Reunion to mark the origins of Coill Dubh

AN interesting and very influential episode in Kildare's history is to be recalled this Friday evening in Carbury GAA centre.

In the early 1940s, in response to a fuel shortage, what was then known as the Turf Development Board (and later became Bord na Mona) advertised in local newspapers all over the country for workers to come to Kildare to harvest the bogs.

This led to thousands of people from all over the country coming to Kildare, and living in 14 specially built camps throughout the county.

The camps would have housed between 300 and 500 men were in various locations such as Timahoe, Mucklon and Carbury. The site of the mushroom factory near Derrinturn was one such location.

The camps lasted from the 1940's to the end of the 1950's when the Timahoe camp was closed, and people were housed in Coill Dubh, a village built by Bord na Mona.

The County Westmeath village of Rochfortbridge was the same.

"A lot of them would have settled down," Brendan Cummins, the Carbury man who is organising the GAA centre reunion this Friday told the Leinster Leader.

Brendan has organised a reunion night for 10 of the people who lived in those camps and worked on the bogs.

"There aren't many of them left now. They're all in their 80s, although one man is in his 70s – he would have been very young at the time."

Another aspect of the people who came to Kildare during those years is that a lot of them came from Connemara and were native Irish speakers. "Some of them actually had no English," Brendan explained.

"There were people from Roscommon, Galway, Tipperary and lots from Dublin."

Valentine Trott, editor of the now defunct Scal na Mona newsletter, will give a talk on the history of the camps, as will one of the original men, Paddy Sheridan.

Mr. Trott told the Leinster Leader that while some of the camps would have had up to 500 people at their height, they would have only had skeleton crews during the winter time.

"And there would have been a constant turnover. New people would have come each year, so you're talking about thousands of people."

Coill Dubh and other housing built by Bord na Mona came about as a result of the company realising they needed a stable workforce in the area, Mr. Trott explained.

Many of those areas are still populated by the descendants of people who came to Kildare to work on the bogs, although Coill Dubh, Mr. Trott noted, has been affected by its closeness to Dublin and is therefore part of the commuter belt.

"There's a song in Irish that you hear a lot on Radio Na Gaeltachta that was written by a Connemara man, and it talks about the camps," Mr. Cummins said.

“It mentions the hardships of working in the bog at the time, and it ends with the line ‘I’ll never go back to Kildare as long as I live!’”

The turf that was harvested at that time was sold to domestic users, but was also used to provide fuel for the power stations situated at Allenwood and Rhode.

“We’re expecting a pretty good crowd,” Brendan said.

“We’ll have a display of old photos, and we’re looking for old photos of the past generations of Carbury people,” he said.

So if anybody has any photographs that they’re like to share on the night, they should rung Brendan on 086 – 8290316.

The event will take place in Carbury GAA Centre on Friday at 8.30pm.


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