Story: A Cartload o’ Peat


Cutting of the Peat

A story told by Pan Dunn about cutting and carrying peat

Towards the end of May or early June, depending on the weather, my father and I started to give

some thought to cutting peat. The weather needed to be dry because the moss was usually in

poorly drained wetland habitats. The peat was formed from mainly wetland vegetation; principally

bog mosses, plants, sedges and tree trunks.

Peat which we dug in the summer months was used to heat the house and allowed my mother to

bake scones, pancakes, and oatcakes throughout the year. We were new tenants to the Craig Moss

in 1947 and had to take the deep banks as the early tenants were allocated the lower banks. As

these tenants stopped using the lower banks, we could move onto them. We needed to take a

horse and sledge to move the peats from the deep banks to lower ground to dry.

The peat bank first had to have the turf removed to access the true peat. We used a peat spade

which had a tusk attached to it to help with the cutting. The peats were cut 14 inches long, four

inches wide and four inches deep to allow for shrinking when they dried. We loaded 20 peats onto

the sledge and took them to dry ground, tipping them into heaps using the handle on the peat


We usually worked for two days cutting and sledging the peats, then left them for two weeks to dry,

depending on the weather. On returning we set the peats on their sides to dry for another two

weeks, setting four peats upright and one on the top. They were usually ready to uplift in four to six


In the early years we had a horse and cart each to take the peats home. We came over the hill,

passed Clayhooter loch and down to Auchinleith. We had twelve loads of peat which were left on

the grass until we were ready to store them in the peat shed.

Later we moved to the lower bank where the peat had to be dug downhill with a smaller peat spade.

No sledges were required as we spread the peats top and bottom of the bank to dry. The banks

were about 30 to 40 yards long. We now used the tractor and cart. Often, due to poor weather, the

road from the moss was difficult to manage and when the tractor and cart got bogged down we had

to call on neighbours to pull us out. I had to walk two to three miles to get help from Alex Bremner

at Tamduff to pull out our tractor and we helped him when he needed.

My father and I both enjoyed our days at the peat cutting. We carried a sandwich lunch and listened

to the birds while eating it. Midges were a menace. My father used to light a cigarette to send them

on their way. We used to say that we had ‘two heats from the peat’: one working turfing the bank

and the other sitting around the fire at home. All this came to an end in 1990 due to work pressure

and access to the moss.