A VIEW OVERLOOKING YOUGHAL TO COUNTY WATERFORD (TAKEN IN 1985 FROM THE BOREEN AT GRADDY’S, BETWEEN WINDMILL HILL AND HAYMAN’S HIIL. MY GREAT GREAT GRAND MOTHER WAS ELIZABETH GRADDY WHOSE FAMILY OWNED THIS LAND).
SKELETONS IN YOUGHAL, ONE UNDER THE FLOOR, ANOTHER IN THE OUTDOOR LOO!
FRIAR STREET, YOUGHAL.
IT WAS THE EARLY DAYS OF THE ‘CELTIC TIGER’ AND WORK WAS BECOMING EASIER TO OBTAIN, IN PARTICULAR WITH THE BUILDING INDUSTRY. ONE PROPERTY, A 19TH CENTURY HOUSE, ON FRIAR STREET, AT THE BOTTOM OF WINDMILL HILL/JUNCTION WITH SOUTH MAIN STREET, IN YOUGHAL, WAS UNDERGOING REDEVELOPMENT, THE FIRST OF MANY SUCH PROPERTIES IN THE TOWN TO UNDERGO ALTERATION INTO APARTMENTS. THE BUILDING HAD BEEN, AND HOME TO THE KELLY FAMILY, WHEN I LIVED NEARBY UP UNTIL THE 1970’S. THIS FOLLOWED OCCUPATION BY THE I.T.W.G. (IRISH TRANSPORT & GENERAL WORKERS’ UNION) FOR MANY YEARS. FINALLY BOB ROCK’S PHOTOGRAPHIC BUSINESS MOVED IN SOME YEARS LATER.
THE BUILDING WAS BEING GUTTED, AND THE WORKMEN WERE DIGGING THROUGH THE FLOORING OF THE GROUND ROOM AT THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE, THE SITTING ROOM PREVIOUSLY, AND LATER USED AS AN OFFICE. ON TUESDAY MORNING THE 29TH AUGUST 1997, THEY RECEIVED A SURPRISE WHEN SOME BONES WERE SEEN UNDER THE FLOOR. AT FIRST THEY ASSUMED THAT THEY WERE ANIMAL REMAINS AND CONTINUED DIGGING. A HUMAN SKULL WAS UNEARTHED AFTER A SHORT TIME. THE MEN CONTACTED THE LOCAL GARDA SIOCHANA WERE CONTACTED, AND THEY IN TURN CALLED THE STATE PATHOLOGIST’S OFFICE.
THE STATE PATHOLOGIST CONFIRMED THAT THEY WERE INDEED HUMAN REMAINS. SHE WAS CONVINCED THAT THEY WERE NOT FROM A RECENTLY DECEASED PERSON. SHE ALSO INDICATED THAT THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF FOUL PLAY, NOR EVEN THE CAUSE OF DEATH. SHE SUGGESTED THAT IT WAS PROBABLY HISTORICAL AND GAVE THE GARDAI THE NAME OF AN EXPERT IN HUMAN REMAINS FROM ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES.
THE WORKMEN WERE WAITING ON SITE WHEN I ARRIVED. PART OF A HUMAN SKELETON WAS EVIDENT, IN THE LAYERS OF THE FLOORING. IT HAD BEEN DUG INTO, AND BONES PULLED OUT, SO THE SKELETAL REMAINS WERE DISARTICULATED. THEY WERE ALSO MIXED WITH ANIMAL BONES. IN THE NEXT FEW HOURS I EXCAVATED WHAT LITTLE REMAINED OF THE SKELETON IN THE GROUND. UNFORTUNATELY THE DISTURBED ‘SCENE’ OF THE SKELETON’S LOCATION MEANT THAT THE PERIOD IN WHICH THIS PERSON LIVED COULD NOT BE DETERMINED IE. THE STRATIGRAPHIC LAYER IN WHICH IT LAY. AN EARLIER FLOORING OF AN EXTRA MURAL HOUSE DATING TO THE 17TH CENTURY WAS DISTURBED, AS WELL AS THE FLOORING OF THE 19TH CENTURY BUILDING. THESE HUMAN REMAINS COULD BE ANY DATE FROM PREHISTORIC TIMES TO MODERN.
WHEN THE NEWS OF HUMAN REMAINS BEING FOUND IN THE ‘UNION’ OFFICE SPREAD THAT DAY THROUGHOUT YOUGHAL, I WAS INUNDATED WITH PHONECALLS GIVING ME CLUES TO THE IDENTITY OF THIS YOUNG MAN. ONE SUGGESTION WAS A PRIEST IN PENAL TIMES. I WAS GIVEN NAMES OF YOUNG AND OLD WHO HAD GONE MISSING IN THE PAST.
THESE HUMAN REMAINS WERE THEN BROUGHT TO UCC TO MY OFFICE/THE HUMAN BONE LABORATORY FOR ANALYSIS AND SUBSEQUENT STORAGE. THE BONES WERE WASHED FIRST. THE BONES CONSISTED OF LARGE FRAGMENTS OF THE SKULL, BROKEN UPPER AND LOWER LIMBS. ALL OF THE BREAKS WERE FRESH AND CONSISTENT WITH RECENT DAMAGE. THE SMALLER BONES OF THE SKELETON WERE NOT PRESENT. THIS OFTEN HAPPENS IN THE RECOVERY OF A BURIAL, WHERE THE LARGER AND MORE OBVIOUS BONES ARE SELECTIVELY COLLECTED I.E. THESE BONES ARE MORE OBVIOUSLY HUMAN. MY EXAMINATION REVEALED THAT THIS PERSON WAS A MALE AGED IN HIS LATE TEENS/EARLY TWENTIES. USING MEASUREMENTS OF THE LEFT FEMUR HIS STATURE WAS ESTIMATED AS 5’7″ (171CM).
AS CAUSE OF DEATH IS RARELY EVIDENT ON THE HUMAN BONES, THIS WAS ALSO THE CASE WITH THIS YOUNG MAN. THERE WAS EVIDENCE OF POSSIBLY ONE PATHOLOGY. THIS WAS REPRESENTED BY VASCULAR STRIATIONS ON THE LONG BONES OF THE LOWER LIMBS, ACCOMPANIED BY A SLIGHT AND LOCALISED IRREGULARITY ON THE BONE SURFACE AND A POSSIBLE THICKENING OF THE CORTEX. THESE MARKERS ARE PROBABLY INDICATIVE OF A CHRONIC INFECTION. MY COLLEAGUE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ANATOMY, DR. ROBIN O’SULLIVAN (CURRENTLY PROFESSOR OF ANATOMY, RCSI BAHRAIN) ALSO LOOKED AT THESE REMAINS AND COULD GLEAN NO FURTHER INFORMATION.
TO THIS DAY, IT IS STILL A MYSTERY AS TO HOW OR WHY THAT SKELETON WAS BURIED IN THE HOUSE OR PRIOR TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BUILDING.
THERE WAS A SKELETON FOUND ALMOST ACROSS THE ROAD TO THIS BUILDING. IT WAS LOCATED POSSIBLY IN A DRAIN IN THE 1950’S ?. ONE SUGGESTION WAS THAT IT HAD BEEN WASHED IN FROM THE SEA!
THE GROUNDS OF ST. MARY’S COLLEGIATE CHURCH, WITH THE GEORGIAN TERRACE OF HOUSES AT EMMET PLACE, WHERE THE HUMAN REMAINS WERE DISCOVERED, SEEN FACING THE GARDEN. THIS GREEN AREA WAS ARCHAEOLOGICALLY TESTED BY THE AUTHOR IN 1993, AND THE SITE IS PROBABLY THE LOCATION OF A PRE-WALL FOSSE, DATING TO AT LEAST THE EARLY 13TH CENTURY A.D. IT MAY BE ANGLO-NORMAN IN DATE. THE FILL OF THE FOSSE CONTAINED SAINTONGE CERAMICS.
EMMET PLACE, YOUGHAL
Within twelve months of the discovery of the human remains at the bottom of Windmill Lane, another find of human bones was discovered.
The location this time was Emmet Place, further north in the town. One of the georgian buildings was bought by a couple returning to Youghal from England.
The terraced building was a three-bay four-storey over basement built in about 1810. The new owner had been clearing out the rear garden and found some human bones. He rang the gardai, and they rang me to visit the property. When I arrived I was shown an outdoor toilet, which had been filled up to the ceiling with butchered animal bones. The animals in the nineteenth century were lead on foot to the rear garden, and following their slaughter, they were prepared as meat by butchering in the basement. The basement hadn’t been altered much over the years. A zooarchaeologist subsequently confirmed that the butchery methods used ie. the cuts of meat taken were consistent with that used in the 19th century. During the clear-out of the animal bones, primarily cattle, the owner discovered what he thought were some human remains among them.
Back in the office at the Department of Archaeology, University College, Cork, I compiled a report; a copy was given to the Garda Siochana, Youghal. It contains the following information:
The remains consisted of part of the articulated facial bones from the skull of a young adult. The individual is probably a male aged in the late teens/early twenties. The following bones of the skull were present, including part of the frontal bone, the zygomatic bones, part of the right temporal and both maxillae containing the sockets of the permanent teeth from the first incisor through to the second permanent molar. All of these teeth were present in the mouth at the time of death. It is unlikely that the wisdom teeth had erupted because there is insufficient space in this region for their formation and development.
Porosity on the supraorbital ridges and on the superior surface of the left orbit (eye socket) indicative of some anaemia or infection. A healed porous area is evident on the right orbit. Spicules of bone on the maxillae, palatal to the sockets of the second premolars and first molars, are a sign also of infection. It is not possible to determine whether one or two forms of infection were present in this person. The first premolars are double-rooted. There is no indication on these remains of the cause of death, however this is not unusual as many factors responsible for the demise of a person so not appear on the skeleton.
It was not possible to determine the date of these osseous remains. They were recovered from a deposit which contained numerous butchered animal bones and fragments of modern ceramics and other debris. Therefore this individual could have died some time ths century or at an earlier date. These remains could have come from a disturbed grave in the nearby, St. Mary’s Collegiate Church, located to the north-west, or from any of two other burial sites i.e the Society of Friends, on Ashe Street, located to the south, or the medieval Benedictine priory, whose graveyard is probably located near on Chapel Lane (I found the partial remains of an individual there in 1990, to the south-west. There are other possibilities also. A former resident of the house at Emmet Place, was in the army of the British Empire in India. The bone(s) may be part of a trophy collected by this person, thinking that he would possess an attribute such as power, beauty, intelligence etc of the person who had died. On the other hand these remains may have been derived from suspicious circumstances but without further evidence this is not possible to determine. There are many possibilities of how these bones came to be at this location.
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