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Turf and the Tralee & Dingle in the 1970s

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Another summer, another CIE rambler ticket. I was exploring the Tralee & Dingle, much of which then remained, including the lengthy roadside sections out to Camp / Castlegregory Junction, and most of the route to Castlegregory.


My father, now 95, must be one of very few who travelled to Castlegregory by rail; but leaving that aside, here I was. The day was nice and I went into a bar in Castlegregory to get a sandwich - or crisps; just about the only foodstuffs you could get in a country bar in those days.


I sat at the bar with a pint of G; the youth behind the bar disappeared to get a bucket of turf to stoke up the open fire with. He wandered over, threw one or two lumps on, and went back behind the bar. The only other people in were a very old man, cloth cap pulled down over his forehead, with his nose stuck in the "Indo" and a glass and an old fashioned bottle of Guinness beside him, and some tourists. The local man stared at his paper, motionless, without sign or speech. The tourists looked like two couples aged forty-something, English, and in contrast to the old gent sitting beside me, very animated; talking excitedly about where they'd been and where they were going. Bicycle clips, notebooks, maps and guide books were scattered all round them as they sat at a large table away from the bar and close to the fire.


One of them spotted the bar-youth throwing the turf on the fire.


"I say, old chap!" (or words, very much along those lines!). "Would you mind telling us what this stuff is that you are putting on the fire?"


Youth looked blankly at them.


"Turf" (in a very strong Kerrrrrry accent)


"Oh! Tuhhf! What exactly is it made of? Do you you mind if I take a look?"


Youth nodded awkwardly, wondering what on earth to make of these people; he put down the bucket and went back behind the bar. One of our visitors lifted a piece out and passed it around his friends, who held it, sniffed it, and one took a photograph of another holding it.


"I say!" called another of the visitors to the bar-gossoon, "Is it hard?"


For the first and only time, the elderly local beside me lifted his head from his paper, and adjusted the old cap on the back of his head.


"Shtick it on de floor and shtamp on it, and ye'll see if it's hard" he advised.


I can't remember whether he ended his afternoon's statement with "boyo"......

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I found a lump of turf in the road and decided to bring it back here for a ceremonial fire. I got stopped at the Customs in Holyhead at half-two in the morning and searched. As stuff was being lifted systematically out of my bag, I was asked "What's this?" and managed to answer suitably at each stage - until he came upon the object wrapped in newspaper at the bottom. "What's this?", he asked again - I hesitated, not wanting to say "Sod" to the nice English customs man. This provoked him into a forensic examination of the brown, fibrous material that he discovered on unwrapping it - well, he broke off a bit and sniffed it - hoping that he'd discovered a major trafficking operation. At this point, all his mates, who had stopped their searches to watch him, burst out laughing.

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