Ear to the Ground

RTÉ’s longest running factual programme did a fantastic feature on the Beaubec excavations. It aired on Thursday, 7 November 2019 and begins at 7 minutes and 40 seconds into the programme. Get ready for your close-up! Clicking on the photo below will bring you to the RTÉ Player.

“I read the news today, oh boy”

Matthew Stout and John McCullen ‘appeared’ on Mary Wilson’s Drivetime RTÉ Radio programme this evening. Here is a link to that interview https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/radio1/21599707. Meanwhile, thanks to Louise Walsh, the Beaubec excavations are all over the papers. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we heard on Friday that the FBD Trust has approved our grant for July 2020. All going well, we will be back in the McCullen’s field next year.

Louise Walsh wrote this fine piece in today’s (6 August 2019) Irish Times.

The link to the Irish Times article is: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/falling-window-leads-to-big-archaeological-find-1.3977912

And Irish Times readers online are interested in the Beaubec news!

Louise Walsh also wrote a piece for the Irish Examiner and the Irish Mirror (above). The Mirror article came out on Thursday (1 August 2019). https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/hugely-significant-finds-rare-french-18807968

Meanwhile, back in France, our French volunteers (Cindy, Marie and Morgane) proudly wear their Beaubec T-shirts.

“C’est magnifique”

This week’s Drogheda Independent (Tuesday July 30, 2019) features a front page headline and a double page spread about the Beaubec excavations. The article was written by Fiona Magennis and it is accompanied by a fine selection of photographs by Paul Connor capturing every aspect of the dig. Make sure to get your copy!

The front page of the Drogheda Independent for 30 July features landowner and historian John McCullen.

Pages 4–5 of the DI capture the activities on the Beaubec excavations.

Day 20 – “Get back”

Our final day of the 2019 season at Beaubec was a calm and happy affair. Sadhbh led a team who cleaned the tools and put them in store for another season. Matt, Billy and Laura finished up the last bit of recording of their text book Cutting D(on’t let us down). In the finds office Rosanne, Catriona and Penny put the finishing touches to their catalogues. Craig, Geraldine and Comhall busied themselves with preparations for the traditional end of dig celebrations. Our great supporter Anthony Murphy paid a visit with his family and kindly took some wonderful photos of the site and team (there is no such thing as a free lunch). Other friends and colleagues Fionnbarr Moore, Victor Buckley and Laureen Buckley, Conor Brady, David Sweetman and David Newton joined us in our celebrations of a very successful season. Nóra and Comhall presented members of the team with this season’s chic T-shirt, designed by Matthew and based on a detail from a seventeenth century drawing of Beaubec abbey in Normandy. John, Anne and Grace McCullen joined us for the occasion and made a number of very generous presentations including a beautiful stoneware Beaubec jar for Matthew and an elegant hand turned wooden bowl for Geraldine. This had been created by Seamus Cassidy, from a 270 years old copper beech that had fallen down in the McCullen farm. Matt thanked our sponsors, FBD Trust, the extended McCullen family, experts, and all our brilliant team for all their support. When we catch our breath the post excavation phase will begin. so watch this space! The last Beatle reference – “Get back” – refers to our hopes the we will get back to Beaubec next July.

Photographer Alex McCullen took this photo a few days ago. It captures the frenetic activity on the excavation when it is in full swing.

Another photo by Alex McCullen in which Sandy is clearly wondering what the Stouts are so concerned about.

Some of the last visitors to the site: Patrick McCullen (a brother of John) and Luke. Anne and Sadhbh provide them with information about the excavation.

The end of dig celebrations included the awarding of site T-shirts. Comhall was master of ceremonies.

Generous end-of-excavation gifts included the award of a copy of The Brass Thimble by John McCullen to Comhall. The book was later signed by the author.

John gifts a beautiful bowl to Geraldine.

Commemorative T-shirt, Beaubec jar and wooden bowl.

One of the recipients of McCullen generosity was Fionnbarr Moore. He is awarded with this publication because, it turns out, they are related!

Anthony Murphy’s stunning drone photography.

Anthony Murphy’s drone photograph of Cuttings D(on’t let me down) and A(bbey Road).

Anthony Murphy’s group photo of the excavation team and supporters. Anthony hopes to publish his book on last summers discoveries in Newgrange in the near future. Readers of this blog will be informed when the book becomes available.

The field is empty now and cattle will soon return to munch the tall grass that has grown in the last four weeks.

Some of our subscribers have suggested that the Beatle-themed excavation requires some explanation. The Beatles were, according to Wikipedia, an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. They are regarded as the most influential band of all time.

Day 19 – “The End”

The last shovel load of clay came out of Cutting D(on’t let me down)  this afternoon to mark the end of digging  at Beaubec for this season. There was a great sense of relief for the team that we had achieved our goals. The final recording is almost complete. The ditch crew have been covering over completed cuttings for another year. The experts in the finds office are busy packing catalogued finds away for post excavation work. Craig got the short straw today for the tea and did a superb job, which was helped by Margaret Nugent’s contribution of home made scones and jam. We had many visitors including the crew from Archaeology Plan who are excavating in nearby Donacarney, friends of the McCullen family Doreen and Padraig, the Bellewstown Heritage Group including Colin Byrne (who kindly brought us copies of old maps of the area).  We were particularly delighted to see Lorraine Foley, a horticulturist and garden historian who had made a major contribution to our previous Bective Abbey Project. She examined the hedges for early planting around the site and helped us understand soil development at Beaubec.

John Lalor’s drone photo of Cuttings B(eatles for sale) and C(an’t buy me love).

Some of the excavation team on Thursday captured in this drone photograph by John Lalor.

This photo shows (from left) Geraldine, John, friends of the McCullen family Doreen and Padraig, and Anne.

Colin Byrne (centre) with members of the Bellewstown Heritage Group.

Andy is shown here lashing into the scones and jam brought to the excavation by Margaret Nugent. Wow, they were fantastic.

A reconstruction of the roof that slid into the moat at the eastern end of Cutting B(eatles for sale).

Visitors to the site today included Jerry Watson and Liz.

Horticulturalist and garden historian Lorraine Foley.

DKIT students Andy, Shauna and Alan. It is Andy and Alan’s last day. Thanks for all your excellent work.

The crew from Archaeology Plan/Heritage Solutions who are excavating in nearby Donacarney.

Cutting D(on’t let me down) after completion. Go team.

An exhausted Billy Sines after the completion of Cutting D(on’t let me down).

Day 18 – “Flying”

Today the site was buzzing with people coming and going, surveying, filling context sheets, wet sieving, sorting finds trays and making tea. Great to see John Lalor – senior (and gifted) photographer of the Photographic Unit, National Monuments Service – who photographed the site and the excavation process. Alan and Andy are doing a super job of surveying in Cutting C(an’t buy me love) while Shauna and Geraldine were finishing feature descriptions and photos. All the action is in Cutting D(on’t let me down) where medieval deposits are being excavated in the area of Billy’s  kiln. In the afternoon Tom found a cache of medieval pottery (and flint!). Tom strongly believes in the power of Curly Wurlys for his success. Our newest volunteer Margaret Nugent has thrown herself into the wet sieving and together with Marie, Cecilia and Jonathan found some more wood, bone and shells in the lower ditch deposits. We welcomed back Bective volunteer Ciaran McDonnell who also delivered a talk in Tara tonight. We were delighted to have so many visitors including Bernie, Carmel and her mom from Cavan town, Mr Bailey of the Old Drogheda Society and Joe Collins a relative of John Mc Cullens. Thank you Nóra for the tasty tea breaks. We were delighted to have director of archaeological excavations at Black friary, Trim, Finola O’Carroll come to the site and we appreciated her advice on the conservation of the excavated walls. She was telling us about her Community dig on 13–24 August which is part of the Monastic Gardens project, but focusing on trying to find the boundary between the town and the site gardens. People can find out more about it by emailing info@bafs.ie and by looking at the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Blackfriarycommunity/events/. Our last visitor of the day was senior archaeologist Margaret Keane of the National Monuments Service. On another front, after Con Manning visited Beaubec yesterday he did a bit of preliminary homework on the building’s unusual features. He writes that ‘the diagonal buttress is very rare if not unique in Ireland. One glossary…referred to this type of buttress as a French buttress. Another glossary dated them mainly from the last quarter of the 13th century to the 16th century. [The building at Beaubec] might be entirely 14th century’.

The morning of Day 18 began with official-mascot Sophie encouraging us to get a move on and get to the excavation.

The day ended with Tom finding some very large sherds of Drogheda style pottery.

Margaret Nugent began the day helping with the finds. She ended the day covered in muck after an afternoon spent sieving medieval deposits from the moat.

Peter kept his birthday on the qt, strictly hush hush. But we found out and celebrated his birthday at our morning tea break.

Senior Archaeologist Margaret Keane made an official inspection of the Beaubec excavations in the afternoon.

Kate Sweetman in conversation with John McCullen.

John Lalor, photographer for the National Monuments Service, did us a huge favour and photographed the excavation with his high-tech equipment. John’s photographs are of a quality that detailed photogrammetric surveys can be drawn from them.

Visitors today included our dear friends the Condons, Carmel, Gabrielle and Bernie.

Ciarán McDonnell viewing the finds after his work on the excavation. Ciarán is a cool customer. He worked with us today and then went to Tara and delivered a magnificent and thought-provoking lecture on the Battle of Tara and what it tells us about Irish identities. His was the last of four Tara lectures. The 2019 series is over now and we look forward to July next year and a new season of lecture. Thanks to Clare Tuffy for organising this fascinating series of talks.

Visitors to the site talking to John McCullen, historian and our host for the excavations. From left are: John, Joe Collins, Finola O’Carroll, Jonathan, Marie and Cecilia.

Nature watch: Keeping with our Beatle-themed excavation is (you guessed it) a Beatle. This one was rescued from Cutting C(an’t buy me love) by Andy Hogg. Kieran Campbell, tile expert and naturalist informed us of the following: this is the common dor beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius). It lays its eggs in pellets of the dung of herbivores which it rolls together using its strong legs.

Day 17 – “Here comes the sun”

It was a beautiful summer’s day at the site and all the surfaces have dried to a golden glow. Ben and Joe kindly came down to the site to do a video and drone survey, which we can’t wait to see.  In Cutting C(an’t buy me love) Siobhan McCormack returned to us for the day and teamed up with Peter, Lennon and Craig to bottom their end of the cutting. Tom had his head in a pit for the day. This is one of two large post-pits uncovered in Cutting C(an’t buy me love).  In Cutting D(on’t let me down) survey is in full flight and Laura completed an excellent measured plan of the kiln and associated wall. At lunchtime Anne McCullen sent down a supply of her beautiful scones and jam which were yummy. In the afternoon David Sweetman and Con Manning came to the site to help us unravel the building phases. We have a medieval moated grange, which appears to have been replaced by a late medieval building with ancillary structures including the kiln. At the end of the day Cutting C(an’t buy me love) was ready for its final photographs. We were delighted to see Ruth Mc Manus (DCU) and her children, Brian Rodgers from the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society and local artist Richard Moore with his friend Gina..

Our first visitors to the excavation this morning were the Dohertys of nearby Beaubec estate.

B and B Video Productions came to film the site with camera and drone..

Ruth McManus from Dcu is a colleague of co-director Matthew Stout. Here she is seen with her family, from left: Fiona Rose (family friend), Áine, Ruth, Francis and Ciarán.

Lennon delivers the home backed scones gifted to the excavation team by Anne McCullen. Sandy, Lennon’s dog, seems to sense how good they must taste.

A lot of digging took place to finalise Cutting C(an’t buy me love). Long time digger Siobhan McCormack was brought in especially to finish the job.

Siobhan and Lennon.

There is a lot of activity in Cutting C(an’t buy me love). Sophie (official site mascot) seems to be the only one taking a break. At the bottom of the photo Matt and Shauna can be seen drawing a section of the cutting.

Geraldine has been interpreting the building since our first day on the site. Today we had two of Ireland’s foremost medieval building experts David Sweetman and Con Manning tease out the formidable architectural issues. In this photo Geraldine and David examine the northern facade of the building.

Con Manning; outstanding in the field (literally and figuratively) of medieval architectural studies.

Brian Rogers and Alan Kierans listen to Con’s interpretation of the site.

The beautiful, detailed and accurate survey of the kiln and wall in Cutting D(on’t let me down) by Laura.

Matt is taking the photographs of Cutting C(an’t buy me love) after the cutting was bottomed and cleaned. Tom is poised to save him should he fall (or was he???).

The wall crossing the eastern end of Cutting C(an’t buy me love).

Cutting C(an’t buy me love) from the west.

Cutting C(an’t buy me love) from the east.

Day 16 – “Magical Mystery Tour”

The day began slowly and built up into a crescendo of activity (and visitors). We all know that this is the last week so there is growing pressure to finish the Cuttings. Cuttings A(bbey road) and B(eatles for sale) are completed and work is concentrated in Cutting D(on’t let me down) where the corn drying kiln is being uncovered (Billy has located the flue). Nóra deBois is back with us in Cutting D(on’t let me down). She was a student at DCU and worked at Newgrange Farm last summer. In Cutting C(an’t buy me love) Craig and Lennon are exposing the foundations of a medieval stone wall and are coming across burnt stones that could echo the final days of this monastic site in the sixteenth century. Tom and Marie (one of three French volunteers) have been working on the break in the same wall and revealed a large post pit underneath this disturbance. An army of trowellers, including Morgane, Bea and Dermot McCullen, Erin Walsh and Eadhbha have been giving the cutting surfaces a final trowel before photos.  Our old friends Marie and Barry generously offered their services for the day and were busy wet sieving and putting together roof tile fragments. We were delighted to greet Michael Sweetman and Sabrina to the site with their daughter little Eleanor Rose. John O’Brien, OPW,  and James and Margaret Nugent also called in. We are afraid that we didn’t get a photo of these three but we thank them for coming and for their loyal support. Many thanks to Billy’s family, who worked mightily and made the tea for the day as well. Thanks also to Laura for her absolutely fabulous Finnish chocolate cake.

Morgane prepares for trowelling duties at the western end of Cutting C(an’t buy me love).

This photo shows sixteen of today’s workforce, many more are not shown.

A photo of Cindy, Billy and Laura in Cutting D(on’t let me down). The logo of our sponsors – FBD – is visible in the background.

Varied headgear sported by Laura, Sadhbh and Nóra.

Friends Barry Drinan and his partner Marie volunteered for the day.

Mick, Eleanor Rose and Sabrina Sweetman (left) encourage the trowelling prowess of Erin and Eadhbha. Erin dug with us at Newgrange Farm last year (see below).

Early in the morning, before the visitors arrived, Geraldine took the opportunity to catch up with her feature sheets.

Cleaning in Cutting B(eatles for sale), in advance of the cutting’s final photographs, are Bea and Dermot McCullen.

Shown in this photo are (from left to right) Kayleigh, Billy, Dylan, John McCullen and Lia.

Barry and Dylan washing the waterlogged material from the ditch (moat?) at the eastern end of Cutting B(eatles for sale). In the course of the day the deposit yielded more worked wood and a possible plough pebble.

Craig shows a heat damaged stone in the eastern end of Cutting C(an’t buy me love). Here he looks happy and serene. Within minutes of this photo being taken, however, he was bailing out the ditch with Andy, in preparation for Cutting B(eatles for sale)’s final photographs. That is the last time the ditch will be bailed out, we promise!

“Its all about the kiln”. In this photo Billy explains his discovery to visitors to the site.

The lower deposits of the corn-drying kiln found below the layer of large flag stones. The kiln was used for a time and then enlarged.

The kiln wit its deposits removed. The charcoal-rich deposits in the kiln flue can be seen at the top.

Cutting B(eatles for sale) looks pristine thanks to the efforts of a large number of volunteers.

The ditch in Cutting B(eatles for sale). This photo is by French volunteer Morgane Nicolas.

Day 15 – “Tell Me What You See”

Despite the inclement weather, drawing boards were out in strength and Cuttings A(bbey Road), D(on’t let me down) and B(eatles for sale) were festooned with tapes. Recording is in full swing with Laura, Andy and Matthew in charge. The stonewall beside the kiln in Cutting D(on’t let me down) continues to lengthen. Tom and Cumhall have been uncovering the break in the stonewall in Cutting C(an’t buy me love) and cleaning all the exposed masonry. Amongst our afternoon visitors were a Drogheda Independent reporter and a cameraman who arrived to interview the team – so be sure and read the Indo next week! We also had the Teelings, residents of nearby Beaubec estate, which incidentally, was called after our site. A final visitor in the afternoon was Brian Rogers of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society who had previously worked here on the 1997 excavation.

Everyone looks remarkably chirpy sheltering from the rain during tea break.

The Beaubec estate, named after our excavation site.

Standing to the right of this photo are Gerry Teeling, Daniel McCarthy and Eilín Teeling. The Teelings visited us today from the nearby Beaubec estate.

Visiting the site today was Brian Rodgers.

Nature watch: one of the stones in the wall crossing Cutting B(eatles for sale) is full of fossils.

Comhall trowelling the face of the wall at the eastern end of Cutting C(an’t buy me love).

Andy Hogg plans the section in cutting B(eatles for sale).

“Were going home” at the end of the wet day. Leading us up ‘the long and winding road’ is a ‘dog-tired’ Sophie.

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