Lecture on the 1931 amateur excavation of Sheebeg Cairn

Irish Times reporter's sketch of Sheebeg cairn and internal chamber after excavation. Copyright of the Irish Times.
In Kiltubrid in 1931, a local farmer and a schoolteacher carried out an illegal excavation of the prehistoric cairn on the top of the hill of Sheebeg.

In Kiltubrid in 1931, a local farmer and a schoolteacher carried out an illegal excavation of the prehistoric cairn on the top of the hill of Sheebeg.

The publicity surrounding this amateur archaeological excavation went on to arouse great excitement and pride within the inhabitants of the local area, as well as the general public nationwide. 

Following a period of revived nationalism fuelled by the Celtic Revival, the excavation of an archaeological tomb locally alleged to contain the remains of the legendary figures of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his wife Grainne collected significant national publicity and international interest in publications across the world.

The excavation also served to reinforce and strengthen the mythological beliefs imposed upon the local landscape by its inhabitants. 

Ballinamore Library in partnership with Cumann Seanchais Bhreifne will host a lecture by Donna Gilligan on Friday September 18th at 8pm entitled ‘Excavating a mythological landscape: the 1931 amateur excavation of Sheebeg Cairn in south County Leitrim’.

Donna Gilligan, MA, MIAI, MIMA, is a Leitrim archaeologist who has worked in a number of roles in the commercial archaeology, heritage education and museum sectors over the past ten years.

She started her career in archaeological excavation following a B.A. and M.A. in Archaeology in NUI Galway, and went on to specialise in work with archaeological and historical artefacts in the post-excavation division of commercial archaeology.

Moving into museum work, she later acquired an M.A. in Museum Practice & Management from the University of Ulster, and has worked in a wide range of roles in the museum sector.

She has previously published on aspects of the archaeology of the North-West, as well as on museum archaeology and wider material culture.

She currently works as a member of the Collections Inventory Team for the Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, and as a freelance heritage educator for the Heritage Council.

This lecture explores the events of this time through analysis of the excavation results, presentation of contemporary newspaper reports and museum records, and discussion of the wider national significance of the archaeological monument excavated at Sheebeg.

Please mark this date in your diary or for further information contact Mary Conefrey at 0719645567.