Parke’s Castle was the venue on Thursday last for a celebration of the castle’s history as Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley officially launched a book which focuses on the results of excavation works at the site. ‘Parke’s Castle, Co Leitrim: Archaeology, History and Architecture’ was launched as part of the Archaeological Monograph Series of the National Monuments Service of the Department.
Describing Parke’s Castle as a “hidden gem” Minister McGinley joked, “It was brought to my attention on the way here that I am the current owner of this castle. I would like to welcome everybody to my abode here!”
Continuing his address to a room full of archaeologists, politicians, those involved in the production of the book members of staff and people who worked on the restoration of the castle Minister McGinley said, “We don’t have anything like this in Donegal. Going through Sligo I was never aware that so near the town you had this fantastic facility.”
Speaking about the excavation and restoration project Minister McGinley explained that “it was decided in the 1970’s to undertake a major programme of restoration” and as a result much was learned about latter medieval Gaelic Ireland as a result of the archaeological discoveries.
“It is due to the excavations carried out by Claire Foley in the 1970s and the knowledge gained through this work that we now understand the true level of complexity inherent in this wonderful monument and its continuity of occupation from the fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries…including evidence of a previously unknown Gaelic occupation of the site in the 15th and 16th centuries.”
The Minister went on to say that, “the excavations at the castle, undertaken as part of a programme of conservation works, were carried out in furtherance of a vision of the monument’s potential as an educational and tourism resource. It is a priority of my Department to ensure that all excavations carried out on its behalf are fully researched and published in order that the knowledge generated by these activities can contribute to education and the development of tourism in the future.”
One of the book’s authors, Claire Foley, recalled working on the archaeological exploration of the castle in the early 1970’s saying, “All the equipment we needed was provided with smiles, it was a privilege as a young archaeologist.
“We had a crew of 12 Sligo and Leitrim men recruited from the live register and a small number of professional assistants. I think the entire team, some are here today and others are represented by family.”
Speaking about the results of their work Claire remarked, “The discoveries here enabled a rethink of the O’Rourke way of life. The quality of finds suggests wealth and prosperity and imported pottery from France and England suggests contact with the wider world.”
Speaking about the book which she co-wrote with Colm Donnelly, Claire said, “Hopefully we have provided some information for further research and hopefully it will be read by everyone with an interest in archaeology.”
Addressing the assembled audience Colm said, “There are larger and grander castles but there is something special about Parke’s Castle, before adding, the book is “A fitting testament to 600 years of Leitrim’s past.”
‘Parke’s Castle, Co. Leitrim: Archaeology, History and Architecture’ is on sale in all major bookshops or can be purchased at Parke’s Castle visitor services centre.