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It’s a sign

Actually, it is four signs. Thanks to the generous support from the Community Monuments Fund administered through the National Monuments Service and Meath County Council the Beaubec project was able to erect interpretive panels explaining the Pearson house, the service tower, the ‘great barn of Beaubec’ and the grange residence. Excavation co-directors would like to thank land owner John McCullen, Paul Flynn of Flynn Signs and Display who created both signs and frames. They were erected in the field with great care by Dave and Malcom. The images on the large signs were the creation of Elizabeth Gardner of Chicago and formerly of Notre Dame University. The Pearson’s house was drawn by Peter McCullen. Thanks to Loreto Guinan of Meath County Council and Martin Reid of the National Monuments Service, administrators of the Community Monuments Fund.

John, Dave and Malcom.

The information panel for the Pearson House.

Interpretive panel for the grange of Beaubec. In the background one can see some of the repairs to the service tower. These conservation works were also financed by the Community Monuments Fund.

Erecting the sign that shows the reconstruction of the grange residence.

Sign showing the monk’s residence

Dave and Malcom with the post-hole drill.

Erecting the interpretive panel for the ‘great barn of Beaubec’

The reconstruction of the Great Barn by Elizabeth Gardiner summarises the results of archaeological excavation.

The French Connection

The Beaubec team have just returned from a hugely successful trip to Normandy to visit Beaubec’s motherhouse in Beaubec-la-Rosière and to re-connect with the community there. Eight hundred years ago a group of Cistercian monks left Beaubec Abbey in Normandy to establish a new monastic community in the Boyne Valley. Their Irish site been conserved with funding from the National Monuments Service and is being developed as a monument that celebrates the historic links between Ireland and France. This trip was an opportunity to let the community of Beaubec-la-Rosière know about the Irish project and to extend an open invitation to them to come to Bey More. We received a warm welcome from the mayor of Beaubec-la-Rosière, Monsieur Roger Décarnelle. He had arranged for access to the abbey which is now on private property and carefully maintained by Christine Quatresoiy. We were accompanied by archaeologists from the Ministère de la Culture Normandie (their Ministry of Culture) who joined us on the visit after a meeting in their Rouen offices. They kindly arranged for our transport to the site in Department transport which made for an impressive entrance. They were led by Nicola Coulthard – Regional Curator, Fabrize Henrion – Deputy Regional Curator and Cécile Germain-Valleé – archaeologist. Today much of the French abbey remains lie below the surface as a result of its destruction during the French Revolution. There is still an impressive medieval chapel and some farm buildings upstanding in the precinct. In the nearby town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray there is a marvellous medieval sepulchre in the medieval parish church that came from Beaubec Abbey and shows just how impressive the original abbey would have been. We travelled through Beaubec Abbey’s vast medieval estate of 15,000 hectares. It was remarkable to witness the huge impact this abbey had on this region of Normandy. They had developed an area that was originally dense woodland and marsh into productive farmland with granges, new towns and hamlets, served by a road and path network. Beaubec established two daughter houses; Lannoy Abbey and Bival Nunnery and had still the resources to send some of their community to Ireland to set up a grange at Bey More!

Road sign directing you to the charming village of Beaubec, originally a small settlement on the lands of Beaubec Abbey.

The elegant square in the centre of Beaubec village.

The Mairie (town hall) of the Commune of Beaubec-la-Rosière. From left to right are Fabrize Henrion – Deputy Regional Curator, Matthew Stout, Nicola Coulthard – Regional Curator, and Cécile Germain-Valleé – archaeologist.

The west entrance to the chapel which would have stood outside the main Abbey buildings.

Detail of the west doorway showing (bottom) a medieval wooden sculpture of a mounted knight and (top) a medieval sculpture inserted into the building at a later date.

The exquisite tracery of the east window. The size and beauty of the chapel suggests that the original monastery must have been massive with sumptuous detail.

The group examine the forge door that was inserted into the north wall of the church when it was used a farm building.

Serious discussion continued once the group moved inside the church.

This bronze plaque is affixed to the alter of the church. It is an exact replica of the original abbey seal.

Geraldine examines the sandstone arch over the north doorway of the chapel. Sandstone is as rare in Beaubec, Normandy as it is in Beaubec, Meath. Nonetheless, it was the stone preferred by the French masons perhaps engaged in the construction of both buildings.

The 17th century dovecote, part of a wonderful collection of farm buildings constructed after the abbey had ceased to function.

The group in the field to the east of the chapel. This is believed to be the site of the original monastery. The field is the site of a complex series of earthworks and, everywhere in the field, mole hills are contain evidence of earlier occupation. From left to right are Christine Quatresoiy, Monsieur Mayor Roger Décarnelle, Fabrize Henrion, Nicola Coulthard, Cécile Germain-Valleé and Matthew Stout.

At the end of the day, Fabrize, Cécile and Geraldine pose with the luxurious van belonging to our hosts; Direction régionale des affaires culturelles de Normandie, the Normandy branch similar to our National Monuments Service.

At Neufchâtel-en-Bray, one of the new towns established by Beaubec Abbey, the medieval church contains this sepulchre, a monument commemorating the burial of Christ. It dates from 1451 and was originally from Beaubec Abbey itself; further evidence of the wealth of this monastery.

The picturesque site of Lannoy Abbey, A daughter house of Beaubec.

Geraldine regrets the fact that little remains of Bival Nunnery, another daughter house of Beaubec.

The 15th-century castle guarding the harbour at Dieppe. This castle is built on the site of an earlier earthwork castle. Dieppe served as the port town for Beaubec Abbey and ships from Drogheda and Mornington in Ireland would have offloaded wool and grain from the grange at Beaubec. In turn, the monks of Beaubec Abbey exported wine and exotic fruits from this port to Ireland.

The western port gateway into the medieval town of Dieppe.

The core area of the monastic estate developed by the monks of Beaubec Abbey. This map is based on the Suzanne Dent’s groundbreaking study of Beaubec Abbey: ‘LE TEMPOREL DE L’ABBAYE de BEAUBEC: II Dans la deuxième moitié du XVe siècle’.

Download the pamphlet that was given to the Mayor of Beaubec-la-Rossère and members of the commune’s council. It summarises the Beaubec Project and invites the community of Beaubec-la-Rosière to establish deeper links with the Beaubec/Kilsharvan community in Co. Meath. We want to thank Alex Bogomoletz for producing the accurate and nuanced French translation of this document.

Touching Time Project Wins Amazon Grant!

The Beaubec Project has been awarded a grant of €5,000 from Amazon Web Services (AWS) with support from ChangeX, to host a workshop in art and archaeology. The grant was achieved through the tireless efforts of Grace McCullen who has been voluntary PR officer since the commencement of our work at Beaubec.

‘Touching Time’ is an art and archaeology project that began in July 2021 when Dr. John Sunderland became artist-in-residence on the research excavation.

The workshop will be run in tandem with the exhibition ‘Touching Time’ by Dr. John Sunderland, scheduled for display at the Droichead Arts Centre to coincide with Heritage Week commencing 20 August 2022.

This glorious news was revealed in another first-rate article by Alison Comyn writing in the Drogheda Independent on 18 January.

The following hashtags may be useful to our blog followers:



Alison Comyn writes:

On the residency, John used archaeological materials and techniques to create drawings derived directly from the processes of excavation as it happened. This involved drawing with soils derived from archaeological features in combination with the cartographic scale drawing techniques used by archaeologists. During The Beaubec Dig, specialists worked with volunteers from the local community to investigate the site.

“I am delighted that we have been awarded this funding, it means we can go ahead with our ambitions to explore the connections between science and art, the past and present, in the medieval ecclesiastical setting of the Cistercian grange at Beaubec,” says John. “We are now planning a workshop for young adults that investigates how the evidence based practices of archaeology intersect with art practice and use this to produce new artworks collaboratively. This is planned to take place outdoors on site in the summer 2022.”

Working beside John on his residency, it was noted that many young adult volunteers were keen to engage in art practices to the extent that with a little encouragement, they soon began to follow their own pathways in artistically interpreting the landscape and experiences of the excavation.

The team at Beaubec applied to the AWS InCommunities Drogheda Fund for an on-site workshop and were delighted to receive the positive news from the team at ChangeX in December.

The week-long workshop will give eight students the opportunity to explore the complexities of Beaubec as a place through time. This will be achieved by actively drawing on the material evidence uncovered during the excavation backed up by the results of specialist scientific research. Both the materials themselves (soils, stone, brick and slate etc., discarded from the excavation process) and the techniques and results of scientific analysis, will be used to inspire artistic interpretations. A key component to this is engaging with materials through touch and making by hand, drawing on the crafts of archaeological excavation, to understand and interpret the depth and complexities of a landscape through time.

John has created an art practice that draws on the craft and material of archaeology, making ‘drawings’ using actual soil samples from archaeological features, in addition to charcoal, pencils and white oil pastels. John has creatively blended this approach with cartographic techniques and photography to develop a portfolio entitled ‘Touching Time’, an alternative presentation of the finds from the Dig at Beaubec. More details on the workshop and the exhibition will follow on the Beaubec blog

Dendro dates the end of days

The end of days for the Cistercian grange of Beaubec was due to the devastation caused by the Great Plague of 1348–49. The discovery of the fuming pot made from mid fourteenth-century Drogheda ware and late-medieval ridge tiles was, up to now, the strongest evidence we had for this catastrophe. Now, thanks to the science of dendrochronology, a date for the abandonment of the service tower has been pinpointed to ‘After AD1356! The timber was also discovered to be from Scotland, perhaps it arrived in Ireland with ‘Richard de Preston de Beaubek’ who tried to confiscate this property in the decades following the Famine.

Another timber, lintel of the doorway into the service tower, was dated to the 1630s. This date shows that the service tower was restored or repurposed in the early-seventeenth century by the Draycotts of Mornington.

David Brown of the QUB dendrochronology lab takes a core sample from the lintel of the door into the service tower. This timber date to the 1630s.

David Brown inspects the service tower timbers.

The full report can be read here:

Queens University Belfast, School of Natural and Built Environment, Dendrochronology Laboratory Report 16/2021

Dendrochronological report on the wood samples from, Beaubec Tower House, Co. Meath by David M. Brown (School of Natural and Built Environment, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, BT7 1NN)

Samples from two timbers from Beaubec service tower were taken for dendrochronological dating. Both wood samples had enough annual growth rings for dendrochronological analysis. The wood samples provided dendrochronological dates from the middle of the seventeenth century and from the later part of the fourteenth century.


On the 11 November 2021, a number of tree-rings cores from a re-used oak door lintel and a cut slice of a plank from the latrine system were taken by a member of the Dendrochronology laboratory, Queens University Belfast. The dendrochronology laboratory reference numbers for these samples are Q12769 and Q12770.


Methods at Queens University Belfast dendrochronology laboratory in general follow those described by Baillie (1982) and English Heritage (1998). Details of the exact methods used are described below.

In the laboratory, a surgical scalpel was used to remove wood from the surface of the core and slice to expose the tree-ring pattern. Where the wood sample was soft or needed to be made clearer a razor blade was used. Finely ground chalk was spread and rubbed onto the prepared surface. This was to define the annual tree-ring boundary more clearly for measurement.

The tree-ring patterns on the samples were measured to an accuracy of 0.01mm using a microcomputer based travelling stage. The tree-ring series obtained for each sample was plotted on a computer screen to facilitate visual comparison. In addition, cross-correlation algorithm CROS84 (Munro 1984) and Cros73 (Baillie and Pilcher 1973) was employed to search for positions where the tree-ring series were highly correlated. These positions were then checked visually using the computer. All the measured sequences were compared with each other and any found to match would be combined to form a site master chronology. These and any remaining unmatched tree-ring series were tested against a range of regional and local chronologies using the matching criteria: high t – values, replicated values against a range of chronologies at the same position, and satisfactory visual matching. Where such positions are found these provide calendar dates for the tree-ring sequence.

The tree-rings dates produced by this process initially only date the measured series. The interpretation of these dates relies on the condition of the final rings in the sequence. In oak wood, if the sample ends in the heartwood of the tree, then the date of the last ring plus an addition of the minimum expected number of sapwood rings, indicate a terminus post quem date. Where some sapwood or the heartwood-sapwood boundary is present, then a death date range can be calculated using the maximum and minimum number of sapwood rings likely to have been present. The sapwood estimates are a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 46 annual rings, where these figures indicated the 95% confidence limits of the range. These figures are applicable to oaks from Britain and Ireland. In the Belfast laboratory, we use an empirical estimated sapwood range of 32 ± 9 years. If the bark edge survives then a death date can be directly obtained from the date of the last ring.


Sample Q12769M

This sample is a mean sequence of five oak cores taken from different parts of the timber. The centre or pith of the tree is not present on the sample. There is no sapwood but the heartwood-sapwood boundary is present on the sample. The five measurements were averaged together to produce a 183 ring tree-ring series. This averaged tree-ring series was compared with a suite of regional and local tree-ring chronologies from Ireland. Extremely significant and consistent correlation values (t = 8.38*** cf. Early Irish AD Chronology (EARLYAD); t = 7.28*** cf. Belfast Index Master (BELIM) and t = 5.52 cf. Tintern Abbey, Co. Wexford) were found. These and other results indicate that the averaged tree-ring series dates from AD1421 to AD1603. The best-estimated felling date range for the tree from which this timber was taken will be AD1635 ± 9 years.

Sample Q12770

When this sample was measured, it yielded 167 annual growth rings. The centre or pith of the tree is not present on the sample. There is no sapwood or heartwood-sapwood boundary on the sample. The measured tree-ring series was compared with a suite of regional and local tree-ring chronologies from Ireland. No significant and consistent correlation values were found. The measured series was then compared with tree-ring chronologies from Britain. Extremely significant and consistent correlation values (t = 5.94*** cf. Scottish Index Master (SCOTIM); t = 4.82* cf. British Isles Index Master (BRITIM) and t = 4.81** cf. Carlisle Medieval Chronology)) were found. These and other results indicate that the measured tree-ring series dates from AD1158 to AD1324. The best-estimated felling date range for the tree from which this timber was taken will be AD1356± 9 years or later or After AD1356. This is using the Belfast sapwood estimate range. It could be slightly shorter using the English sapwood estimate of 15 to 40 annual growth rings.


The tree-ring series from sample Q12769M gives extremely significant and consistent correlation values with many of the regional and local site chronologies from Ireland. This re-used timber’s tree-ring series does indicate a felling date in the 1630s.

Sample Q12770 does not give any significant or consistent correlation values with the regional and site chronologies from Ireland. The measured tree-ring sequences however does give extremely significant and consistent correlation values with tree-ring chronologies from Scotland. This would indicate that this timber in the latrine is from Scotland.

It is rare to find Scottish timbers in an Ireland context. Scottish timbers were however found in Holm Cultram Monastery, Abbeytown, Cumbria. These timbers were from a latrine sluice gate from the Cistercian monastery and dated to the twelfth century.


Baillie, M. G. L. and Pilcher, J. R. 1973. A simple crossdating program for tree-ring research. Tree-Ring Bulletin, 33 7-14.

Baillie, M. G. L. 1982. Tree-Ring Dating and Archaeology. Croom Helm. London.

English Heritage. 1998. Guidelines on producing and interpreting dendrochronological dates. London.

Munro, M. A. R. 1984. An improved algorithm for crossdating tree-ring series. Tree-Ring Bulletin, 44 17-27.

Look what we got for Christmas!

Thanks to a generous grant made available by the Community Monuments Fund administered by Meath County Council and made possible by a generous endowment from the National Monuments Service, the service tower at Beaubec has been repaired and made safe for future generations (scroll down to see earlier postings about the work which took place). Since we have you here, Geraldine and Matthew Stout would like to wish all the followers of this blog a very Happy New Year.

The service tower has been repaired and made safe for future generations.

Stout limestone lintels support the windows in what was, formerly, the most insecure part of the grange residence.

Another limestone lintel supports what had been the damaged stone wall and crumbling eighteenth-century brickwork below the elegant thirteenth-century sandstone window.

We present the Beaubec story

It was great news when Beaubec received Community Monuments Funding (Stream 3) this year for the enhancement and presentation of its archaeological monuments. This grant is being used for new interpretative signage on the site. Four new panels will introduce visitors to Beaubec Grange, the monks residence, the Great Barn and the Pearson mansion.

The four panels will be erected at the site later this year. These will add enormously to the visitor experience of the site. We are particularly grateful to our Summer Notre Dame intern Elizabeth Gardener who produced wonderful reconstruction drawings of the Great Barn, the monks residence and the service tower. Thanks also to Peter Mc Cullen for his drawings of the Pearson mansion. Here is a sneak preview!

Community Monuments Fund team comes to Beaubec

We were delighted to welcome the National Monuments Service CMF team to Beaubec to show them the great progress that has been made on repairs to the medieval building thanks to their state funding. Thanks also to Meath County Council for putting the application forward. We also wanted to introduce our wonderful team. We showed them repaired cracks, new lintels and unblocked doorways and some of the architectural surprises that this work has uncovered. Senior National Monuments Photographer John Lalor took some wonderful shots of the work  which we share with you in this post. John also interviewed members of the McCullen family and Rainey stone mason who is the third generation of stone masons in his family. We are very lucky to have him on this job. These photographs will be a wonderful accompaniment when we put a report together on these works.

Nicholas is always happy weather proofing the wall tops (Photo archive NMS).

Dr Matthew Stout (archaeologist) Martin Reid (NMS) and Dr Loreto Guinan (Meath County Council) deep in conversation at Beaubec (Photo archive NMS).

A first floor doorway was a surprising discovery when the vegetation was cleared (Photo archive NMS).

The serious crack in the south elevation is no more (Photo archive NMS).

Aerial view of the conservation works beside the great barn uncovered this season (Photo archive NMS).

Beaubec’s (CMF) Facelift

Huge changes have taken place at Beamore since we finished the excavation in August. The Community Monument Fund stepped in with state funding to repair the medieval remains of Beaubec, associated with the Cistercian monks of De Bello Becco in Normandy, France. The works began in early September with Des Rainey conservation experts, under the supervision of Chris Southgate Conservation architect, his associate Liam Gleeson, Structural engineer and Dr Matthew Stout archaeological consultant.

This process has involved clearing vegetation and treating roots that would have eventually brought the walls down if they had remained untreated. Missing window and door lintels have been replaced with new limestone ones. Windows and a doorway blocked up in the eighteenth century re-modelling have been opened up. A serious crack that ran down one of the side wall is repaired and the wall stabilised into the future. The wall tops have been sealed and weather proofed. The old building has come to life and we can now better experience its original grandeur.

The Beaubec project was proposed by Meath County Council to the National Monuments Service Community Monuments Fund 2021 on foot of an application made by John Mc Cullen. John Mc Cullen is the first farmer in county Meath to receive CMF Funding for repairs to a monument on his land. The Community Monuments Fund is investing essential capital into our valuable archaeological heritage to help owners and custodians of archaeological monuments to safeguard them into the future for the benefit of communities. This is one of 139 projects being funded by the CMF this year.

The Community Monuments Fund was first established by the National Monuments Service in 2020 to provide investment in Ireland’s archaeological heritage. It was launched by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan. Part of this funding is prioritised for local authorities, private owners and custodians and community groups for the care, conservation, maintenance, protection and promotion of archaeological monuments.

Landowner John Mc Cullen with the conservation team at Beamore, Co Meath

Dr Loreto Guinan Meath County Council and Des Rainey examining the west wall of the tower

The interior of the medieval window in the south wall has been repaired

Carved sandstone pieces have been discovered in the later blocking

Repairs on first floor window

The works have covered every part of the medieval building

Abarta Podcast for National Heritage Week

Despite being on holiday, news has reached the Stouts in Los Angeles that a new podcast featuring the Beaubec excavations has become our contribution to National Heritage Week. Hear about the Excavations at Beaubec in Amplify Archaeology Podcast Episode 25. In this episode of the popular podcast series, Neil Jackman, Chief Executive of Abarta Heritage, captures the essence of the excavations at Beaubec and gives a real sense of the community that was formed there during the month of July. National Heritage Week, one of Ireland’s largest public events will kick off tomorrow, Saturday, 14th August and run until Sunday, 22nd August. We are grateful to Grace McCullen, Loreto Guinan (Heritage Officer, Meath County Council) and Neil Jackman for making this possible.

Excavations at Beaubec – Key Discussion Points and Contributors

  • Geraldine Stout: project overview, aims, objectives and what was found – 01 min 18 secs
  • Matthew Stout: the historical background, how the Cistercians came to farm at Beaubec – 2 min 45 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: how did the Cistercians of Beaubec get on with those of Mellifont and Bective – 5 min 35 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: the role of the De Lacy family in the foundations – 7 min 15 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: how did Beaubec operate, how did the Cistercians manage the land? – 8 min 25 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: the origins of this project – 12 min 47 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: the importance of Beaubec – 14 min 25 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: the discoveries, the barn, medieval discoveries, a prehistoric tomb and late Neolithic pit circle and more! – 15 min 39 secs
  • Geraldine and Matthew: the future for the project – 16 min 30 secs
  • Aidan Giblin, Mick Mongey and Anthony Neville of Resurrecting Monuments: on their experiences in archaeology and the Beaubec dig – 17 min 30 secs
  • Bea McCullen: the youngest member of the team tells us of her experience on the excavation – 25 min 34 secs
  • John McCullen: the landowner of Beaubec tells us of his interest in the site and its history – 28 mins
  • John McCullen: what’s it like to have an important monument on your land, a blessing or a nuisance? – 29 mins 54 secs
  • John McCullen: what would John like to see for the future of the site – 33 mins 17 secs
  • John Sunderland: the artist in residence at Beaubec and the blend of heritage and art – 35 mins 49 secs
  • Michala Nagyova, Bronagh James, Catherine Meehan and Molly O’Connell: on their experiences in archaeology and the Beaubec dig – 42 mins 24 secs
  • Daniel Cummins and Elizabeth Gardner: on their experiences in archaeology and the Beaubec dig, and Elizabeth tells us about her engineering background – 45 mins 16 secs
  • Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland: on drone photography and aerial discoveries in the Boyne Valley – 49 mins 47 secs
  • Craig Downie: on excavating the service tower and latrine – 54 mins 40 secs
  • Penny Johnston: environmental archaeology and what it can tell us about life in Beaubec – 57 mins 26 secs
  • Caitríona Devane: the artefactual assemblage – 1 hour 3 mins 30 secs
  • Roseanne Meehan: the pottery assemblage and what it can tell us about life at Beaubec  – 1 hour 05 mins
  • Grace McCullen: growing up at Beaubec, the experience of the excavation on the family land and the future for Beaubec – 1 hour 08 mins 25 secs

Show notes and links to further information

  • You can discover more about the excavation on their fantastic website here.
  • An article on the dig ‘Excavations in the  time of Coronavirus’ also featured in the Winter 2020 edition of Archaeology Ireland Magazine.
  • And a detailed account ‘Excavations at Beaubec, Beymore, Co.Meath (2019-20) – a preliminary report.’ by Geraldine Stout and Matthew Stout featured in Riocht na Midhe, Vol XXXII 2021.
  • You can see a lovely timelapse video of aerial images showing the progress of the excavation on Anthony Murphy’s YouTube channel here.
  • You can find more information on John Sunderland’s Touching Time art project on the excavation blog.
  • If you’re interested in digging deeper into the stories of Ireland with online courses and lots of resources, and if you like exploring fantastic archaeology sites then you might enjoy our new Membership Service, Tuatha.

Beaubec art blog post 004

Touching time by John Sunderland

In the final days of the excavation I spent quite a lot of time gathering reference material for further works. This included the continuation of photographing people excavating with a variety of tools as reference material for drawings, the first of which is well underway, of Mikala experiencing excavating a pot for the first time. The two images have two different backgrounds; 001 is on a planning board I usually use for technical drawings. The grid of graph paper shows through the drafting paper, which is semi translucent. This was how I made the piece. The second image (002) is on a grey background, and my next stage is to work out which works best or if there are other alternatives. This is a beginning rather than an end for me, so, like the excavation, I am moving into a post excavation phase and will be continuing to work on all the works in my studio. First though is a period of reflection, after such a immersive exciting and busy time on site I am sure the relative piece and quiet of the studio will yield some new ideas and refinement of the works I started on site. This was a great opportunity and my gratitude goes out to all those who helped me particularly Matthew and Geraldine Stout, and John and Grace McCullen, for facilitating this project and bringing me on board the good ship Beaubec as an artist.