In 2012 I set up this blog, Cork Archaeologist with the assistance of my good friend Margaret Jordan, genealogist. I have found its production exceedingly rewarding. It has reminded me of all of the good times, interesting work, places and people, whom I have encountered in my career as an archaeologist/physical anthropologist. Although I have published in books, journals, both nationally and internationally, the web is another popular means which will give access to many other projects etc, in which I have been involved. I have included a mix of archaeology and physical anthropology. I would hope that this data will be of use to the general public and will benefit many, as well as simply being an interesting site to browse. One of my main intentions in every job I undertook, was to inform the public. I also hope to include a gallery of photographs of a variety of Archaeological Sites and Monuments, in Cork County, with which I am very familiar, but which others may not be. After all, archaeology is heritage for everyone, not just for archaeologists.
When I was growing up, I had a great interest in history, archaeology and languages. My father Joe encouraged my education and interest in the past. For a long time, I also wanted to be an airline pilot. However, I found it easier to become an Archaeologist in a time when there was only a handful of such jobs throughout Ireland, but no female airline pilot position. Prior to that I wanted to be an Olympic champion. I was influenced here by my father, who also was a great junior runner. As a junior athlete, a record breaker, with All Ireland, Munster and Cork and Waterford County medals, it was connections rather than talent that I required in those days, as did many other athletes. A time of 12.2 seconds for the 100m, 27.7 seconds for 200m and 58.8 seconds for 400m at the age of 12 years did not help get me to a European games in Lisbon, not to mind obtain my first dream, of the Olympics. No one assisted myself and some fellow athletes, when seeking help.
As an archaeologist, I believed in doing what I enjoyed and began a wonderful career that never left me bored; it resulted in many friends, meeting genuinely lovely people and travelling to strange and wonderful places. It gave me much knowledge, but with hard work. During an end of year school talk to the students at the Loreto Convent, Youghal some years ago, one of the girls asked me how she could decide on which career to pursue. I simply suggested that a good start was choosing the subjects that you enjoy. At the conclusion of that same lecture, the Chairperson of the Parents’ Committee (with whom I had been in primary school), Dorothy Heaphy, an undertaker, said that as she was burying people, I was digging them up!
Trying to save archaeology and alter people’s mind on the viability of the subject, which I was continually told was coffee-table talk, was at times difficult but a rewarding challenge, in particular in a society which is to a large degree money-driven, and of course, in many ways necessarily so. Today the nation is well versed in how archaeology is of great financial use for tourism, job creation, national pride etc. In 1980, I received a degree in Archaeology, Classical Greek, Italian and History, and subsequently received a Masters Degree at University College Cork in the subject of Dental Anthropology. The assistance which I received from the Department of Anatomy, UCC was invaluable, especially from Dr. Robin O’Sullivan (now Professor of Anatomy in the Medical University of Bahrain), who took me under his wing. Robin taught a number of lectures on the subject of physical anthropology in the Anatomy Department in UCC. I was the first person in Ireland to receive a degree in Physical Anthropology. Subsequently I was the first person to develop a course on the subject in Archaeology in Ireland; this iniative was suggested by former far-thinking Professor of Archaeology, Peter Woodman. The course, called Palaeodemography, was set up in the late 1980’s in the Department of Archaeology, University College Cork. I continued teaching and developing this course until I took up the role of Cork County Archaeologist, in 2000 (another first position). I had also set up a collection of archaeological human remains in the Department of Archaeology. At UCC, I taught the study of human remains to undergraduate years, as well as the Master’s course, which included a number of research theses on human remains and archaeology. Two colleagues, Margaret McCarthy (zooarchaeologist) and John Tierney (environmental analyst), and I set up the Archaeological Services Unit in the Department of Archaeology. This Unit provided jobs and research for the Department of Archaeology, UCC for about 14 years.
During my years at the Department of Archaeology, UCC, I was awarded a number of scholarships to study physical anthropology abroad,
cremation techniques, at the Department of Archaeological Sciences, Bradford/Leeds, England; Forensic Anthropology in the Medical School, Brest, France, a palaeopathology course, and later work on microwear in North American Aboriginal populations at the Natural History Department at the Smithsonian Institution, as well as short work experiences at Hambledon Hill, Dorset for Edinburgh University, Scotland, Assendelfter Polder with the Institut of Archaeology, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and bone isotope analysys at the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin , Madison. It was a priviliged time. Later I received many grants for research on human remains from Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast. I spent long research stints at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, the National Museum of Ireland, and also with the Department of the Environment of Northern Ireland, and the Office of Public Works. I also lectured on my work from schools in Perth, Australia to Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Universities in London, Galway and Belfast. I was always giving talks on my work to a wide variety of groups, such as the Albrin Society in Youghal, to TV programmes, tours to the Cork Archaeological and Historical Society etc.
THE OPENING ON THE FRONT LEFT PART OF THE CRANIUM OF AN ADULT MALE CAUSED BY TREPANATION SURGERY IN MEDIEVAL TIMES.
I also worked for Cork Corporation from 1996 to 2000, as director of archaeological excavations in the historic centre of Cork City and suburbs, as well as the Blackpool Bypass at the same time. We carried out excavations on most of the streets of Cork, prior to a new drainage system being installed into the City of Cork. A synopsis of the work is included in this blog. Castles, city walls, culverts, laneways etc were some of the discoveries.
As Cork County Archaeologist, I curated all monuments in the County, dealt with planning applications involving monuments, gave advice to other Council departments, as well as on the conservation of churches, graveyards, castles etc. I met with schools, campaigners, community groups, from Tracton, to Churchtown North to the Beara Peninsula and to Ballincollig, to advice on setting up archaeological groups, to record graves in burial grounds, to obtain funding for conservation, to educate about archaeology, to organise heritage week, to battle campaigns to save historic sites, to give lectures, to set up projects and plans and much more. An enjoyable but enormous task, with a lot of red tape constantly working against heritage. County Cork has an enormous amount of interest in heritage today, evidenced by the many groups involved in Heritage Week each August. My early campaigns with An Taisce Corcaigh and Youghal Heritage Society in Youghal, stopped the demolition of many archaeological sites, one is the College Gardens, now used for Heritage Week every year; in 1992 it was given planning for housing by Youghal Urban District Council! Thanks go to artist Walter Verling who did amazing work which helped stop that planning. It is also probably the site of a pre town walls defence, which I had partially excavated in 1992. Excavations in Youghal took place regularly after that including Chapel Lane’s medieval houses, and today’s work by archaeologist Dan Noonan on the drainage scheme in Youghal. In 1993 I was awarded The Community Person of the year in Youghal for my efforts.
My work with Cork County Council as their archaeologist was another window into a new stance on archaeology and a local authority (I had previously worked as a consultant, for Kerry and Waterford County Councils, the OPW etc). Instead of being on the outside as a campaigner, I was now working with the bureaucrats, all with their own ideas, not always the legislative way. The survey and conservation of churches and graveyards was carried out with the archictect John Ludlow, archaeologists Eamon Cotter and Bernard O’Mahony, and the backing of the exceptional Historic Monuments Advisory Committee comprising Bill Power, Seamus Crowley, David Kelly, and Mick Monk, they were way ahead with their regard and work for the conservation of church buildings etc. Another wonderful team was the Cork Archaeological Survey, who were all on-hand for advice and access to their files, in particular Elizabeth Byrne, Ursula Egan, Sheila Ronan,and Denis Power. Other projects which I assisted in their infancy included the building of a new museum with Kimurry, the walking routes of Beara Way; assisting the historian Michael Martin with the conference on Spike Island; the funding of the conservation of the Bell Tower in Waterloo, Blarney; the renovation of Camden Fort, Crosshaven, the plan for Lonehort, on Bere Island, a plan for the protection of St. Gobnait’s church, graveyard and bridge etc.
From 2000 until my early retirement in 2011 the change in attitude and legislation for the protection and conservation of archaeology throughout the public sector and the public itself is amazing. There are now guidelines for work in graveyards, plans for working on conservation, planning etc. To think that I assisted in some way in the protection of Ireland’s archaeological heritage is very satisfying.
I have started a new chapter in my life. I had my first book ‘Short Stories’ launched on 30th September 2015, by Marty Morrissey at Waterstones, Patrick Street, Cork.
location of business of WATSON’S STAIN GLASS MAKERS ON CATHERINE STREET, YOUGHAL, EARLY 1990’S
BALLINACARRIGA CASTLE, A SIXTEENTH CENTURY TOWER HOUSE, LOCATED NEAR bALLINEEN.
BELOW THE ASGARD IS SEEN IN YOUGHAL BAY, ON ITS VISIT IN 1984, SURROUNDED BY A FLOTILLA OF LOCAL SAILING BOATS..
THE CELTIC CROSS WHICH MARKS THE ARCTIC EXPLORER JEROME COLLIN’S GRAVE AT CURRAGHKIPPANE. CORK COUNTY COUNCIL REPAIRED IT, TO STOP IT FALLING DOWN A SLOPE.
THE AUTHOR WITH FORMER CORK CITY LORD MAYOR, DARAGH MURPHY AT CITY HALL WHERE THE EXHIBITION CELEBRATING CORK PAST WAS HELD IN 2009.
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