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Leinster Leader
Kildare County Council’s turf production scheme for the coming year was outlined at the Council’s meeting on Monday by the County Engineer (Mr. T. Kelly).
It was proposed, he said, to operate the turf banks which the Council worked during the emergency. The Council’s annual production of turf during the emergency was around 5,000 tons per year, and in 1947, the final year, they produced 6,500 tons. The Council’s requirements for the institutions and for machinery normally amounted to 3,000 tons a year.
“We are now asked by the Minister to produce this year three times that figure of 3,000 tons, which is equivalent to 9,000 tons,” the County Engineer continued.
“We have therefore made representations to the various owners to acquire the banks the Council operated during the emergency, with the addition of certain other banks.”
“We expect, given suitable weather, to produce this year somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 tons of turf, provided we arrive at a satisfactory agreement with the owners of the banks. It will be necessary to do certain preliminary works on these turf banks and the roads leading to them, and the cost of it will be around £2,000. The Council has already made arrangements for the purchase of the necessary implements for its turf production programme.
A detailed list of the bogs which the County Engineer recommended be leased, together with the estimated cost of road and drainage works on each bog, and the estimated turf yield, was read to the meeting.
Chairman (Mr. G. Sweetman, T.D.)-What total tonnage of turf does all that come to?
County Engineer-About 8,500 is the absolute limit that the County Council could produce, and that is contingent on labour being available. If the slanesmen were not available, it would upset the whole scheme. I am afraid it would be impossible for us to produce 9,000 tons as requested by the Minister.
Chairman-Though to some extent the banks the County Engineer has listed are spread all over the county, it is not altogether so, for there are bogs in several areas that are not on the list.
County Engineer-The bogs listed are those which the Council worked before and on which a considerable sum on development work was spent by the Council.
Mr. Quinn-If the Council go in at Ballyteague they are going to put about 50 good producers out of it.
Mr. T. Harris, T.D.-Hasn’t Mr. Dunne a good portion of bog there that is not being worked?
County Engineer-I understand from the Assistant County Engineer that he came to an agreement with Mr. Dunne about banks there.
Mr. J. Mc Loughlin-I don’t think it would interfere with private producers there.
County Engineer-The letter from the Minister makes special reference to the fact that County Councils should consider leasing again banks which they used during the emergency, and that for that reason it would be possible to carry out the Minister’s programme.
Mr. Harris-I think the Council should choose undeveloped bogs. Everywhere that the bogs are developed you will find somebody in occupation, and it would be very wrong for the Council to deprive those private producers of the developed bogs.
Mr. Andy Moore-Quite so. You could not do it.
Chairman-Certainly not, as long as we are satisfied the bogs are going to be worked. Of course it would be a different story where the bog is not being worked to capacity.
County Engineer-If bogs are vested by the Council, banks would be let again to the tenants.
Mr. W. Miley-There is a great stretch of bog at Loughabour, adjoining Tinnakill, that has never been worked. Some time ago an official came there and told tenants of the district a road would be made into the bog, but nothing was done since. There is 60 perches in the bog I refer to, and the people there tell me it has never been flooded.
County Engineer-I take it that a great deal of preliminary work would have to be done before you could take turf off that bog, and you might not take any turf off it this year at all.
Mr. Moore urged that all banks available for the purpose be let to private producers before March 1st to give those people a chance of taking a second cutting off the bogs in the year if the weather was favourable.
“One thing we should guard against, a thing that happened on my own bog at Milltown,” he continued. “I have 40 acres of bog there, and one part of it yields 21 floors of turf. Bord na Mona took over portion of that bog during the emergency, and left it in such a state, with haphazardly cut drains and gobs of turf here and there, that a private producer could not possibly win turf from it in its present condition. Now that large sums are to be spent on re-development works on bogs, steps should be taken to guard against an occurrence of that nature.”
Mr. T. Carbury-Private producers in Athy area have complained to me that last year the Land Commission were very slow and very late in letting the banks. We should call on the Land Commission to let their banks this year as early as possible.
Mr. Moore-Bord na Mona went to the expense of building a road through my bog, and then only took one year’s cutting off it.
County Engineer-Will you give your bog to the County Council this year?
Mr. Moore-I was afraid of that (laughter).
County Engineer-The bogs we have on the list here have been selected more or less on the basis of the labour pool. We will have to use a number of our roadmen on this work. I understand a special regulation will be made by the Minister whereby there will be no break in the continuity of the roadmen’s service if they are put on bog work.
A lot of men will be available from the Local Authorities (Works) Act schemes if required, but the intention is to carry on all those schemes and carry on the road works as well.
Chairman-I don’t think it could be done. We would not have enough men.
Mr. P.J. Frayne-Will it increase the cost of your turf considerably if you have to move to new bogs, or will it mean a big holdup for development and drainage in a new area? Will it be a serious item if you find manpower scarce, and if you have to leave the developed bogs to, say, half a dozen private cutters and go and develop new bogs?
County Engineers-That is our main difficulty, the preliminary work we have to do on the bogs. The reason for our intention to take over the bogs we worked before is to reduce development to a minimum. Even the bogs we developed before need further development work.
Mr. Harris-Would it be possible to transfer for expenditure on bog development some of the money available for works under the Local Authorities (Works) Act?
County Engineer-At the conference we had in Dublin we were told that it was being considered.
Chairman-That question will want to be decided very quickly.
Mr. Harris-I believe we would be doing better work if the County Engineer concentrated on opening up bogs and getting drains and roads made to facilitate the work of private producers. If the County Engineer concentrates on cutting 9,000 tons in one year…just peg out a few bogs to get that production.
Chairman-It seems to me most the urgent thing of the whole lot is drainage. Most important, too, is to have the roads to get out of the bogs.
Mr. H. Cosgrave-I believe we will get as many bogs as we have men to cut. Is there anything about wages yet?
Chairman-That is one of the things the County Engineer has asked for a decision on, and the Manager’s note is to indicate the Bord na Mona rates of wages.
Mr. Cosgrave-Bord na Mona board and house their workers for £1 a week, which is something the Council could not do. The current rate paid by Bord na Mona is 1/7 an hour, but the Council will not get men to work for that now.
Mr. J. Dowling-The wages laid down in the Kildoon area by private cutters for the coming year is £1 per day.
Mr. Harris-The number of skilled cutters available is not large. Private producers will pay big wages to highly skilled workers, but they would not pay the same high rates to less skilled men whom the County Council may have to employ. If the County Engineer tries to get out 9,000 tons he will have a lot of unskilled workers employed and the quality of the turf will not be good.
Mr. M. Kilmartin-We would be helping ourselves and private producers by making the roads and developing bogs.
Mr. Moore urged that Clongowna road leading into Milltown bog be repaired by the Council, in view of the importance of the bog to Newbridge.
Chairman-We are agreed that we give the County Engineer instructions to go ahead at once with the drainage works he has set out in his report.
Mr. Frayne-Is the County Engineer reserving any banks for the bank clerks? (laughter).
The Council recommended, subject to the Minister’s sanction, the following rates of wages for bog workers: Slanesmen, £5 per week, plus bonus on output; wheelers, £4-14-0.
It was decided to cease cutting on July 1st.
An article from the Leinster Leader of 3 February 1951 on the Turf Production Scheme outlined by Kildare County Council
[compiled by Mario Corrigan; edited and typed by Niamh McCabe]

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