1987:06 - CLOGH OUGHTER CASTLE, Lough Oughter, Cavan

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Cavan Site name: CLOGH OUGHTER CASTLE, Lough Oughter

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Conleth Manning, National Parks and Monuments Branch, Office of Public Works, Dublin

Site type: Castle - Anglo-Norman masonry castle

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 635643m, N 807810m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.018276, -7.456113

The excavation, which lasted for six weeks, was undertaken in connection with conservation works on the castle which was recently declared a National Monument. The castle, a large circular tower 18.35m high and 10.55m in internal diameter with walls 2.5m thick, is situated on a tiny island in Lough Oughter 120m from the nearest shore. About one third of the circumference of the tower is missing from top to base on the south side, probably as a result of a deliberate destruction of the castle with explosives after the Cromwellian siege of 1653. The purpose of the excavation was to clear the rubble to floor level and to expose the base of the southern section of the wall.

Within the castle the remains of a late cross wall which contained a doorway and a fireplace were exposed. Considerable remains of the original mortar floor survived, overlying a depth of at least 2m of loose stones. Outside the secondary ground floor entrance on the south-west side slight remains of an attached porch-like structure were found. On the south-east side two burials were uncovered in shallow graves.

A large collection of finds was recovered, almost all of 17th-century date. Many broken fragments of iron cannonballs bear witness to heavy bombardment during the 1653 siege, and other finds of a military nature include musket balls, a flintlock and spurs of iron and bronze. Finds that indicate that the castle was probably refurbished c. 1610, when it became a royal castle under the Plantation of Ulster, include flat roof tiles and a cast-iron fire back. Other finds of a domestic nature include 1 6th/ 17th-century pottery (including crannog ware), metal skillets, candlesticks, iron keys, knives and harp pegs. The castle had ecclesiastical associations in the final decade before its destruction; it was visited by Rinuccini's companion Monsignor Massari, and a meeting of Catholic bishops of the Armagh Province was held here in 1651. These events would explain the discovery of half a papal bulla outside the entrance.

The lower two storeys of the tower appear to be of 13th-century date, but the excavation threw no light on the date of the original structure, nor were there any finds from this period.