Discovery of 19th-century ship graffiti and other writing on plaster at Derrynane House sheds new light on life of Daniel O’Connell

Josepha Madigan, TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG), Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran TD, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief and are delighted to announce the discovery of an important collection of ship graffiti, writing and inscribing on plaster within certain structures in Derrynane National Historic Park in County Kerry.

Minister Madigan said: “I welcome this collaboration between my Department’s National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works.  It is such a fascinating discovery, and this writing and ship graffiti that has been discovered etched into the walls of the Summer House at Derrynane, add a whole other layer to our understanding of the life and times of Daniel O’Connell and his contemporaries.”

The graffiti comprise of over 15 ship representations, selections of cursive script, signatures, numbers and doodles, written onto and incised into the plasterwork within a number of buildings on the estate, in particular that of the Summer House.  Some of the writing may potentially be from the hand of the Liberator and along with ship representations, fishing scenes are also depicted, with nets and fish caught within them, and they provide a visual record of traditional fishing methods of 18th – 19th centuries.

The graffiti were discovered by an officer of the National Monuments Service (DCHG) while undertaking inspections of the archaeological sites within the estate, including the national monument of Derrynane Beg Ogham Stone.  Working with colleagues in the OPW, the graffiti is currently being recorded and assessed with regard to conservation and preservation.

Minister Moran said that “Derrynane National Historic Park, within which is found Daniel O’Connell’s House and Gardens, is one of the jewels in our Historic Property Estate and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year.  This wonderful discovery will add another chapter to the story of Derrynane and the family of Daniel O’Connell.”

Both Ministers welcomed the continued collaboration between their departments while the recording and analysis of the graffiti is being completed.  The OPW will now explore proposals to enable the graffiti to be conserved, protected and presented to the public.  Once these measures are complete the OPW intends to reopen the Summer House to the public.

An article on the Derrynane discoveries has been recently published in the latest Winter edition of Archaeology Ireland.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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