2012:440 - Boycott's House, Keel West, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: Boycott's House, Keel West

Sites and Monuments Record No.: MA053-003 Licence number: 12E0059

Author: Rory Sherlock

Site type: Archaeological complex

ITM: E 455650m, N 804556m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.970108, -10.200251

Situated on high ground overlooking Keem Bay at the western end of Achill Island, 'Boycott's House' is a ruined single-storey structure which, according to local tradition, was built by 'Captain' Charles Cunningham Boycott upon his arrival to Achill in 1854. A cursory analysis of the site indicated that the standing L-shaped structure represented the second and third phases of construction, while a rectangular, grass-covered mound adjacent to the end of the second-phase building appeared to represent the first phase of Boycott's House.
The Achill Archaeological Field School undertook an excavation on the site of the first-phase structure from March to June 2012 and an 11m x 7m trench revealed the complete ground plan of the building. The first-phase building was a timber-framed structure which rested upon a stone plinth and which was clad externally with corrugated iron – proof of the local tradition that Boycott lived in an 'iron house' when he first came to the island to farm 2,000 acres of rented land in the vicinity of Keem Bay. The timber-framed house appears to have been quickly extended with the construction of the stone-built phases (Phases 2 and 3) and the entire building was subsequently abandoned after being consumed in an accidental fire in the late 1860s.
A very large artefact assemblage was recovered during the excavation and this included pottery and clay pipe fragments, various metal artefacts and numerous fragments of window and vessel glass, some of the lead and glass fragments showing clear evidence of heat distortion from the fire. A series of internal walls, first thought to represent room divisions, were later recognised as inserted sub-walls which carried the timber floor within the house and which replaced two original cross beams. A concentration of rubble in the centre of the house has been interpreted as a fallen chimneybreast, since many of the stones within this layer rested on-edge, though this interpretation cannot be fully proven.

Archaeological Field School, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co, Mayo