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Thomas, take a bough

Thomas Moloney with some of his raw materials at home in Kilmaley. Photograph by John KellyA PIECE of bog oak carved by Thomas Moloney was presented to President Michael D Higgins when he received the freedom of Ennis.


Speaking to The Clare Champion, he said he was delighted he had been asked. “It was a great honour, it was a lovely thing to be asked to do. It’s nice to say that piece will be there forever,” he said.
Working on bog oak is a hobby he took up when his carpentry business suffered during the downturn. “I started doing a bit of it on a small scale just to pass time. I did a piece for a friend of mine, a lady in the council saw it and then I was approached to do a piece for the President.”

He was under a bit of pressure to get it done on time. “I spent nearly a full week on it, it was down to the wire.”

He started working on bog oak after coming across some of it completely by chance. “Literally I went for a walk one day with the kids across the land. There’s one area with an awful amount of bog in it and we wouldn’t normally walk down there. We found a few pieces and brought them home. It started from there, I put them on the mantelpiece to dry out and it started from there. I went off every day looking for pieces, started bringing them home and worked on them.”

The timber is extremely old and is readily available to him. “Some of the pieces of wood are up to 6,000 years old. It actually goes black from the amount of time that it’s in the ground and then it almost turns into coal.

“I source it at my own place. I’m living in Kilmaley and it’s on my own land. bits of it come up through the ground after time. Any of the black stuff is the oldest of the timber. You might see a piece and you’d get an idea straight away. Then you might bring home other pieces and leave them there for six months before you’d have an idea of what you want to do with them.”

He says his vision for what he wants to achieve with a piece sometimes comes quickly but often it just evolves as he is working. “A lot of the pieces you wouldn’t know what you’re going to do with them for a while and what they’re going to turn out to be.”

There’s nothing easy about working on timber that has been in the ground for thousands of years. “The timber is practically like stone it gets that hard. Everything has to be done by hand with it. It’s all hand carved, that’s the unfortunate thing about it and an extreme length of time goes into doing the pieces. They’re fantastic when they’re finished though.”

The piece he did was for the President was to hold the scroll he received. “At least if he lost the scroll he’d always have the piece,” Thomas joked.

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