In the 2021 Skibbereen Historical Journal, Eugene McSweeney of Ballydehob tells the story of an artefact known as the Murrahin Amber Necklace.
It is an incredible account of a set of amber beads which originated in the Baltic coast and how they came to end up in a bog in Murrahin North. There were three different types of beads in the find, the oldest most likely dating back to the late Bronze Age, 100BC–600BC.
Amber is the fossilised resin of ancient pine trees and since it often takes on a golden hue it has been valued as a precious gem since Neolithic times. It has been used in the making of jewellery, works of art and decorative ornaments.
The beads were discovered about 1920 when they dropped out of a sod of turf which was being broken for the fire by Henry Sweetnam of Murrahin North, in the parish of Kilcoe, just west of Skibbereen town. Henry gave the beads to his mother, Mrs T. Sweetnam. They remained in her possession for about thirty years when Mr Bernard O’Regan of Sea View House, Aughadown, Skibbereen, acquired them and he presented them to the Cork Public Museum.
Bernard O’Regan was one of the best-known antiquarians in West Cork; he had a deep interest in and knowledge of the history, archaeology, ornithology, and botany of this region. Bernard was a lifelong member of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.
This is a fascinating story beautifully written by Eugene. He records in the most compelling way the chance discovery of the beads, how they were preserved so well by the Sweetnam family and how Bernard O’Regan understood the significance of the find and had the prudence to donate them to the Cork Public Museum.
Unfortunately, the Murrahin Amber Necklace is not on public display at the museum. Wouldn’t it be something if it could be acquired on loan and put on display somewhere in west Carbery? Maybe, just maybe, Eugene’s article will be the catalyst for such a move.
Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.
The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.
It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414