Demise of the bog spotted long ago

Thomas Rawson, the improving farmer from Athy, estimated in 1807 that 41,935 of this county's 200,000 acres were bog, and a couple of years later Richard Griffith of Millicent was commissioned to survey the county's bog's.

He reported "the only attempt of any consequence towards reclaiming the bog is on the north-east side of the Lane Bog called Betaghstown, where 85 statue acres has been reclaimed for the Bishop of Kildare".

The Parliamentary report of 1814 confirmed that in Kildare the peat soil exceeded 2,830,000 acres, and various plans of draining had been devised, but never carried into effect upon a large scale.
Some people objected to the cutting of turf as being wasteful to the surface, while others objected to the cultivation as diminishing the supply of fuel.

All such objections were regarded as frivolous. To exhaust the bogs, "the surveyor believed, "would be to confer a blessing in the country by inducing the inhabitants to search for fuel in the bowls of the earth, rather than to obtain it by wasting its surface."

In that same period Mr & Mrs. C.S. Hall, in their Ireland -Its Scenery & Character, gave a detailed description of the harvesting of turf; the cutting, spreading, footing, ricking, clamping and drawing, and it was illustrated with a diagram indicating how the turf was stacked. The couple also visited "Poll the Pishogue" who lived in a hut made of turf in the bog of Allen: "Nothing could exceed in misery the appearance of her hovel raised something in the form of a cone.

"Her goat browsed on the grass that sprang from the roof. The interior was so full of smoke, and a stranger could neither see nor breathe, but it was warm and dry, for while the rain could enter in one or two places, it could run out as quickly as it came in."

Poll was noted for her powers of divination, her love-powders and match-,making. and her many pishogues.

An improvement in rural living conditions came in 1898 when responsibility for the construction of cottages for labourers was given to the new rural district councils, and labourers received the right to vote for members of those bodies.

It was the first major public housing enterprise in the British Isles, and was mostly effective in Munster and Leinster.

By 1921, some 40,000 cottages had been built of brick or stone with slate roofs on small holdings of 0.2 acres scattered along the roadsides.

The vulnerability of the bogs was evident twenty years ago when a writer in the Irish Times predicted that "the midland bogs would be worked out long before the end of this century. The great mounds of peat are being eaten away at a rate that hardly gives time to consider the long-term consequences."
It was estimated that in the previous two years more than half of the raised bogs actually listed for conservation have been drained and developed.

While many of the poorer people lived in sub-standard conditions in the bogs and elsewhere, the retainers of the gentry were housed in model cottages, or in lodges on the estates. The most visible of such were the gate lodges at the entrance to the enclosed demesnes, fine examples in this county are those designed in the early 18th century by Batty Langley at Castletown, Celbridge and Leixlip castle. They have been seen as "gothic temples".

Some of the racing lodges on the Curragh, described in 1997 by Guy St John Williams in this book of that name, are, or were, also important architecturally.

French Furze Cottage and Brownstone Cottage were both attractive thatched dwellings, dating to the 19th century, while the imposing the Boer War, and was never completed as a two-storied villa.
Both Athgarvan Lodge and Rathbridge Cottage were the also thatched, while Waterford Lodge and Rathbridge Manor were two storied.

The latter was described "as situated on ground that falls away, like a bastion, a fortress, deterring imaginary invaders from the bad lands beyond," while Waterford Lodge had been built by John Whaley, a founding father of the Turf Club, and a brother of the notorious 'Buck' who on a wager visited Jerusalem in 1788 and returned within a year. His house, 86 St. Stephen's Green, now belongs to UCD.

Courtesy of Con Costello and The Leinster Leader