daniel Farrelly (b. 1933)
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Daniel Farrelly (b. 1933)


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In this recording Daniel Farrelly’s great-great-grandfather, Kieran Farrelly, is recalled. He cut brestling turf, cut from the top of the bog and exported to England and France. Kieran came from Tyrone and was the father of 10 children. Due to financial difficulties most of the family members emigrated to America. The business was taken over by the local sheriff and eventually it became part of the Turf Development Board and later Bord na Móna. Kieran’s eldest son returned with a view to putting matters right but he fell ill and is buried with his father in Leamanaghan in the family plot. Daniel’s grandfather, Tom Farrelly, was a farmer, and Daniel recalls the large galvanised shed on his farm which contained an elevator, and explains that a man was killed there at one time in an industrial accident. The peat was baled in that shed, though it was no longer in use in Daniel’s time. There were six children in Dan’s family, two of whom emigrated to America. He grew up in Cloghan and attended school in Ferbane parish, where his teachers were Mrs. Kerins from Banagher and Master Kelly from Donegal. In about 1949 he went to work for Bord na Móna on the bog at Turraun. Each day he spread turf on the floor for use in powering the machinery to cut the turf. This was piece-work, and was done in summer time. Daniel emigrated to England in 1951 and he remembers Mike O’Flaherty and Joe Devery who left with him at that time. They felt that the work on the bog was hard and poorly paid. In London he worked in a bar in Kilburn High Road and later in construction with Readymix Concrete, an Australian company which employed about fifty Irish drivers. Daniel was in charge of his section and remained with this business for seventeen years, at which point he started his own lorry business. Daniel returns to discussion of his ancestor Kieran Farrelly’s business in Turraun. The turf was crushed and baled and then shipped to England and France to be used as bedding for horses. The deeper turf was dug for fuel, but his ancestor took the top as it was softer. Daniel thinks that the bales were probably exported via the canal. Debt brought about the end of the business, he says. Kieran remained at home but his children emigrated to America. Just 45 people are now employed at the ESB in Ferbane, though 157 people worked there in Daniel’s time. Shannonbridge was a thriving town in those days he remembers, and says that with Bord na Móna and the ESB there was plenty of money in the area. The blacksmith and the post office at Shannonbridge are remembed and it is remarked that the employees of the ESB do not shop in the town nowadays, which has affected business. Many sporting teams were based there which are now gone. Daniel’s son now works in Galway and the other members of the family are no longer in Shannonbridge. Daniel purchased some land and he farms with dry cattle. He remembers that at one time men came from all parts of the country to work in Offaly. Daniel married Joan Doherty from Shannonbridge while in England, and when they returned home in the 1960s, he began shift work with Bord na Móna, later returning to England while the family remained at home. In 1971 he started work with the ESB as a labourer, and then in 1998 he finished shift working there. He oversaw the milled peat coming in and feeding it to the furnace of the power station, and he explains that thirteen wagons holding 13-14 tons came in every 24 hours. He considers the effect of the digging out of turf on the landscape. He recalls the camps, the dancehall and canteen. The camps also provided work for the local women, but the machines changed all of this by reducing employment. Daniel had owned 340 acres of Derry bog. Bord na Móna wanted the land in 1948 but the purchase money was not paid until 1962, and the milled peat was taken from the land in the intervening years. Dan had inherited the bog from his father Tom when it had been wild bog, and he explains that and it took much man- and machine-power to develop that land.

Additional information



Audio series:

The Offaly Collection: memories of early industrial peat harvesting at Turraun


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

43.2 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Early peat harvesting

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore