Further to the posting of June 22nd 2006 re. Boyd’s Island and logboats (dug-out canoes) on Lough Lannagh, I am indebted to Ivor Hamrock, Mayo County Library, for pointing out to me a short article “Curious Discoveries” published in the Connaught Telegraph of May 26th 1852, some of which I now quote. ‘Within the last few days some of the labourers in the employment of the Board Of Works on the drainage of Lough Lanack (sic), discovered in the bed of the lough near Rahins, a number of broad, low decanters somewhat in the shape of water-crofts, one of which was shown to us, the exterior coated with copper and tin …’
(The term ‘water-croft’ is not in general use today, ‘croft’ is a corruption of the word ‘carafe’ which means a glass container with a wide cylindrical base, a narrow neck, and a flared open top, used to serve liquids, especially wine or water at table).
The article went on to mention some dug-out canoes which had also been discovered; “We allude to numerous ancient-constructed canoes, whole and skeletons of some, found sunk in the bed of the lake. One of those canoes, now lying on terra firma measures seventeen feet long by about four feet across. They all appear to be hollowed out of huge blocks of black oak wood. In one of these nautical skiffs of ancients days, was found a number of bones, supposed to be human bones. In another was found part of an oar, the boss much broader than those used in our day. From their position round the islands known here by the name of Boyd’s Islands, leads to the supposition that those islands were used as the haunts of freebooters, or perhaps the resort or refuge of some religious order in olden times. Whoever they were they must have formed a large company, if we may judge by the number of sunken canoes now being exposed to view by the drainage of the lake, beneath whose waters they must have lain for some centuries. These relics of former ages are hourly visited by many persons from the town and neighbourhood. Hunters for hidden treasure are also busy at work in the borders of the islands, but as yet, beyond finding one silver spoon and two pieces of silver coin, nothing but numerous beds of bones have been found, and these are being taken away to be manufactured into bone dust.”
Bone dust, I think, is called bone meal today; and for centuries bones, animal or human, were collected and processed, and used as fertiliser. It is said that a man from Scotland took Grace O’Malley’s skull from Clare Island and turned it into bone dust.