ON THE 30TH OF JANUARY 1990, AFTER SOME STORMY WEATHER, A MAN WALKING ALONG A BEACH NEAR GARRETSTOWN, NOTICED SOME HUMAN BONES STICKING OUT OF THE SAND DUNES. HE IMMEDIATELY CONTACTED THE LOCAL GARDA STATION. AFTER SOME ENQUIRIES, THE GARDAI WERE INFORMED THAT THESE REMAINS WERE LIKELY TO BE ARCAHEOLOGICAL, RATHER THAN MODERN.THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHAEOLOGY, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, CORK, WERE SUBSEQUENTLY CONTACTED BY THE NEARBY GARDA STATION, TO INVESTIGATE THESE BONES. THE SITE WAS SOON EXCAVATED AND THE REMAINS* BROUGHT TO THE ANATOMY ROOM, IN THE ARCHAEOLOGY DEPARTMENT, UCC, WHERE I EXAMINED THESE REMAINS ON FEBRUARY 20TH 1990.
THE REMAINS BELONG TO A MINIMUM OF FOUR INDIVIDUALS: TWO ADULT FEMALES, ONE ADULT MALE AND ONE MALE AGED IN HIS LATE TEENS (16-18 YEARS). THIS MINUMUM NUMBER OF BONES WHICH ASSISTED IN IDENTIFYING THIS NUMBER WAS ACHIEVED USING FOUR RIGHT FEMORA, FOUR LEFT FEMORA, FOUR RIGHT INNOMINATES AND FOUR LEFT INNOMINATES.
THESE INDIVIDUALS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN BURIED IN A HEAP SHORTLY AFTER DEATH; MANY OF THE BONES WERE IN THEIR CORRECT ANATOMICAL ARTICULATED POSITIONS. THIS ‘HEAP’ MAY HAVE RESULTED WHEN THE BODIES WERE DRAGGED FROM THE BEACH AND PILED OVER ONE ANOTHER IN ONE GRAVE. HOWEVER SOME POST INHUMATION DISTURBANCE HAD TAKEN PLACE SOME TIME IN THE PAST. IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE TO DATE THESE BURIALS. THE MANNER OF BURIAL AND THEIR LOCATION SUGGESTS THAT THEY WERE VICTIMS OF DROWNING FROM ONE OF MANY SHIPWRECKS OFF THIS PART OF THE COUNTY CORK COAST.
THE DISCOVERY OF THESE SKELETAL REMAINS WAS REPORTED IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS. JIM O’KEEFFE WAS ONE KIND PERSON WHO WROTE TO ME ABOUT THESE SKELETONS AND TO ASSIST IN PUTTING A DATE ON THE BONES. THE FOLLOWING IS A LARGE EXERPT OF HIS LETTER:
‘the following might be of help. Extract from the Irish Historical and Archaeological Journal (Vol. 7, 1901, Boadicea by Robert Day) “Near the high road to Kinsale, which abuts upon the strand is a very old and dilapidated boathouse, and not far from this on to a sand covered rocky promontory toward the centre of the bay is a mound about 10 ft by 40 ft in length and jutting out from it a sunken reef upon which the sea breaks at half tide- here Boadicea grounded Jan 30 1816, mural tablet on the north wall of the aisle of St. Multose church, Kinsale. ref. Major Jarvis, Historical Record of the 82nd regiment- London, Mitchel & Co. 1866.
Remains moved from sand to Old Court situated on an eminence at the base of the Old Head. Look for covering stone with inscription, ‘sacred to the ………………, brass buttons with 82 found.’
The Boadicea went up on Curlaun Rock (I think), which lies between the two beaches. From what I remember reading the tide was high when she grounded, some tried to swim ashore from the Rock (about 100 yds), others waited until the tide went out and walked ashore. The bodies were buried on the shore, a few years later limbs were seen sticking out of the sand so the reburied on the Old Head- but did they rebury them all?
The Lord Melville I believe went up on the far side of Garrylucas (White Strand) on the same night. I think they all walked off the wreck………A severe storm on that night also drove a third ship up on Tramore Strand. These three ships were transport ships bringing replacement troops to Ireland, soldiers, wifes, and kids. Another ship the Albion (1st April 1822) (ref. Cork Examiner May 1930) (and other articles on Irish Historical & Archaeological Journal) went down on the west side of Garretstown Strand, about half a mile from the beach.’
THIS INFORMATION PASSED ON TO ME BY JIM O’KEEFFE WAS VERY USEFUL. THESE BONES WEREPROBABLY VICTIMS OF THE SINKING OF ONE OF THREE SHIPS , THE BOADICEA, THE LORD MELVILLE, OR THE ALBION, THE FIRST TWO SINKING IN 1816 AND THE LAST IN 1822. INTERESTINGLY THE BOADICEA SANK ON THE 30TH JANUARY AND IT WAS DISCOVERED ON THE 30TH JANUARY 1990. THESE THREE SHIPS WERE TRANSPORTING TROOPS FROM CALAIS TO COBH VIA DOVER, AFTER THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO. A GALE FORCED THE SHIPS INTO A BAY. A TOTAL OF 267 PEOPLE WERE LOST. ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER THEY WERE EXHUMED AND REBURIED.
MANY OTHER SEA TRAGEDIES TOOK PLACE OFF THE OLD HEAD OF KINSALE (J.R. THUILLIER, HISTORY OF KINSALE). THE S.S. LUSITANIA WAS A LUXURY LINER WHICH WAS TORPEDOED, BY A GERMAN SUBMARINE ON THE 7TH MAY 1915, NINE MILES SOUTH OF THE OLD HEAD. 1200 PEOPLE WERE KILLED. THIS EVENT RESULTED IN AMERICA JOINING THE ALLIES IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR. ANOTHER SHIP WHICH SANK AT RINGCURTEEN, OFF THE OLD HEAD WAS THE CITY OF CHIGAGO DURING A FOGGY NIGHT IN JUNE 1892. ALL 360 PASSENGERS SURVIVED. THE CAPTAIN WAS FINED FOR GOING TOO FAST IN FOG. THE LOCALS WERE DELIGHTED WITH THE CARGO THAT WASHED UP ON THE BEACHES.
*The skeletal remains, which were excavated, consisted of the following; the three contexts were found in close proximity, as the corpses had been lain one on top of the other, in a pile, after being brought from the sea to their burial location :
Context Number 1: a right femur, and the proximal end of a left; the right and left femora; the right and left ischia and ilia, and a left pubis; these belong to at least two adults; the pelves and one pair of femora belong to two females; one bone from this context belongs to one individual in Context 2b.
Context Number 2: the iliae and a left pubis of an adult male; the proximal one third of a left femoral shaft; a sacrum; the first five lumbar vertebrae; thoracic vertebrae from seven through to twelve; the right radius; the distal ends of the right ulna and the right humerus; three right and two left ribs; one phalanx of the right hand.
Context Number 3: fragments of the iliae belonging to one individual, located in Context No 1; seven right ribs; a fragment of the first sacral body; the five lumbar vertebrae; five thoracic vertebrae; mild osteoarthritis is evident on the lumbar vertebrae and on the twelfth thoracic; severe osteoarthritis, including schmorls’ nodes on the eight to the twelfth thoracic vertebrae.
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