Video: Ballinascreen’s self-taught geologist honoured with Ulster History Circle

An iconic figure from the Sperrin mountains outside Draperstown who passed away almost 50 years ago, has been honoured with a prestigious Ulster History Circle plaque.

George Barnett from the Sixtowns was a self-taught geologist and archaeologist, local historian and poet.

George Barnett

George Barnett

He was also the man who discovered the Beaghmore Stone Circles.

On Saturday, historians joined with relatives of ‘wee Geordie’ to unveil the plaque at the home where he lived and stashed many samples of rocks collected from the surrounding hills and mountains.

Graham Mawhinney from the Ballinascreen Historical Society said it was fitting that Geordie is recognised by the Ulster History Circle, which has relatively few such plaques in rural parts of Northern Ireland.

On Geordie, Mr Mawhinney recounted his work: “Although he had received little formal education, his curiosity about his surroundings had led to detailed study and his advice was much sought after.

“As an historian, archaeologist, botanist, geologist, folklorist and poet, Geordie had spent sixty years studying all aspects of the Sperrins.

“He never enjoyed farm work, but it wasn’t until his father died in 1931 that the bachelor farmer was able to fully pursue his local studies. His writings became more extensive and his field of activities widened.

“Ongoing correspondence with academics often led to visits from leading figures in the universities, and other dignitaries.

“Perhaps he will be best remembered for the discovery of the Beaghmore stone circles in County Tyrone.

Mr Mawhinney added: “This very significant archaeological site was discovered by Geordie during peat cutting in the 1930s. “

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “George Barnett rightly became celebrated in his day for his vast knowledge on so many aspects of his beloved countryside.

“The Ulster History Circle is delighted that this blue plaque to commemorate Geordie’s achievements will add to his lasting reputation.

“The Circle would particularly like to thank Ballinascreen Historical Society for the support they have given towards the plaque. ”

This plaque is funded by Ballinascreen Historical Society.

The Ulster History Circle blue plaques commemorate men and women, born in or associated with the province of Ulster, who have made a significant contribution to its history and development.