Thursday, 12 June 2014

Castle Drawings

As promised in earlier posts here are a select few drawings by some of the many school children who visited Monea castle.. Fantastic work!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


We are now in the last week of the dig. The bulk of the work this week will entail finishing up excavation and recording and then backfilling all the cuttings. Although we didn't find any clear structural evidence of buildings around the perimeter of the castle we did identify some interesting landscaping features, also the finds such as the musket balls and clay pipes also tell their own story of life in and around the castle in the early-mid 17th century.
Tony backfilling Cutting 4
The highlight of the dig was definitely the school visits which were hugely enjoyable for the crew while we also have some very positive feedback from the school children and teachers. One of the tasks undertaken by the pupils was to draw/interpret aspects of the castle and we hope to put up a few of the best drawings in the next blog post..

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Wednesday school visit

Wednesday, the sun was out and we had a great visit from St Aidan’s High school, Derrylin.
Pupils from St Aidans on the site tour
The latrine chute was a big hit, as always, but for some reason everyone wants to stick their heads up it. Not something I would fancy!
Good thing this toilet isn't in use any more
Christina gave her regular talk at the dovecote it’s all about ‘feathers, flesh and faeces’ apparently.
Christina at the dovecote.
One of the school children brought along his ‘toy’ smoking pipe – good comparison here between it and our 17th-century clay pipe.
Thats not a pipe - this is a pipe!
The whole gang.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sunshine and unexpected finds

Seemed like the summer had finally arrived today. The sun was out in force at Monea.
Monea in the sunshine 
We had an unexpected discovery today. Tony found what looks like a stone axe in a charcoal-rich layer under rubble in Cutting 6. This was found right beside a curious looking stone which has a groove in its side into which the axe actually fits quite well. We cant work this one out..
Tony and his axe.
This is where it was found.
And it fits into the groove!
Meanwhile Camilla is digging away in Cutting 7 at the latrine chute. There seems to be a small drain here coming away from the base of the chute but this is heading towards a big slab of possible bedrock? It will all become clearer when the rest of the drain is taken out - tomorrow..
Cutting 7 and the latrine chute at the east end of the castle.
We opened a Cutting (Cutting 8) at the north-eastern corner tower of the bawn to see if this (angular) tower was once rounded (as is suggested in Jope's plan of the castle in 1951 - see first Monea blog post). We have just exposed some very nice stone at the base of this Cutting. Need to have a think about this one..
Cutting 8
More anon...


Monday, 26 May 2014

Open Day

We had our Monea open day on Saturday past and it was a great success. We had over 150 visitors on the day and thankfully the rain stayed away.

Tony the blacksmith showing the visitors his smithy..

We arranged tours of the castle and Cuttings and the finds from the dig were on display was well. We were also joined by David, Tony and John from Living History group Claiomh ( who put on a fine display of weaponry, metalworking and leather working of the period.

David with musket and weapon display.
Visitors enjoying the living history displays.

Many of the children (and adults) were in digging too.

Christina trying to keep charge in Cutting 6..

 Thanks to everyone who visited on Saturday and made it such an enjoyable day out!!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Another busy day, and the tv were here!

Thursday was a busy day..

We were delighted to have a large group from the Clogher Historical Society for a day’s outing. The group made a day of it and brought a big picnic. Nick gave an excellent tour of the castle and some of the group went digging for the afternoon!

Nick giving a guided tour of the castle

George joined Camilla in the new Cutting 7 at the base of the latrine chute – first find was a coin (modern) - it looks like someone literally ‘spent a penny’ here. Lots of digging left in this one and George promises to be back for more!

We also had a film crew on site from Tern TV who are filming a new monthly magazine series called The Gaitherin which will be on BBC in a few weeks (we will keep you posted).

George and Camilla in Cutting 7 with the film crew

Site director Fintan Walsh, project leader Nick Brannon, Camilla Brannstrom and George Knight from the Clogher Historical Society were interviewed and the crew got lots of great shots of the castle and the ongoing excavations.. Twas a great day, and the sun, on cue, popped out for a while too.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Clogher Historical Society for joining us on Thursday and also for volunteering in the Cuttings over the last few weeks. You can find out about all the great work that this society does at

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Week Three continues....

Another great school visit today. This is our 6th school visit and thus far more than 170 school children have visited the site already with more to come! 

School visit – the finds table
Bingo! I found some pottery

The dungeon in the castle is getting to be a big attraction for the visits and while everyone loves the digging and sieving at Cutting 6 the drawing tasks are also proving increasingly popular – we might post a few of the best drawings at the end of the dig…

Still digging away in the other trenches and it is clear now that we have a stone-filled drain or ditch in Cutting 4.

Cordoning off Camilla in Cutting 4 with hazard tape,
in retrospect, seems a bit harsh.
Ditch/drain in Cutting 4

Unfortunately there is nothing in this that we can use to date it. Camilla is moving on to more interesting things tomorrow – a cutting at the bottom of the latrine chute! Who knows what she might find, actually lets not go there..... 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Week Three - another busy week in prospect

Finally got the stones out of Cutting 5, and there were lots of them. Nothing much underneath this rubble however unfortunately except for a thin charcoal spread  - oh well. Still this Cutting did produce a good range of finds.

Cutting 5 after removal of loads of stone!

Cutting 6 had always been our ‘starters trench’ for the school visits but today (Tuesday) we took the opportunity to get down and see what was under the last few centimeters of topsoil. Looks like we have two linear features in this one which seem to correspond quite well with the geophysical survey – Result!

Cutting 6 - finally got down to the business end
of this one.

It was a shocking fierce wet day today and our visiting group of 30 primary school children got soaked – and so did we. They still had a great day none the less..

Another happy (but soaked!) school group on their way back to class

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Open Day 2014 - Saturday 24 May, Monea Castle, Co. Fermanagh

We are holding an open day for the excavations at Monea Castle this Saturday, 24th May. This is open to anyone who is interested in finding out more about the castle and what we have discovered to date. 

Please Note: Parking for the open day is available at Monea Parish Church which is a 10 min walk to the castle. Please follow signs on the day.

We look forward to meeting everyone and sharing our excavation! The more the merrier!

Friday, 16 May 2014

The future of aerial photography!

This is what the future looks like!

Yesterday (Thursday) Gavin Donaghy from Irish Archaeological Research visited the site and very kindly took aerial film videos and photos of Monea with a drone. It was a mad kind of helicopter linked to some very high spec equipment!

Gavin with cool goggles that let you see what the drone is filming
The results are fantastic! Below is one of the many amazing images Gavin took of the castle and our excavation site. 

Photo courtesy of Gavin Donaghy (Irish Archaeological Research)

We could see the filming in real time (by use of goggles and video screens). This allowed us to look right down into the castle and it gives us some great shots of the excavation cuttings in progress around the castle.

Monitoring the filming of aerial footage

We would like to thank Gavin very much for giving up his time to come out and do this for us. Further details and more photos can be found at the IAR webpage ( and on IAC’s facebook page. Fintan is also posting up the odd comment and photo from this excavation on his twitter account (

More next week.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Day 7 - Stones, stones, stones.........

Stones stones everywhere but not a building in sight (except that is for the big castle looming over us of course). The cuttings around the southern end of the castle are producing a huge amount of stone rubble which we are trying to get to the bottom of.............literally!

Camilla excavating Cutting 4
Cutting 5

Meanwhile we had another very enjoyable school visit and this time we are having some art classes too. The children here have been either drawing their favourite feature of the castle.

Class visit - art corner ;-)
We would like to thank our volunteers from the Clogher Historical Society who finished a three-day stint today and did some great work this week!! 

Enthusiasts from Clogher Historical Society lending a hand

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Week Two and the sun came out for us

We are a bit behind in our daily posts so here is an update of what has been happening since the latest post last Thursday..

On Friday we had our first school visit which was a great success.

School visit - everyone got a chance to dig!

This is the first of at least eight organised visits of schools from the Monea area. The children had a tour of the castle, a tour of the excavations and then broke into groups and they had a go at digging, sieving and surveying.

On Monday we were joined by volunteers from the Clogher Historical Society who got stuck in straight away and made light work of the sod removal in Cutting 3.

Volunteers from the Clogher Historical Society in Cutting 3
Nick Brannon, the lead archaeologist for the project, 
was on hand for an excellent photo opportunity.

The sun came out properly (finally) on Tuesday and we had another productive day. Deborah from the Clogher volunteers had the best find of the day, a musket ball, found in Cutting 6

Deborah from the Clogher Historical Society and her find!
Musket ball!

We also had our second school group on Tuesday morning. Here’s Christina showing the children some examples of things that you might find on a site. The best suggestion we got for this object from the class was “a unicorn horn”! 

Site talk during school visit

Friday, 9 May 2014

Day Three - Cutting 1 and 6

A group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Cavanaleck Community Association spent much of the day on site braving the rainy conditions. After a tour of the castle the group got involved in a bit of digging and de-sodding in Cutting 6. 

Volunteers from Cavanaleck Community Association at Cutting 6
By the time the sun had come out in the afternoon the sod was off and the volunteers were already starting to fill the finds tray. A great day was had by all involved.

Meanwhile Cutting 1 is looking very interesting.     

Cutting 1 following removal of sod

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Day Two - Cutting 4 and 5 showing potential

Day 2 was a wet one. Despite this we are making good progress. 

Cutting 4 is looking good and there definitely seems to be a wall here with collapse either side. Also the soils around this are quite charcoal-rich so we seem to have come down onto a good occupation level here.

Cutting 4 following removal of sod

Cutting 5 is producing a good range of finds from the initial clean back (after the sod was removed). Lots of clay pipe fragments (probably 17th century) are popping up as well as glazed and un-glazed pottery! Its safe to say that the item in the top left of the finds tray might be a bit more recent though…

Finds tray from clean back in Cutting 5

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

First Week on site at Monea Castle

First day on site and everything is going grand. 

Christina, Camilla, Marie-Therese and Tony started de-sodding and digging Cuttings 4 and 5 just south of the castle and things are already looking promising!. 

We may have the remnants of a wall in Cutting 4 as suggested in the geophysical survey while a number of finds have been recovered from the topsoil in Cutting 5 including clay pipe fragments, slag, iron nails, and pottery fragments. 

Looking forward to more interesting discoveries tomorrow.