Our 50th episode comes to you on the most ancient of Irish holidays - Halloween or Oíche Shamhna (eee-ha how-na) in Irish/Gaelic. It is the night that celebrates the transition from the old to the new Celtic year. That transition point, between the present and the past, was a space where the Celts believed the spirits or pucaí (pook-ee) of the past roamed.
Halloween seems a particularly appropriate date for us to introduce Neil Jackman, a man with an insatiable interest in Ireland's mysterious past and whose mission is to make "the past present". We talk with Neil about his work on the foreboding hill which overlooks Dublin where a sinister brooding building stares down on the capital city and where 18th-century aristocratic members of the Hell Fire met for their debauched revelries.
While we talk with Neil about the Hell Fire and its far deeper past, we also explore his background from the North West of England and how he came to live in Ireland with a hazy understanding of his ancestral past. We trace his career through an archaeological boom and bust period which in turn led to the foundation, along with his wife Róisín Burke, of the innovative Abarta Heritage. Abarta has worked with multiple stakeholders of Ireland's past including the Office of Public Works, the Heritage Council, and the National Museum of Ireland. Always, Abarta has been focused on deepening the public's understanding of the island's rich historical legacy.
Not to be just historical, we will talk with Neil about his Puffin obsession and the otherworldly site where his twin interests collide. You'll just have to listen to the podcast for more.
Neil Jackman Links
Director at Abarta Heritage
Originally from the North-West of England, Neil moved to Ireland to work in archaeology in 1999 and has since fallen madly in love with the country, finally becoming an Irish citizen in 2020. Neil has worked on archaeological sites all around Ireland, and has an omnivorous interest in all periods and places – but with a special grá for Neolithic passage tombs, early medieval monastic sites and the Vikings.
Neil’s chief passion is in sharing the wonder of Irish archaeology and heritage sites with the general public. As well as the archaeological publication The Mill at Kilbegly (2013), Neil has written two popular guidebooks to Ireland’s Ancient East (2016) and The Wild Atlantic Way (2018), and a large number of articles in national media publications. Neil has also lectured in Public Archaeology at UCD School of Archaeology and carried out one of Ireland’s largest public archaeology projects at the Hellfire Club in the Dublin Mountains. Neil has worked on a large number of plans and reports that all seek to connect people to place. Neil is also the host of our Amplify Archaeology Podcast series – an ideal outlet for someone who just loves to chat about the past!
Neil’s favorite site is Skellig Michael – not only is it a truly spectacular early medieval monastic site, but it is also home to Ireland’s largest puffin colony – and if there’s one thing that obsesses Neil more than archaeology it’s puffins!