Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tyrone Diary 2012- Neither, wind nor rain....

Cows.  That’s what greeted us as we made our way down Crossan Road to the Cummiskey homestead.  For a city dweller, a herd of curious cows can make you pause and consider tomorrow’s newspaper headlines- American Tourist Killed by Stampeding Bovine.  But Colm’s boyhood experiences came in handy as he moved the herd away.  Oliver Donnelly, the current owner of the property, stopped by.  Mr. Donnelly carries on the family tradition of raising cattle and sheep.  His roots run deep in this area, and he shares this pride by allowing us to carry on our excavations.  The Cummiskeys date back to the 18th century on this very ground.  Without his cooperation we would be missing the origin of Hugh’s story.  We know much of what he did once Hugh came to Lowell.  Ongoing research is telling us more of his Charlestown years.  The dig in Crossan is bringing to the light the first chapter.

The team covered themselves in rain gear in anticipation of the dire forecast, even hail was predicted.  Throughout the day, the team hid under trees to escape the downpours, but worked through the mist and drizzle.  We are a hardy bunch.  Dr.  Donnelly had much paperwork to do in the van at these times, but we diggers managed to pull through.  One person who should be mentioned and given much credit is Victoria Denoon.  A native of N. Ireland, graduate of Queen’s University, senior assistant to Chancellor Meehan, and Associate Director of the Center for Irish Partnerships, Victoria has done so much to see this project come to fruition.  There are many people essential to this project, just to mention Dr. Donnelly, Dr Talty, and Dr McCarthy, but I think all would vouch if it wasn’t for Victoria the work that has been done could not have been achieved.  Victoria finally had the chance to experience the dig first hand.  Through the rain, and the sun, and the cows she never stopped working.  She may be adding archaeologist to her resume.

The day’s work focused on opening a pit.  The steps seem simple; lay out the line, spade the turf off, cut through the top layer, have Dr Donnelly check, and move on to the next layer.  Our pit measures 4 meters x 1 meter, and was completed in 7 seven hours.  Most of this work was done on hands and knees with rain, sun, and cows staring at us.  The first question folks ask is, “What did you find?”  There were some pieces of brick, black ware pottery, glass, and pieces of farm tools.  More importantly was that from the first spade cutting into the ground, the sound of metal hitting rock could be heard.  Success! Of the entire land that we could have dug in, Dr Donnelly’s research showed us exactly where to dig.   Finding the house and yard is as important as finding artifacts.  Ronan McHugh, from years one and two, joined us this evening.  Tomorrow he will be doing a survey of the site.  Cross your fingers our luck continues. 

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