Northern Ireland

Rewriting history: 400-year-old battle in County Fermanagh

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Media captionArchaeologists found armour piercing bullets during the search

A project has unearthed some surprises about a 400-year-old battle in County Fermanagh, rewriting history books.

In 1594, soldiers loyal to Queen Elizabeth I, sent to relieve a garrison besieged by Irish chieftain Hugh Maguire in Enniskillen Castle, were ambushed as they crossed the Arney River.

The troops were massacred and their supplies were thrown into the river.

It became known as the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits.

According to the history books it took place near Drumane Bridge, close to the modern main road between Enniskillen and Dublin.

Local people, like farmer Maurice Owens, thought they knew otherwise from the stories passed down through the generations.

"We were always told that the battle took place down here on the ford in the river, that the English camped over on the far side which was woodland at that time, that Maguire was aware that they were there.

"He waited on this side of the river until the English came in to the river and then he slaughtered many of their soldiers in the river, that's the story we were told.

"They marched across the fields, over to fields called red meadow, and a lot of blood was supposed to have been spilt there."

As part of a local community project, called Battle, Bricks and Bridges, a team of archaeologists led by Paul Logue from the Northern Ireland environment agency was asked to investigate the battle site.

Image caption The discovery means that archaeologists will have to go back and rewrite the history of the battle

Paul Logue said: "We're in this field because the owner Maurice at the start of the project he took me here and he said 'Look Paul, I've always been told the Ford of the biscuits was here' so we started looking in this field and two minutes later we started finding exactly what we were looking for.

"Up until right now, for hundreds of years, the battle was meant to be behind us about a mile and a half at Drumane and that's what I believed as well.

"We'd sort of been blinded in the past, we thought that the modern roadway across at Drumane always descended from an ancient roadway to the ford there.


"But when we've looked at the landscape a bit better, there's a big massive line of bog for miles along here and there's one crossing point across that bog if you want to have dry feet, and it leads right to this little ford.

"What we've found are little bullets that are special little bullets that show us the cavalry were here, armoured men.

"They're basically armour piercing bullets and we know that the Elizabethan cavalry came down to the ford at the Ford of the Biscuits and engaged Maguire's men here so it's direct evidence, and it's right at the Ford of the Biscuits.

"It's a dream come true for archaeologists to actually find what you set out to find, amazing."

He claims that archaeologists don't mind being proved wrong, "the truth will out".

"Archaeology is an evolving process so you always learn more and more," he added

The discovery means that he will have to go back and rewrite the history of the battle.