Time Team programme unearths Hugh O’Neill’s drinking flask

The Time Team
The Time Team

THE site of the O’Neill’s medieval castle will be the subject of the popular Time Team series tonight (Friday) on Channel Four.

The groundbreaking team of archaeologists will uncover evidence of military happenings at Castle Hill in Dungannon – the former home of Irish chieftain Hugh O’Neill.

At the time of the discoveries, programme researcher John Wiles said: “We have found pieces of lead and musket shot which we would expect to find at a site like this which was at the heart of so many battles.

“We’ve also found evidence of a fort built on top of castle by Arthur Chichester in the 1620s.”

The crew made a major breakthrough when they discovered evidence of Hugh O’Neill’s Tower House at the site.

“This is what we came here for really,” Mr Willers said.

“This morning we are continuing to find the foundations and the walls of it.

“We’ve got the rest of the day to go and we’re trying to get an idea of the layout and size of it.

“We’ve also managed to locate the external wall of the Tower House and what we think might be external construction as well.

“But what we really want to do is get inside,” he added.

The Tower House is what Mr Willer described as “sub-species of the castle” which tended to be on two or three floors.

He said that the team was also continuing in its search for evidence of the “normal” people who inhabited the village which surrounded the castle.

And he revealed that pieces of pottery dating back to the medieval period had been unearthed, which he described as “really the origins of Dungannon and the original town”.

One particularly amazing artefact the team has found, which Mr Willers said had “really blown everyone away” was a piece of German stoneware known as a flagon or beer flask.

“This is incredibly rare and very high status, it would only really have been used by the ‘bigwigs’.

“You never know, Hugh O’Neill could have drank from this very flask. Because it’s dated to the late 16th or early 17th century, it’s really on the money in terms of dates.”

He said: “It’s quite momentous really. We had a small degree of apprehension when we came to this site, because so much had happened, and there has been something like 10 or 15 phases of building and construction in the space of just 200 years.

In 1602 the English forces attacked and took one of the most important strongholds in Ireland - Dungannon.

In the heart of Ulster, Dungannon was the seat of the O’Neills - the most powerful family in Ireland, allied to France and Spain and enemies of James I.

At least two castles have stood on the site, as well as grand English houses and a fortified town, regularly attacked by invading forces.