Bypass works reveal rich heritage

Archaeological works under way along proposed route as locals urge Council to start forcefully marketing Listowel

From ancient settlements to post-Famine housing, it seems as if the entire story of Listowel into modern times is being unearthed at present as an archaeological examination along part of route of the looming Listowel Bypass brings fascinating artefacts to light.

Kilrush-based Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS) is peeling back the layers of time at three separate sites along the Bypass corridor and at one of the sites - at An Bóithrín Dubh - remains of what appeared to be a Famine-era dwelling took shape out of the earth. It's now believed the site dates post-Famine but it's throwing a fascinating window on the history of an area deeply associated with the Great Hunger.

The AMS-led dig has also uncovered evidence of settlements from the Bronze Age, even uncovering a Fulacht Fia cooking pit - at a location to the south of the Bóithrín.

It is expected that the archaeological dig will be complete by August as the Bypass progresses to the next stage. But a number of locals with deep reservations about the whole €42 million-project say they fear the heritage will simply be lost once again as soon as the road goes down.

And they also fear that not nearly enough is now being done to market Listowel by the Council in the event of the bypass having a severe negative impact on trade and the economy.

"The economic plan for Listowel and North Kerry that was initially to have come out last year has still not been published. Without it it is impossible to know what impact the Bypass will have and we would like to know why it is taking so long to publish the report," John O'Sullivan told The Kerryman.

"As there is every possibility that the impact could be a negative one, Kerry County Council needs to take immediate action to promote North Kerry and Listowel."

But there are also fears over heritage. Bóithrín Dubh resident Denis Carroll objected to the project on heritage grounds.

Now, he says he fears a trove of material sitting in the path of the Bypass could be lost for good.

"Locally my boreen is known as An Bóithrín Dubh, as it was the last journey from the Workhouse to the graveyard. There is a ruin in the field which is now under excavation. It was believed it was likely to have been a Famine house and stone water channel dating back to that era, but no one knows what is going on or of what significance it might be.

"My fear is that it will be ploughed up and forgotten about," Denis said.