Ancient monuments damaged by modern day life

A drone crashing into an abbey, damage caused by metal detectors, and stones being removed from heritage sites are just some of the issues uncovered last year by the Office of Public Works.

The OPW’s heritage section had to deal with 21 different issues arising at sites around the country last year, which also included the theft of a bottle of €175 brandy from a castle’s international wine museam, defacement of grave slabs, and graffiti.

According to information reveavled under Freedom of Information, one of the more remarkable incidents took place on August 13 when a drone crash-landed and got stuck on Tintern Abbey, New Ross, Co Wexford.

The drone got stuck in the wall of the nave of the Cistercian Abbey, which was founded in 1131. 

Tintern Abbey on The Ring of Hook in County Wexford.

The incident was reported by the supervisor guide at Tintern Abbey and gardaí, the Department of Arts and the Irish Aviation Authority were notified.

According to the documents, the hire of machinery to access heights to remove the drone cost €553.50, and while no damage was reported, health and safety issues were arising from the incident.

Heritage Ireland now specifies that the use of drones is not permitted at National Heritage sites, while the Irish Aviation Authority said that, from last December, drone registration is mandatory in accordance with the Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets Order and all drones over 1kg must be registered.

However, the drone crash was not the most costly repair work carried out at a heritage site last year. 

Stones removed from a wall at Callan Holy Well in Co Kilkenny cost €1,500 to repair. The incident was also reported to gardaí.

In one of the more peculiar incidents last year, two stones were removed from the castle wall of Dungarvan Castle in Co Waterford “to anchor a marquee/gazebo/tent”. 

Dungarvan Castle, located in County Waterford, Ireland. The shell keep of the castle dates back to the 12th century.

The incident. which took place on April 16 or 17, was reported by the district works manager, and the organisers of a food festival were also notified. The stones were reinserted into the wall and secured.

It also emerged that bottles of alcohol were stolen from Desmond Castle in Kinsale, which also features an international museum of wine. The incident was reported on September 13.

The OPW confirmed: “The theft at Desmond Castle involved one bottle of Chateaux Dillon 1993 Haut Medoc, estimated value €20-€25 and one bottle of Hennessey Brand XO, estimated value €175.”

Not far away at James Fort in Kinsale, there was “ground interference as a result of metal detection”, resulting in “ground scored, sod turned over and replaced”, and similar damage caused by metal detection occurred at Ardfert Friary in Co Kerry.

Masonry damaged in a tomb wall at Ballybeg Abbey in Buttevant, Co Cork, cost €900 to repair, while it cost €400 to clean graffiti from the walls of Carlow Castle. 

Gardaí were also notified and the incident was raised in an email to National Monuments Admin from the Mayor of Carlow.

Elsewhere, stones pulled from a wall at the round tower and arch at St James’s Cemetery in Castledermot, Co Kildare, cost an estimated €200 to repair, while damage to walls from “writing/effects of blue tack” at Damer House in Roscrea cost €50 on repairs.

Castlelyons Friary, Co Cork.

Elsewhere, the costs associated with cleaning up or repairing damage caused at different sites was described as minor, with graffiti a common curse. 

A tomb at the Kealy Tombs at St Mary Church in Gowran in Co Kilkenny was damaged from graffiti and scratches last August, with gardaí notified and grids that can be locked installed.

Grave slabs were defaced by graffiti the same month at Castlelyons Friary in Co Cork, while masonry at Mallow Castle was defaced “several times” last year, prompting repeated clean-ups. 

A similar situation occurred at Kilmallock Dominican Priory in Co Limerick.

A stone grave slab was damaged and later repaired at Ardmore Church in Co Waterford, while two stone slabs were damaged at Turlough Church & Round Tower in Co Mayo. 

Damage was also caused to a wall slab at Tullylease Church in Co Cork, described as “ongoing but has lessened in recent times” and resulting in discussions about covering the slab with perspex.

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