Mayo’s lost generations seen in a deserted village

Achill's Deserted VillageThe Deserted Village at Slievemore provides a haunting reminder of times past on Achill Island.

Set at the foot of the south-facing slope of Slievemore mountain, the Deserted Village consists of what remains of almost 100 stone dwellings set either side of an old pathway. Almost all are aligned in the same north-south orientation and the settlement extends over about 1.5km.

The Deserted Village can be divided into three segments, from east to west: Tuar, Tuar Raibhach and Faiche. However, these local place names are associated with grazing rather than settlement, and there appears to be no name for the village itself. Locally it has been referred to as Slievemore, Slewmore, the Boley (Booley) Village and the Deserted Village.

Through study of the surrounding field systems, archaeological investigation, and historical research it has been established that the settlement dates to at least the Anglo-Norman period (12th Century AD). The presence of a megalithic tomb close to the village, dating from the 3rd or 4th Century BC, indicates people lived in the area more than 5,000 years ago.

The most recent period of habitation came to an end in the early 20th Century, when the local population used the cottages for ‘booleying’.  As ‘Boley’ houses they were occupied during the summer months, when cattle would be grazed on the mountainside, but the residents would return to their homes in the village of Dooagh for the winter months. Achill is thought to be one of the last places in Europe to have practiced ‘booleying’, also known as transhumance.

An Archaeological Field School is held annually at the Deserted Village under the guidance of a local expert, and it is hoped that this research will yield yet further clues as to the history and former inhabitants of this most evocative of villages.

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