Leitrim’s First Pop-Up Women’s Museum!

Thanks to the support of Creative Ireland, we are working with the North Leitrim Women’s Centre to create Leitrim’s first Pop-up Women’s Museum in four public locations across the county in May and June! We have been working with the brilliant Women’s Centre since 2022, when we first established our community heritage project, Leitrim Women Through Time. Leitrim Women Through Time (LWTT) is a collaborative local history initiative run by the North Leitrim Women’s Centre and Scéal Heritage Consultancy, which celebrates and records the stories of everyday rural women neglected by history.

The Pop-up Leitrim Women’s Museum includes the display of the “Leitrim Women Through Time 1850 – 1950” travelling museum exhibition, created for the first phase of the project from recorded community stories. This is accompanied by a display of objects from rural women’s history, with examples of items from women’s work inside and outside the home, women’s craft, and women’s personal lives; all which tell stories of women’s lives in the near and distant past. These include a wide variety of objects from rural women’s lives including a spinning wheel, an antique Singer sewing machine, a butter churn, a washboard, Clones lace, Irish linen and knitting, and vintage household books and women’s magazines.

We are encouraging people to bring along their own photographs, documents, and objects linked to local women’s history to these events to be recorded by our overall project, and we will scan, copy, and photograph all shared information and objects to add to the project archive for preservation for the future. We also want this project to give people the opportunity to temporarily display their own objects linked to rural women in the Museum, and we currently have a public callout for local contributions for exhibition. The first date of this exciting new initiative took place on Wednesday 24th May in Leitrim County Library, and the Pop-up Museum will be in three more locations across the county over the next month!

Children’s Heritage Craft Workshops for Summer 2023!

It may not seem like it now, but summer isn’t that far away!! We’re now taking bookings from organisations and venues for children’s heritage craft workshops for summer events including Heritage Week and Libraries Ireland’s Summer Stars programme. Workshop choices include bookmaking, or making prehistoric pottery or Bronze Age jewellery! Contact us at scealheritage@gmail.com to find out more information.

Local History Lectures & GAA Ephemera

We recently finished up our lectures on the Local History Certificate run by the University of Limerick and The Irish Workhouse Centre Portumna – delighted to provide lectures on Archaeology in the Landscape and Museums and Material Culture to such a great course! One of the Certificate students brought along a fascinating family heirloom for the last lecture – an original collection of GAA ‘Gaelic Sportstars’ collectable player cards, given away with sweet cigarettes in possibly the early ’60s! Some lovely pieces of sporting ephemera, and a collectable tradition that still continues strong today with football player trading cards. Really great to see some camogie players represented in the collection too!

“Bonnets, Bandoliers & Ballot Papers”​ – a new women’s history digital resource from the National Museum of Ireland

We’re delighted to have played a part in the production of “Bonnets, Bandoliers & Ballot Papers” – an important new National Museum of Ireland digital history resource about the women’s stories told by the surviving material culture of the national collections. Scéal Heritage Consultancy provided professional research services for the compilation of the resource, and on-camera contributions discussing women’s history and the use of print media during the period of the fight for women’s right to a national vote.

The resource’s virtual tour explores key artefacts from the Museum’s collection which tell the story of women’s lives and experiences at the beginning of the 20th Century. The resource is designed for Post-Primary students of History, Politics and Society and CSPE, but can also be enjoyed by all ages. The virtual tour can be viewed on the Museum’s website (www.museum.ie), or on Youtube at: https://youtu.be/GXGjZV2S_X8 .

2023 – New Year, New Opportunities!

We were lucky to work on some wonderful projects in 2022 – thanks again to all of our customers and collaborators! There are a number of current and upcoming opportunities for museums, heritage organisations, and community groups to apply for funding for new projects in 2023. Scéal Heritage Consultancy would be delighted to work with your organisation to discuss potential projects and grant applications of all sizes – please feel free to get in touch at scealheritage@gmail.com!

“Leitrim Women Through Time” – A New Rural Women’s History Project

Scéal Heritage Consultancy and the North Leitrim Women’s Centre are delighted to announce the launch of “Leitrim Women Through Time: 1850 – 1950”, a new travelling museum exhibition telling stories of everyday Leitrim women from the past. The exhibition will be officially launched on Friday 4th November at 7.30pm in the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim. All are welcome to attend on the night, and refreshments will be served.

This exhibition was formed as a result of the first phase of our new venture “Leitrim Women Through Time”, a collaborative heritage project supported by the Heritage Council’s 2022 Community Heritage Grant scheme. This new community-based project sets out to explore and share people’s knowledge and memories of the everyday lives of women in the county over hundreds of years. The project focuses on the lives of the ordinary Leitrim woman; celebrating the majority, rather than the minority, and those previously neglected in discussion. It concentrates on the experiences of the everyday woman – highlighting the value of remembering and recording what domestic, working, and personal life was like for local women.

For the exhibition, we worked with community participants across the region to gather information and suggestions for themes which would best tell the story of Leitrim women in the period of 1850 to 1950. The exhibition will be displayed in venues across the county, and we would like to connect with any groups or organisations who would be interested in displaying the free travelling exhibition in their venue.

“Leitrim Women Through Time” will be a multi-phase project that will work to gather and preserve an archive of Leitrim women’s history for the future. Everyone is welcome to contribute memories, writings, photographs, and any other information – you can get in contact with the project via the details below.
scealheritage@gmail.com / info@northleitrimwomenscentre.ie / 071 985 6220

Children’s Heritage Workshops in August!

We’re running a number of free and inclusive children’s workshops in the month of August in Galway, Laois, Sligo, and Roscommon!

We’re part of the Summer Stars programme for Galway Public Libraries, with free children’s workshops in prehistoric pottery making at 11.30am & 1.30pm in Moylough Library on Thursday 4th August, and at 10.30am & 12.30pm in Dunmore Library on Friday 5th August. Please contact the libraries to book your place, as places are limited. These workshops are kindly supported through the Heritage in Schools programme under The Heritage Council.

For Heritage Week, we’ll be in Laois Libraries for free prehistoric pottery workshops on Wednesday 17th August – at 10am in Mountrath Library, at 12.15 in Abbeyleix Library, and at 3pm in Durrow Library. Please contact the libraries to book your place, as places are limited.

We also have our pottery workshops at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery on Saturday 20th August at 11.30am & 1.30pm. These workshops are specially scheduled for Wild Child Day in Heritage Week, and are kindly supported through the Heritage in Schools programme under The Heritage Council. Advance booking is required via email to scealheritage@gmail.com.

Finally, we have a free train-making workshop at the Castlerea Railway Museum on Sunday 21st August at 11.30am. Advance booking is required via email to scealheritage@gmail.com.

Join us for some great hands-on heritage experiences – for any enquiries about any of the workshops, please contact us at scealheritage@gmail.com!

Artefact Biography: A hoard of stone axes and a possible axe pendant from Runnacocka, County Roscommon

Held by the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, the original museum record for these artefacts, numbered 1998:5 – 8, reads: “Hoard of four polished stone axes found in the bog at Td. Runnacocka, Co. Roscommon”.

The record documents a collection of four deliberately deposited small axeheads made from shale, sandstone and limestone, which are likely to date to the Neolithic period and which were discovered “at a depth of c. 10 ft.” during turf cutting.

Figure 1 The Runnacocka stone axe hoard


The term hoard refers to a collection of objects which appear to have been deliberately hidden or deposited. Archaeological excavation has shown that hoards of varying object types – ranging from stone and metal objects, to weapons, jewellery and coins – have been present in Europe from at least the Neolithic era up until the post-medieval period.

A number of theories have been suggested for the existence of hoards, whose function and meaning may likely have changed over this long period of time.  A large number of the post-medieval coin hoards may have originated as an attempt to safeguard wealth in times of instability. However, the reasons for the presence of prehistoric period hoards have been opened to further interpretation, with theories ranging from their use as ritual or votive offerings, to their possibility as unclaimed caches belonging to merchants or craftsmen. Popular academic theory has promoted the probability that the prehistoric hoards are likely to hold significant symbolic value and ritual meaning through their deliberate choices and placement of objects.

Figure 2 The Runnacocka stone axe hoard

Stone axe hoards

Prehistoric period hoards show a frequent pattern of deliberate choices of placement in wet environments such as rivers, lakes and bogs, as well as in dry ground. Stone axe hoards are commonly discovered in wet environments. This aspect gives credence to their suggested function as votive offerings, as it would have been difficult to retrieve a hoard from such a location if they were originally meant to be temporarily stored and later recovered. At least sixty – seven stone axe hoards are known from Ireland.

The significance of stone axes

Stone axes were in use in Ireland from the Early Mesolithic period until well into the Bronze Age era. They were a common, long-lasting and functional object, which were used mainly as a chopping tool. Further to this, archaeological research has revealed evidence of development over time in their utilisation, appearance and significance, suggesting the importance of axes as both functional and symbolic objects to the people of the past. Examples such as the inclusion of axes as grave goods in burials, the significant placement of axes in monuments and the consumption and value of axes of non-functional size and of non-native stone demonstrate that axes held significant prominence in prehistoric Europe. Specifically, the Neolithic remains of the Breton region show prominent evidence of the consumption of axes made from exotic stone, and a number of the Breton passage tombs show representations of stone axes in their megalithic art.

A possible axe pendant

One of the axeheads from the hoard is particularly unique. The shale axehead (1998:6) is made distinct by a sub-circular perforation through its narrowed hafting butt (See Figure 3). Perforated axeheads are a relatively rare form of artefact. A number of the examples of this artefact type feature this form of perforation located at the butt of the axe. In these cases, the perforation is considered too small to have been used for a shaft, instead potentially forming a means of suspension for an ‘axe pendant’.

Figure 3 Perforated axehead/possible axe pendant (Museum Registration Number 1998:6) from Runnacocka, Co. Roscommon

Following the discovery of the Runnacocka axes in 1998, a contemporary report by the Irish Stone Axe Project noted the rarity and importance of the find. It observed that at that time, of the approximate twenty thousand stone axes known from Ireland, only thirty-nine examples were perforated. Further to this, the Runnacocka perforated axe was one of only fourteen axes which was perforated at the butt. A further reason for the significance of the Runnacocka axe was that it provided the first clear evidence that the perforation of axes was a practice contemporary with the use of stone axes as a tool. It had previously been suggested that the ‘axe pendants’ represented a later modification to an originally functional axe – a possible form of wearing an earlier curiosity during a later chronological period.

Axe pendants may have potentially formed a ritual or representational role in Neolithic society. The megalithic art of the passage tomb on the Breton island of Gavrinis depicts several axes, displaying a domestic public object within the private spheres of the burial chamber. Further to this, it has been noted that the Gavrinis interior slab numbered L6 portrays a pair of perforated axes, which may represent axe pendants (See Figure 4). This may possibly indicate the symbolic and societal importance of this form of artefact, and potentially a wider stylistic or ritual European influence from this period.

Figure 4 – Gavrinis Passage Tomb Slab L6, showing a pair of perforated axes


Bradley, R. (1990) The Passage of Arms: An archaeological analysis of prehistoric hoards and votive deposits, Cambridge University Press.

Shee-Twohig, E. (1981) The Megalithic Art of Western Europe, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

N.B. This article was originally an online publication by the author for the National Museum of Ireland during their role in the National Museum Inventory Project, which surveyed and recorded the huge artefact collections gathered by the institution since its first inception. It can also be found at this link.

Fr. Frank Browne SJ and his Titanic legacy

On the date of the 109th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic, we remember the importance of the Titanic photographs taken by Fr. Frank Browne SJ. Fr. Francis (Frank) Browne was an Irish Jesuit priest who over his lifetime developed an incredible talent for photography, capturing images of Ireland and the world during the immense changes that came with the turn of the twentieth century.

Image (c) Father Browne Collection

Fr. Browne’s photography first came to public notice through his record of one of the most prominent events of the twentieth century. In 1912, Frank was gifted a first-class ticket for the first two legs of the maiden voyage of the Titanic. While onboard, he used his camera to photograph the ship and its occupants, creating a fascinating first-hand record of the experience of a passenger.

UIG450665 Credit: Gymnasium on the Titanic, 1912 (b/w photo) by Browne, Father Frank (1880-1960)/ Fr Browne SJ Collection/UIG The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: Irish / in copyright until 2031 PLEASE NOTE: This image is protected by the artist’s copyright which needs to be cleared by you. If you require assistance in clearing permission we will be pleased to help you.

Frank was offered the cover of his fare for the third leg of the voyage by an American family onboard. He arranged for a telegram to be sent to the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits to ask for permission to take up this offer. A short response was issued: “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL”. As he left the ship, Frank unknowingly took what would be some of the last remaining photographs of the Titanic. When the ship sank days later, Frank’s photographs were published on the front pages of newspapers across the world.

UIG450654 Credit: Last Picture of the Titanic, 11th April 1912 (b/w photo) by Browne, Father Frank (1880-1960)/ Fr Browne SJ Collection/UIG The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: Irish / in copyright until 2031 PLEASE NOTE: This image is protected by the artist’s copyright which needs to be cleared by you. If you require assistance in clearing permission we will be pleased to help you.

The Titanic photos form only a small section of the incredible photo-journalism work carried out by Fr. Browne throughout his life. In 1915, Fr. Browne became a World War I chaplain to the First Battalion of the Irish Guards fighting in France and Southern Belgium. During his years at the front line, he visually documented the harrowing experiences and conditions of the soldiers, recording his views as a witness to war.

Image (c) Father Browne Collection

Fr. Browne was one of the most important and prolific photographers of the twentieth century. Over his lifetime, he is thought to have taken over 42,000 photographs: spanning scenes in Ireland, England, Europe, Australia, and the wider world. His work recorded thousands of images of people and places which today provide an important visual history of Ireland and the wider world in the twentieth century.

Scéal Heritage is proud to be currently working on a new Fr. Browne exhibition with the Office of Public Works, scheduled for opening in 2022 at Emo Court in Co. Laois, Frank’s former Jesuit novitiate and home for many years. The new exhibition will be a chance to celebrate the life of Fr. Browne and recognise the importance of his incredible photographic record.

Please note that all images are the copyright of the Fr. Browne Collection. www.fatherbrowne.com