Local history group upstages bigwigs for top award

MEN AT WORK... Eric Johnston, Gary McBrien and Leo Murphy clear out the top layer of soil at the Arney dig in 2014  RMG14

MEN AT WORK… Eric Johnston, Gary McBrien and Leo Murphy clear out the top layer of soil at the Arney dig in 2014 RMG14

THE communities of Cleenish and Killesher have been honoured at the most prestigious archaeology awards ceremony in the land for their history-changing “Battles, Bricks and Bridges” (BBB) project.
The project took home the Best Community Engagement Archaeology Project accolade at the British Archaeological Awards in London last week. After finding out they were one of three finalists, having been picked from a range of distinguished entrants, a small delegation from the Cleenish Community Association and Killesher Community Development Association travelled to the British Museum for the event. 
A spokesman for the groups said: “We were absolutely delighted to win because we were in a company that included Oxford University, Cambridge University, York University, National Geographic, the Crossrail in London, and so many others.”
BBB was a community-led archaeology project that ran in 2013 and 2014 and explored the history, heritage and culture of the area through a range of activities such as story, telling, reminising, exploring their strong tradition of brick making, restoring the 17th century Arney Bridge, and hosting talks and feedback sessions at an always packed Arney Hall. 
Inspired by the work of anthropologist Henry Glassie in the 70s, when he recorded the oral history of and “every aspect of life” in the area, BBB relied on local knowledge, passed down through the generations, to inform the project. Possibly its greatest achievment was when it forced a re-writing of the history books and defied the experts by identifying the previously-disputed site of the 1594 Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits. 
“We took that folk memory and we brought in an archaeologist to work with us,” said the spokesman. “We were saying to the archaeologist that our purpose is for them to engage with this memory as evidence as to where the battle site actually is, and as evidence to where other aspects of the project will be found. We turned out to be right.
“It was local knowledge versus received wisdom from the experts, who were very gracious.”
BBB received a lot of media attention when it was running, and was featured as part of the “Best Archaeology 2015” on BBC 4’s Dig Ireland. 


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