The Dunnalong dig 2012 is up and running!
A programme of archaeological works involving Derry City Council, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) at Queen's University Belfast, the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA) at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and the Peace III Partnership has been devised and put in place to bring the archaeology and communities of a small part of the north–west of Ireland closer together, in a groundbreaking archaeological project which will include professional archaeologists, the media and members of the wider community.
For the next two weeks, archaeologists will converge in grassy fields on the banks of the Foyle in Co. Tyrone to explore a highly significant, but surprisingly poorly known archaeological site – Dunnalong Fort or Dun na Long ('Fort of the Ships').
We will spend 2 weeks at the site and the site will be open to visit from;
10am - 4pm Monday 6 Aug - Friday 10 Aug
10am - 4pm Monday 13 Aug - Friday 17 Aug
Feel free to come along and watch, enquire and join in the experience!
Ronan McHugh is managing the site and is very knowledgeable and approachable. Feel free to come along and meet Ronan and the rest of the team during the course of the survey and excavation.
How to find the site: Take the Meenagh Road off the A5 Derry/Strabane road. At the staggered crossroads go right then immediately left. Follow the lane towards the water and you will find us.
Dunnalong was formerly a stronghold of a sept of the O’Neill lordship. The centrepiece of this stronghold was probably a towerhouse (such as can still be seen at nearby Burt Castle). The date of the first stronghold at the site is not known, but in 1568, Turlough Luineach O’Neill fortified a new castle at Dunnalong, and there are references to his hosting various luminaries of the time in his new abode over the next few years. Dunnalong also became a customary landing place for Scottish ships, and, in 1569 this relationship between the O’Neill lordship and the Scottish clans was formalised by the marriage of Turlough and Agnes Campbell, the aunt of the then Earl of Argyll.
In 1600, an English influence was added to Dunnalong. As part of the campaign against the Gaelic Lords, crown forces under Sir Henry Docwra sailed into the Foyle, stopping off to occupy and fortify existing Gaelic sites along the banks as they went. In July 1600, the English reached Dunnalong. They struck an alliance with Airt O’Neill, successor to Turlough and left a troop of 6 companies of foot and 50 horse, under the command of Sir John Bolles, to garrison the site.
The English went about fortifying Dunnalong in the customary fashion of the time, by creating great earthworks around the site of the existing Gaelic site, which were characterised by pointed bastions. To combat the effects of water borne diseases, the English built a brewhouse on the riverfront to provide their troops with weak beer as an alternative to the native water. Contemporary drawings provide us with some idea of the form and extent of the Dunnalong Fort at the height of its strength under the English.
For all this, the English stronghold at Dunnalong was short-lived; by 1608, possibly as a result of the short lived rebellion of Cahir O’Doherty, it had fallen into disrepair, with Jonas Bodley describing it as ‘more fit to be raised than repaired’. Thereafter, Dunnalong Fort faded into the pages of history, and today the area is comprised of peaceful farmland on the banks of the Foyle.