A piece of archaeological history might have been lost forever if it wasn’t for one man’s necessity to post a letter. Séamus Lynch of Athenry, who describes himself as “an amateur historian”, knew there was a stone head, believed to be dating back to the 14th century, embedded in a wall to the rear of a building around the corner from him.
One day last week, he went to post a letter only to see the building, not far from the town square, in the process of being demolished. Mr. Lynch approached the builders and asked them about the stone but they knew nothing of it but offered to help him look for it in amongst a rubble heap of bricks and mortar.
Mr. Lynch told the Tribune this week his immediate reaction was one of devastation at such a loss and believed in a million to one chance of finding the stone head, intact, in the rubble. But that’s what he found – the very stone head, intact, in the rubble.
I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was gone forever, this stone, which we called ‘the Bishop’s head’ when we were children.
“The workers helped me retrieve it and we put it in a wheelbarrow and I wheeled it to safety to my own house about 100 metres away. I am delighted it has been recovered and I am waiting now to have it archaeologically examined. There is no doubt that it dates back to the 14th or 15th century. There is a possibility it might have something to do with the Dominican Priory that used to be there and was in fact a university at one time. It is my own idea that it can eventually be displayed in the local Heritage Centre”.
Mr. Lynch, who is a qualified tour guide with Fáilte Ireland, stresses that there was no question of blame on the builders, who hadn’t been informed of the stone head’s existence when they started their demolition work.
“We had always heard it was there in the wall of that old building and it’s a miracle that it wasn’t lost for all time. It was retrieved in the nick of time and all because I had to walk around to post a letter in the Post Office,” he added.
Written by Bernie Ní Fhlatharta, Connacht Tribune
Published here 30 Jun 2023 and originally published 18th January 2008