Caher Point, Tonatanvally, Achill Island
Cillín (children’s burial-ground)
6978 30954
SMR 43:4(04)
Caher Point, in the north-east of Achill Island, is on a headland immediately east of Barnagappul Strand, locally known as the Golden Strand, west of which are three promontory forts and a cillín, as well as a small square cist at Porteen, a small sandy beach.
Caher Point faces north toward Blacksod Bay and has maximum exposure to the gale-force winds that batter this line of coast in winter. The site consists of a raised mound, measuring c. 3m east–west and 1m high, on the edge of a small promontory. The cillín extends southward for c. 1.5m and is demarcated by small stone-lined cists and clusters of stones, which extend around the perimeter of the site. One of the larger clusters of stones is thought to mark the grave of an unidentified ‘Seaman/Sailor’, who, because his religious denomination was unknown, was interred in the cillín. The site is badly eroded on the north, and the remains of stone-lined cist graves and associated infant bones are visible in section from time to time. The site has become increasingly unstable and in need of urgent remedial action.
A local committee, the Valley Tenants’ Association, applied for permission to erect a plaque in memory of the many infants buried in the cillín. Monitoring of this work began in June 2002. A grid of 1m squares was laid out over the area where the excavation for the plaque was to take place. The site was excavated by hand to a depth of 0.1m. The upper layer was a thin layer of topsoil on top of which were two stones, measuring c. 0.03–0.05m. Underneath this was a layer of sea sand. No excavation took place below this depth. Nothing of an archaeological nature was discovered. A cement foundation was inserted into the trench, and the plaque was inserted in the allotted space.
Theresa McDonald, Achill Archaeological Field School, Achill Folklife Centre, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo.

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