Canoe find may explain life 4,000 years ago

From Portadown News, 1979

Dugout canoes were used from prehistoric times up until the 18th century. They have turned up from time to time in recent years, often as a result of dredging operations in and around Lough Neagh. This article, from Portadown News in 1979 tells the story of two such canoes.

The Kinnegoe canoe was found by Harrison Morrow on the edge of the Lough. It was pulled out in one piece and easily recognisable as a dugout. The example taken from the Bann at Derrybroughas (near the M1 bridge over the Bann) survived because Tom Hadden, who lived nearby, recognised that the smashed up pieces of bog oak were the work of man's hand rather than nature. This canoe, which initially appeared to be many thousands of years old, turned out to have been made in the 14th century at the earliest.

Canoe find may explain life 4,000 years ago

Derrybroughas dugout - Click for enlarged view Two black oak canoes, believed to date back to Neolithic times, have been excavated from bog land in and near Craigavon.

The canoes - dug from the banks of the River Bonn at Derrybroughas and from Kinnego in Lough Neagh - are being restored at Government workshops in Moira.

They will be dated by experts and could be up to 4,000 years old. [subsequent testing revealed that the Derrybroughas canoe dates from the 14th century]

The bigger canoe was unearthed at Derrybroughas near Drumcree by workmen of the Department of Agriculture during dredging operations.


Says Portadown man, Mr. George Robinson, the man in charge of the preservation work, "unfortunately, the canoe was broken as it was hauled to the surface."

"Obviously, the workmen didn't realise what was under the ground. They thought it was a log and it was broken in the operation."

Mr. Robinson is superintendent of works at the Government's restoration workshops in Moira, and the canoe, which was in six pieces when it arrived, has been expertly put together again.

The workmanship in the Kinnego craft which was pulled out during excavations for the new Kinnego Marine in one piece, is not as fine as the Derrybroughas canoe.


"There are one or two chunks out of the Kinnego canoe; and these will have to be made good," said Mr. Robinson. "Otherwise, it's in fine condition."

The Derrybroughas canoe, he added, was likely to be the oldest. It was built by the old method of boring three holes in the bottom so that the craftsman - using axes - would know how thick the base of the boat was.

"It also has slats hewn in the sides, so that seats could be set in place."

"The Kinnego canoe has roll-lock [rowlock] holes for paddles - that's why we believe it's not as old" says Mr. Robinson.

All argument about the ages of the crafts will be settled by the experts within the now few weeks.


The reconstructed Derrybroughas canoe at ArdressThe canoes will be carbon tested to determine the amount of carbon in them, and consequently their ages.

And, as a double-check, Dr. Mike Bailey of Queens University will use the dendrochronology - or tree-ringing - method on the canoes.

"It's impossible to tell simply by their condition what age the canoes are," says Mr. Robinson. "They are beautifully preserved in the bogland, which keeps block oak like new."

This type of hewn-out canoe was fashionable, he added, until some four centuries ago when carpentry came into boat-building but the canoe were in use until the 18th century:

Several black oak canoes have been unearthed over the years in the area, and these two fine examples will have a place of honour in the Ardress House Museum at Moy Road.

Portadown News
20 April 1979

The dugout canoe or "logboat" can now be viewed at the Harbour Museum, Londonderry. The following is the museum's description of the Logboat exhibit.

Derrybrughas (sic) Logboat

Found during dredging operations on the Upper Bann in 1975.

At 14 feet (4.3 metres) long this is a comparatively small logboat. The radio-carbon laboratory at Queen's University, Belfast, showed that the tree from which it is made was growing in the late 15th or early 16th century. It has two supports for plank seats and the holes bored at each end may have been to facilitate mooring or joining with other vessels to form a convoy of some kind.

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