Last evening at UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Library, Dr. Colm Donnelly of Queen’s College, Belfast, Ireland, gave a presentation on the results of the archeological excavation that was conducted last August on the lawn in front of St Patrick’s Church. The historical dig, a joint effort of Queen’s College and UMass Lowell, unearthed evidence of a wooden house that was constructed on the spot in the 1840s by one of the early parish priests. The evidence consisted of a packed clay floor and a foundation trench as well as a thousand artifacts including rosary beads, marbles, glass from a jar, window glass, a clay tobacco pipe, oyster shells and cattle bones. A selection of these articles were on display last night (and are shown in the photograph above).
Dr. Donnelly explained that last summer’s work was merely a “reconnaissance dig” to determine whether it was worth conducting a more extensive investigation of this site and that because of its great success, the project will continue and expand this coming summer. The first phase will be conducted in County Tyrone, Ireland on the remains of the home in which Hugh Cummiskey lived before he came to America. The effort will then return to Lowell for a more thorough excavation of the St Patrick’s site and an examination of some of the earliest grave markers at St Patrick’s Cemetery.
Dave McKean, the historian of St Patrick’s parish, in remarks preceding Dr. Donnelly’s presentation, explained that our understanding of the Irish in Lowell and in America is constantly changing based on new research such as that being conducted in this project. Dave will undoubtedly speak about some of these changing interpretations during the Walking Tour of the Acre that he will conduct this Saturday, March 12, at 10 am commencing at the National Park Visitor’s Center on Market Street. Also speaking last night was Dr. Frank Talty, the co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Irish Partnerships, who told the audience of the many exciting initiatives now underway between UML and several colleges in Ireland.