In 1952 a late bronze age sword was found in silt at the side of Lough Erne near Riverside, Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. The two-edged sword with lentoid-section lanceolate blade 16 inches (41cm) long has a waisted hilt with T-shaped finial and 4 holes for attachment of a wooden grip (National Museums of Northern Ireland record RS2014.17). The sword has been in private hands since its discovery and through this project and partnerships was acquired for the Fermanagh County Museum.
Bronze Age swords are extremely rare, and it is imperative that such an iconic 3000-year-old artefact be kept in Fermanagh and curated by the Museum as a heritage asset of great importance for current and future generations.
A sword dating back 3,000 years has gone on display in County Fermanagh.
The Bronze Age artefact had been in private hands since being discovered on the shores of the River Erne in County Fermanagh in 1952.
A local resident spotted it in a Dublin auction catalogue, and organisations and individuals joined forces to raise the funds to buy it.
It is now on public display for the first time at Fermanagh County Museum.
It’s home! 3000 year old Bronze Age sword returns to Fermanagh & is put on display at Enniskillen Castle
The Bronze Sword recently bought by Enniskillen Castle’s Fermanagh County Museum supported by LELP and the local community, for £7500 at an auction in Dublin has arrived back in Fermanagh and is now on display at Enniskillen Castle.
A consortium of interested parties headed up by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and comprising the Association of Friends of the Fermanagh County Museum, Lough Erne Landscape Partnership, National Lottery Heritage Fund together with several private individuals secured the necessary funds to put together what was ultimately a successful bid to bring the sword back to Fermanagh.
The Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Errol Thompson said;
“The 3000 year old Bronze Sword is very impressive and I am delighted that Fermanagh County Museum at Enniskillen Castle has obtained this beautiful sword to put on display for visitors to admire. It is important that the sword has returned “home” and I am very much looking forward to learning more about its origins and its history.”
Sarah McHugh, Museum & Heritage Manager said:
“We’ve all been living in a world of the ‘virtual ‘and the ‘digital’ for the last year. But ‘digital’ and ‘virtual’ cannot replace an ‘actual,’ be it an actual person, or in this case, an actual sword. The sword has had quite a journey getting here and the fact that it is here is a credit to the people locally and our funders. It’s such a lovely success story. We now have this sword here, with thousands of years of history and so many stories to tell. We’re delighted that we now have it on display for everyone to enjoy.”
Lough Erne Landscape Partnership Programme Manager Elmarie Swanepoel stated:
“I am really pleased that we at Lough Erne Landscape Partnership could help make this happen for the people of Fermanagh, I really hope that this will inspire many more people to get involved with the rich heritage and come to the Museum to have a look at this unique find that is so special in many ways.”
Jim McGreevy, Committee Member, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:
“We are delighted that through the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership, we’re able to support the acquisition of this unique heritage asset, and bring it back to County Fermanagh where its story began thousands of years ago.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, and the work of local groups, the rich history of this sword will be protected and preserved for many years to come.
“It’s exciting that local people and visitors will also now have an opportunity to see the sword on display at Enniskillen Castle and explore the many stories connected with its past.”
Esdille Lappin, Chair of the Association of Friends of Fermanagh County Museum said:
“It’s in such fine condition. The Museum Friends are really indebted to the people who discovered it was for sale at auction, earlier this year. It’s great to have in back in Co Fermanagh and here in Enniskillen. I look forward to being able to tell visitors to the Museum all about it and to spread the word that is here. It will be of great interest to schoolchildren who visit the Museum and take part in the Museum’s education programmes.”
Barney Devine said:
“This is an excellent addition to the museum’s collection. The sword is similar in style to the sword found in the Arney River which had been cut in half in half because it had been decommissioned before being placed in the water. Bronze age weapons are often found in watery places, and many have been deliberately destroyed. However, in this instance it’s fabulous to have a full length undamaged sword and to see where the rivets secured its wooden handle and pommel. It’s a beautiful thing and it will take pride of place in the Museum. It’s great that it has come to Enniskillen.”
The sword is currently on display at Enniskillen Castle. People can book their tickets to visit at: https://www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/whats-on
Fermanagh County Museum curates and displays an important collection of artefacts from Fermanagh’s built, historical and archaeological heritage. The Museum’s vision is to “safeguard the history of the local area, its people and its places, as a source of enjoyment, education and culture for all.” It also provides a wide-ranging education programme and activities for members of the public and local school children where they can learn about and appreciate the areas unique heritage.
The acquisition of the sword by the Museum will be an important addition to the current collection of bronze age artefacts and will bring additional benefit to the wider community as an attraction into the museum by the visiting public. Acquisition of the sword fits within the Museum’s Collecting Policy and current priorities which include acquiring archaeological artefacts relating to the history of Fermanagh’s islands and waterways. The Bronze Age Sword will be incorporated within the Museum’s new Lakelands Gallery exhibition at Enniskillen Castle, interpreting the story of the early settlers in Fermanagh, how they lived as well as their craftsmanship. The Sword will be a focus on the Museum’s popular schools programme, ‘Life in Early Times’ as well as increasing audiences through online digital interpretation and talks. The story of the community initiative to acquire the Bronze Age Sword will be told through an online blog.
The project to acquire the Sword is the result of community collaboration with the Museum, initiated by local individuals including Barney Devine (Community and Heritage Co-ordinator) as well as local communities. The Friends of Fermanagh County Museum are a registered charity and group of individuals who volunteer and contribute funds towards the preservation and interpretation local heritage for all to enjoy.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, Fermanagh County Museum as a local county museum does not have the purchasing capacity of larger regional museums such as exist in Belfast and Dublin. It is important therefore that our local museum is the purchaser of this item so that it can be retained for the County and by the County and displayed permanently here in Enniskillen.