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Mayo Historical and Archaeological Society Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02


Historical Society Field Trip To North Mayo
By MHAS.
30, Jun 2014 - 11:45

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Mayo Historical & Archaeological Society

Field Trip to North Mayo.

Sunday, June 22nd.

The society's field trip to North Mayo was blessed with good weather which added greatly to the enjoyment of the day as we wended our way through a countryside filled with historical and archaeological monuments and spectacular scenery.

At Palmerstown Bridge we were greeted by archaeologist Gretta Byrne, who guided the tour and proceeded from there to Rathfran Park wedge tomb, one of many interesting archaeological sites in the immediate area; others include Breastagh Ogham Stone, Summerhill Stone Circles, Megalithic Tombs, and Rathfran 13th century Dominican Friary. (Founded 1274)

Onwards then to Killcummin where we saw the ancient church from which the area takes its name. St. Cummin is reputed to be buried  in the adloining gravyard between two standing stones with decorated grave markers on the grave. An area, north of the church, is devoid of grave markers and it is said that 18th century cholera victims from a nearby village are buried there in a mass grave.

Just outside the graveyard, there is a holy well enclosed inside a small house. There, stations  are performed  each year on Garland Sunday, and the waters are said to have curative powers. Before moving on to the next site, the group had a leisurely stop at a picnic site looking out over Killala Bay to the coasts of counties Sligo and Donegal which can be seen in the distance.

Just a short drive away is the Rathlacken Court tomb which our guide Gretta Byrne excavated between 1990 and 1997. Her work uncovered the tomb which has three burial chambers and a circular court in front. No bones were found but there was evidence of possible cremated remains in one of the chambers. Pottery and stone implements were located on the site. A hearthstone on the centre of the site, covered by a mass of charcoal, probably the remains of the last fire on the site, was revealed. Radio-carbon dating showed it was c.4600 years old. The tomb itself dates from before c.5300 years ago. Although this is an important textbook site, it is unfortunate that it has not been taken into public care -  which is really a shame. It would surely be a most interesting tourist attraction.

Our last stop of the day was at Downpatrick Head with its majestic cliffs and an array of sites spanning several millennia. There are prehistoric sites and medieval monuments and a watch house from the WW2 period. Currently, work is in progress at a huge blowhole as part of the Wild Atlantic Way project and it is expected that that site will be open to the public on July 4th this year. It will be well worth a visit.

The sea-stack at the headland is an awe inspiring place with many stories from folklore attached to it. However, a reference in the annals, tells us that a land  bridge connecting the mainland and the stack collapsed during a storm in 1393 and marooned the occupants of two houses on the headland ; they were rescued with the use of ships ropes. Some years ago a party of archaeologists landed by helicopter on the site and found the remains of the houses. They were the first humans to set foot there in 700 years.

As the tour came to a close, we were fortunate to meet Dr. Seamus Caulfield at Downpatrick Head and spent a pleasant time in his company as he recalled many interesting and amusing incidents from over the years. He showed us an anvil shaped stone, said to be St. Patrick's Anvil, which was mentioned in the writings of Thomas Johnson Westropp, the late 19th century  Co. Limerick born antiquarian.

The society wishes to thank our guide Gretta Byrne, also Seamus Caulfield, and all the members, several of whom travelled from Galway, who helped to make the day such a memorable and enjoyable event.

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Archaeologist Gretta Byrne greeting the members at Palmerstown Bridge.

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The tour party at Rathfran Park wedge tomb.

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Tour at Rathlacken Court tomb.

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Prof. Seamus Caulfield shows the St. Patrick's Anvil at Dunbriste.

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The sea-stack at Downpatrick Head.

 



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