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BM 2

New photograph showing the site with the entrance straight ahead.


Survey of the Site


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Well this may look like a photograph of a landing place for a spaceship from another planet but can lay your thoughts at rest as it is, in fact, part of the result of a survey of our site undertaken by Queen’s university. This is the first of a number which will remove all the the grass etc from the site and hopefully let us see the underlying strata and possibly whether there are any burials around this ancient site . As you can see this was taken from above  with the entrance to the church/chapel on the left and the alter stone on the right. This is just a short blog but a more descriptive version will be appearing as we receive more photographs and data from the university survey team.

The Presentation

imagesWe are near the end of our investigation of the townland of Kilcoobin and one of the last items on the agenda is a presentation to the local population of what we have found and what still has to be discovered. We were frustrated in not being able to fully investigate the chapel site due to restrictions being in place by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency because of the antiquity of the chapel and the surrounding area.  As I write this we have been given permission to have a ground radar investigation of the site and this may, at least , give us a better understanding of the site.

The presentation took place in the local Community centre on the 6th November and was very well attended ( 65-70 persons). The marine archaeology department of the university who gave us a lot of help both in advice and in the physicality of the investigation were in numbers at the presentation– Colin Breen, who gave a very in depth talk to all present on archaeology in general in Northern Ireland and about our site and the effort that had been put in by all who participated. Also present was Tom McErlean (Archaeologist) who has managed to get a ground radar investigation of the site for us which is much appreciated.  Mrs Gemma Reid who was the advisor between us and the University. and last but not least was Max Hope an enthuiastic member of the team.

We were pleased to also have a number  of members from Ballintoy Archaeological and Historical Society present who thought we did an excellent job. Mr Martin McDonald made the long trip from Belfast as a representative of the Lottery Fund who were responsible for the finance of the investigation and we are very appreciative of that as it would not have been able to have been undertaken without their help.

Rather that have a lot of speeches and a lot of writing we went for a presentation via banners ( roll up ) and the use of very large photographs with short and precise explanations to the side .(see photographs) . We decided on that form of presentations as they can be used by the local schools –  making it easier for young children to understand. All the banners and the photographs can be borrowed by any organisation for use .

Last and by no means least an excellent supper was provided by Mrs Juliet McMullan and helpers.



Community Centre ready for the arrival                                                                                                    Photographs with explanations on wall

All seats were occupied


  These are samples of the banners which were produced for use in explaining the townland ( seven were produced in total)



Our First Presentation

imagesWe took the opportunity of the Whiskey and Salmon festival held in Bushmills to present our findings to the public. To introduce them to the fact that there is a lot of archaeology around them which has been overlooked for too long and which should have more prominence in the future direction of life in this area and to ask that people think a little bit more before they destroy something which has been around for hundreds of years.  We thank the “OLd Bushmills Distillery Company ”  for the  use of their facilities for the three days of the Festival. We were able,because of the numbers of visitors- Germans, French, American, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and from Ireland to show the various maps, old photographs, writings drawings and most important pottery which can be used to put a definite time frame on when the townland of Kilcoobin  was in use, who used it and what they were doing there.

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Hall in the distillery where the exhibition was staged


Entrance to the distillery

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Part of the display at “Old Bushmills Distillery”

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Some interested people ( display was moved to give a better through put of people)



Near The End

imagesTime presses on and we are approaching the final part of our investigation and then we will have our various presentations to members of the public at various events and community projects. I am rushing ahead but before that we had a workshop at Queen’s University organised and presented by Dr Liz Thomas on Saturday 14th September on “Field Trip” which is a phone app from Google owned Niatic Labs which enables people to find sites of heritage that are off the beaten tract>.  It uses the latest smart phone technology  to pinpoint these places.  At the start it has to be pointed out that you cannot publish whatever you want as happens on Facebook . All items you want to publish, both written and photo, have to be approved by Google before they are allowed on the site. Whatever you write must be of academic publication standard. Therefore ,you need to reference the information you provide e.g. the name, date and page of the publication of an author from where you got the information or if it is from your own research, the name, of the person/persons who provided the information.

We had a walk around Queens and further afield to find sites which had already been accepted and to read what had been written so that when/if we decide to use the facilities provided (it is free) then we would have a clearer idea of what was acceptable.

Dr Thomas had two young post grad students who were of great help on the computer front in slowing us the way round the various columns on the application form and how these should be filled in to be acceptable to Google.  After a lot of trial and error we provided a resume of both the sites we are working on and these were sent for approval to Google. It does take a time as the people at Google check all the facts that we have provided that they are correct before publication.


Dr Liz Thomas with some of the participants at the University.


The Dig

imagesSaturday 20th July and Sunday 21st July was the two days that were arranged for the start of an exploratory dig at the “graveyard” or “monastery” site at the Dundarave road. Two archaeologists were present, one of whom came from Scotland . The day was dry and sunny and as we were under cover we felt protected from the sun. We did however have to contend with a constant attack from “clegs” or horse flies ,some people were at a disadvantage as they appeared to be a more pleasant target  than some of the “oldies”.  The dig commenced with much enthusiasm with one of the archaeologists siting and directing operations whilst we laboured but we did not mind as we were at last trying to find if the sites were as we had been led to believe. ( photos at the end of the article)  The soil was a heavy clay /loam at the top with much undergrowth which had to be removed with a strimmer. After that digging commenced and it was not long before the stones on the outer wall were exposed and had been placed there not in ancient times but more than likely during the Victorian era. The base of the trench surrounding the site was next and there was orange clay in the bottom. That was cleaned up as nothing was found and photographs taken. Whilst that was going on the other side of the protective bank was excavated and after removing two spades deep of soil blue clay was unearthed and a halt called. The reason being that no items of human habitation is known to exist below a layer of blue clay. The discovery of blue clay at such a short depth has ,we understand , set the archaeologist thinking as this does not usually appear until a couple of metres deep has been dug. Although disappointing that we did not find any indication of human habitation we now know that the site was probably a dump for stones dug up during tillage in the surrounding fields and during  the  Victorian era was converted into a “Folly”. by inhabitants in the Big House. It would also appear that it was never a graveyard –a further dig was made on the top of the mound and immediately underneath the scrub bedrock was exposed thus indicating a very shallow depth of soil not capable of being used as a graveyard. This is just one of two sites we had earmarked for investigation and we are at this present time awaiting permission to arrange the digging of the other site which we anticipate will provide better results.dig july 2013 001Getting ready for the dig.

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The site marked out with the ranging poles with the scrub  having been removed.


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A section of the workforce in action.

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Removing the top layer of soil.

dig july 2013 014The blue clay which was not supposed to be at such a shallow depth.

dig july 2013 019Part of the cleaned wall on the outer edge.

dig july 2013 024Digging at the top of the mound where only bedrock was found.

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Digging on the inside of the bank to expose what was NOT there.

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Bedrock found on the top .

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A selection of the happy diggers on site but with nothing to show.


Developing and Managing Photo Archives

imagesWednesday 3rd July was the day when the various groups had a visit in the University to hear a member of the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency give a talk and a discussion on the above subject . It was given by Mr Toney Corey and was very, very informative . He ranged over all types of photographic material from glass negatives to digital media and all in between. Why some photos lasted better than others , what should we do with our digital material— don’t only download to one external hard drive but to two. Use acid free material at all times—not much more expensive than the run of the mill material , keep out of light if at all possible—all those old photos lasted because they did not see the light of day for years and we should do the same, when was the last time you opened your marriage album ?   Five years, ten years, twenty years, cant find it  they will probably be in pristine condition but that said if you want detail to last take the photographs in black and white if you are printing them.   Keep your photographs in TIFF files where they will not lose quality or sharpness no matter how often you print.035

Mr Toney Corey giving his talk and recommending two books for the photographer

A Century in Focus by W.A.Maguire

( Photography and Photographs in North of Ireland  1839-1939