Turf Cutting Spade, British

Artist unkown

about 1900

Wood and wrought iron

Height: 8.4 cm

This tool was mainly used in Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavian countries.  The first step in cutting turf was ‘clearing’, which involved removing the upper living layers of stems and roots called heathy scraw (from the Irish word scraith, meaning a green sod) using the flacther for cutting the layer of growth -grass or heather – on top of a peat bog to reach the layer of peat, cut with a peat-spade.

Flachter or flaughter is also the name applied in County Antrim to the push-plough or paring spade – the Irish and Scottish equivalent of the English breast-plough.  There are references to the flaughter-spade as far back as 1492.

The turf cutter was one of the tools used in the roof construction of the Scottish single story cottages, including the black houses of Western Scotland and white houses on the isle of Tiree. The roofs were made up of three layers of local materials: cabers made from thin branches of birch, laid from eaves to apex; cuts of turfs or sods; and heather or straw, depending on the local material. On the island of St Kilda the turf was laid on a flat stone layer.