The Excavation of the McCarthy Home


We are delighted that students and staff from the University of Maryland are returning next week to Skibbereen to carry out an archaeology excavation of a local site.

This is their fourth year returning to the Skibbereen area and Skibbereen Heritage Centre staff have facilitated their work locally and have really enjoyed being a part of it.

This year, they plan to return to carry out further excavations at the McCarthy house which they started in 2018 and so we thought it would be a good opportunity to give an overview of what has happened to date before we embark on this year’s story.

The interior of the house before excavation started

Like many other families in West Cork, the McCarthy family were evicted from their home and were forced to emigrate. Thanks to the investigative work of Margaret, our genealogist, their descendants were able to visit the ‘home place’ near Baltimore when they first returned to West Cork in 2018.

Peter McCarthy visiting the house where his father, Jeremiah McCarthy, was born

It meant the world to these McCarthys from Wales to return to the site and no doubt their ancestors would have been very happy to see the ‘blood returning home’ over 100 years later.

And when University of Maryland staff made contact about starting work on a new site, we put them in touch with the current owners of the site who generously said that they could excavate the old McCarthy homestead.

Work began in June 2018 and the students and staff began to literally uncover the home and lives of the McCarthy family.

It wasn’t long before features in the house began to appear, such as the paved slabs of the floor and the fireplace.

And, as the weeks went on, we began to see what these features would have looked like originally.

And the artefacts appeared too ….

Some of the many pottery fragments found
The bastible lid
Several coins were found
And a candlestick
Some of the broken crockery was found just as it was left

Perhaps the most poignant artefact uncovered was a child’s beloved toy. These tiny ceramic dolls’ heads are wearing bonnets, probably from the nineteenth century, and were found in the living room of the ruined McCarthy house. They would have had cloth bodies and would, no doubt, have been a much-loved plaything for a child living in that house.
Students and staff from the University of Maryland with some of the artefacts found at the site. They left them with us here at Skibbereen Heritage Centre so we could show them to the McCarthy descendants

And Peter McCarthy, whose father Jeremiah was born in this house, was certainly moved by the artefacts when he visited Skibbereen Heritage Centre with his wife Pat.



Peter holding the little dolls’ heads toy that once belonged to an ancestor of his. We don’t know her name but this would have been a treasured item and Peter felt very honoured to hold it as a tangible link to this little girl

We look forward to what the 2019 excavation uncovers as, no doubt, Peter McCarthy and his family do. We will keep you updated…

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