1991:059 - Kellysgrove, Galway

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Galway Site name: Kellysgrove

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

Author: Eamonn P. Kelly, National Museum of Ireland Dublin.

Site type: River fords

ITM: E 587754m, N 728028m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.302402, -8.183729

Between 18th May and 3rd June a detailed search of portions of the bed of the River Suck was undertaken by members of the Irish Underwater Archaeological Research Team under the direction of the writer.

The search was concentrated on two fords known as Reilly’s Ford and Pollock’s Ford in the townland of Kellysgrove, Co. Galway. A detailed survey of the river, including associated ancient channels and man-made features, was undertaken. The work, which was necessitated by plans to dredge the river, was financed by the Office of Public Works.

Both Reilly’s Ford and Pollock’s Ford appear to have been used as crossing points since at least the early medieval period. The course of a trackway leading to Reilly’s Ford was traced partially, as was the course of an ancient bivallate road leading from Pollock’s Ford. These ran in the direction of Kellysgrove Bog where they may have been continued as toghers or bog roads. One togher, at least, is known to traverse the bog, running in a north-south direction. Others, running east-west, may remain to be discovered. The togher, known locally as the ‘Monk’s Pass’, is likely to have been built by the religious community of Clontuskert. In addition to providing dry passage from the southern end of the bog it also may have linked Clontuskert with the Pollboy esker, leading down to the ford at Pollboy and a medieval church located nearby.

According to local tradition, stepping stones were placed in the river at Pollock’s Ford by the monks of Clontuskert. The bivallate road leading from the ford points directly towards Clontuskert.

Just upstream of Pollock’s Ford, on the Connaught bank, an earthwork was identified and surveyed. It was a sub-rectangular enclosure, surrounded on three sides by a bank and ditch and flanked by the river along one side. It may have been constructed to protect the crossing point.

A number of antiquities were found in the river, mainly in the pool below Reilly’s Ford. No finds were located which were earlier in date than medieval times. This would suggest that Reilly’s Ford and Pollock’s Ford were not important crossing points until dry passage, in the form of toghers, was provided by the monks across Kellysgrove Bog.

It is possible that the fords were used in Neolithic times, before the growth of the bog. Four stone axes and a chert lancehead, found some years ago below the bog, prove the presence in the area of Neolithic people.

Among the material recovered of ancient manufacture were an iron sword of 7th-8th century date; an iron spearhead of about the same age and a Viking axe, perhaps of 10th-century date. A number of iron knives recovered may also date to medieval times.

The most exceptional find was a large 16th-century sword of Irish type. This had been in its scabbard when lost and portions of the scabbard, including the chape, survived. A buckle, which would have been attached to a leather strap forming part of the sword harness, was also recovered.

A further find of note was an early 19th-century matchlock musket.

At both Reilly’s Ford and Pollock’s Ford, eel weirs were built, probably during the last century. According to local tradition, the Reilly family continued the business up to the 1930s. Their eels were stored in wooden barrels for shipment to the continent. The pool below Reilly’s Ford yielded a number of iron barrel hoops which were likely to relate to this activity.

Three animal traps were found which were used, probably, to hunt otters.

A quantity of animal bones were recovered which included the remains of red deer.