Irish Bog Oak
Oughterard Newsletter June 2011
Irish bog-oak ranges in age from 3000 to 8000 years old. The Irish climate was warmer and drier at that time in our history. Oak trees grew profusely throughout the country.
Then the climate changed to a wetter and damper era. The roots of the great oaks lost their grip in the soggy soil and fell to the ground. Over the following years vegetation covered the fallen trees. The tanic acid in the oak trees interacted with the decaying vegetation turning the oak black or darker brown and preserving it for posterity.
This decaying vegetation forms today’s bogs in Ireland. As people cut the turf in the bogs the ancient oak is uncovered where it has lain for thousands of years. It is soft and pliable at first but as it is exposed to the air it becomes almost rock-hard.
Before the advent of electricity in Ireland, our people found many uses for bog oak and bog deal. Slivers of it were lit to provide light in the little cottages while big beams were used for rafters and mantle-pieces.
Bog-oak has been highly valued by wood carvers for centuries. Penal crosses carved out of this wood were sold to Lough Derg pilgrims in the 17th and 18th centuries. Personal jewellery and household ornaments were manufactured form this beautiful wood.
What’s so wonderful about bog oak? Its blackness. Its hardness. Its age. Its mystery. It is truly black magic.