The car slowed almost to a halt as it turned to the left onto the familiar Carrownagoppul Bog Road. Slowly we made our way through the first bend in the road. While the surface had fresh gravel, it still sported some of the potholes I had been familiar with over the years. My brother, Johnny, known to many as George, now past his daring do (derring do) days, steered the family car with expert care away from those menacing hazards while making comments about the changes in the lay of the land.
As we cruised in low gear along this bog road, I could not help but notice that the furze and other bushes had covered the margins of the road to such a degree that it was difficult to determine where the access to our turf bank or that of our neighbors’ banks had been. This was a jolting feeling for me. I myself had not used the slane to cut turf for the family fire but my father, Pake, and my brother, Frank, had. May they live on in eternal peace. I had been tucked away in boarding school (not reformatory) during the turf cutting season. Later on in the season, I helped bring home the turf.
After a straight stretch of the road, we came upon it, Patch’s Garden. We parked in the neat parking lot and decided to explore the walkway leading from the parking area. My father had often spoken about Patch’s Garden and my brother, Frank, had taken me there on a number of occasions while I was home visiting on Longford Hill, Mount Bellew. This time was different, indeed a kind of revelation. The short, winding pathway led to a boardwalk which opened out onto a lookout. There in front of us was a large expanse of so-called high bog stretching out almost as far as the eye could see. I took a picture of Johnny as he leaned over a guard rail and looked out over the bog. There was a chill in the air that September day, so we returned to the car and headed back to Longford Hill.
I was impressed with the workmanship which had created this garden of preservation but disappointed that we did not see any creatures of nature, not a fox, not even a hare. There was a time when I felt that I could run just as fast. While I commend those who are into preservation of the natural, I wonder if such is worth the cost to those local people who worked the turf banks in order to provide heat for their family homes. I wonder how many of the local people go there now to observe nature at its best. I wonder if old friend and local seanchaí, the great Paul Connaughton, visits there often. I expect he is more absorbed in running the family farm and herding cattle. Thank you, Paul, for letting us play football in your front field as teenagers on summer evenings and thank you for your lifetime of service to the community at large. Perhaps we shall meet some day in Patch’s Garden. Aloha.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.