Digging for Irish History in Lowell, MA and Northern Ireland

Irish Archaeological Dig Continues on Both Sides of the Atlantic

UMass Lowell and Queen’s University Expand Search for Clues about Massachusetts’ Early Irish Settlers

A team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Queen’s University Belfast will expand an archaeological project launched last year to learn more about some of the region’s first Irish settlers. For the second year in a row, the team will dig in Lowell from August 9th through 12th and later this month they will travel to Northern Ireland to dig there.

The researchers will be returning to the grounds of St. Patrick Church on Suffolk Street in Lowell where last summer they began excavating land where the city’s first wave of Irish laborers settled. The workers first came to Lowell in 1822 to build the canals that would help power the city’s burgeoning textile mills. Last year’s five-day dig yielded more than 1,300 artifacts, including children’s marbles, pieces of rosary beads, remains of clay pipes, oyster shells and iron nails, remnants that help tell the story of the settlers’ daily lives.

During the week of August 21st, the research team will travel to County Tyrone in Northern Ireland to excavate a site on the homestead of Hugh Cummiskey, the immigrant who led the first group of Irish laborers on the 30-mile walk from Boston to Lowell. At the time, Cummiskey was a construction foreman on Charlestown docks. The excavation is expected to provide insight into Cummiskey’s life before emigration.

Anyone who would like to support the project and see the artifacts unearthed at last year’s dig is welcome to attend a fundraising reception for the dig on August 12th at 6 p.m. at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren Street, Lowell.  Tickets for the event are available by calling (978) 934-4744.

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