Work tools and practices have moved on a lot since 1934. Like private turf cutters, turf development Board Workers initially used sleáns to cut sod peat. turf was saved and drains dug by hand. Andrews realised that an industry could not be built on hand- produced fuel. Just before the outbreak of World War II, the first mechanical sod cutter (ordered from Meppen, Germany) arrived in Ireland. Three further machines were not delivered until after the War. The machine, (a ‘Bagger’) was operated in Clonsast Bog Co. Offaly and required a large team of men to work with it.
Milled peat harvesting required more machines and railway lines to supply the power stations. Nowadays, Bord na Móna runs an extensive rail network of permanent and temporary track.
With more mechanised work, Bord na Móna’s employee skills expanded with the taking on and training of fitters and mechanics. These men, with engineers and foremen, designed and developed machines, parts and processes to improve work conditions and productivity. Employees have developed and reconditioned a wide variety of machines for the unique working conditions. This spirit of practical innovation has been crucial to Bord na Móna throughout the last 75 years.
Nowadays the diversified activities of Bord na Móna require a wide spectrum of skills and expertise. Apart from the conventional disciplines of marketing, production, engineering and finance today’s employee might well be an environmental scientist, an IT specialist or an ecologist.
The Kildare scheme
The Second World War caused a fuel crisis in Ireland and efforts to develop the bogs were increased rapidly. The Kildare Hand Won Turf Scheme was entrusted to the Turf Development Board. The Kildare Scheme meant that men like Christy Daly from Kerry and Paddy O’Sullivan from Tipperary migrated to Kildare to help produce fuel. Christy Daly cut turf at the rate of almost two sods a second and kept six barrow men busy for a week. Paddy O’Sullivan was All-Ireland Turf Cutting Champion in 1945 and had a long career in Bord na Móna.
The experience during the war reinforced the Irish State’s commitment to developing the country’s bogs. The Turf Development Board was transformed into Bord na Móna in 1946. The restructured company implemented a plan to produce over a million tonnes of sod peat a year. Two new peat fired power stations were also part of the plan.
Mark Nugent was one of many men who developed a long career in the renewed Bord an Móna. Mark began digging drains for rail lines, eventually driving a rail car and becoming a supervisor. He became a union official and campaigned for better working conditions. He was eventually elected to the board of directors of Bord na Móna, serving three terms.