Legend says Chieftan Cromduff was banished to the sea stack of Dún Briste but archaeologists can tell us about the buildings on it and those who lived there.

A pillar of rock, Dún Briste is a sea stack off Downpatrick on the north Mayo coast. According to legend, Saint Patrick banished local chieftain Cromduff there when he refused to convert to Christianity.

Ruins on the stack are visible from the mainland, but up to now no one has been able to say with certainty what exactly is out there. Is there any evidence that buildings on this remote site might date from Saint Patrick’s time?  

Archaeologists often find themselves in the most unlikely of places, but this windswept location surely must top the list for challenging work environments. Patrick and Seamus Caulfield and their team set about examining the remaining structures to find out about the people who once lived there, and they had 24 hours to do it.

Seamus Caulfield looks at one remaining exterior wall of a medieval house, which has collapsed.How did a milling stone come to be there? 

The stone obviously proved unsuitable, and we know it was never used, because it’s got no way of turning it, it’s got no hole for the handle. The hole here is too large. It ended up where most...discarded querns that is, tying down either haystacks, or tying down the thatch on houses.

His father Patrick Caulfield, has found another structure on one edge of the stack.  At first it looks like a very well constructed drain, but it is a specially constructed sheep run, which allows lambs to come through, and keep back the sheep in the field.  

This is not a job for the faint hearted, or for those with a fear of heights, but the site does yield some of its secrets, 

The people who lived here about the year 1000 AD were good at building, and clever in their methods of herding, and the grass, of course there was more of it then.

‘Dún Briste : Patrick’s Pagan Acre’ was first broadcast on 31 December 1981.  The narrator is Aindreas Ó Gallchoir.