David Begley – Artist in Residence Wexford

Artists in Residence

David Begley – Artist in Residence Wexford

Wonder this: before St Aidan arrived and The Normans later, what drew the ancients to Ferns in the first place? Was it chance Tom Breen’s plough unearthed the first relic at Clone which led us to poke holes in the turf and speculate? Who lay the first seed? What made the first tribe put down roots, leaving charcoal and ceramic in their wake?

The first farmers followed distinct seasons. Today it snows in March, scalds in April, pours in July. So how will future farmers cope? During the drought of 2018 archaeologist Barry Lacey flew a drone over Tom Breen’s field and discovered an ecclesiastical enclosure surrounding Clone church. This led to the community dig of 2019. What will future excavations unearth?

David headshot 2 2

The Revelations the Trowel Unearths

“For centuries monks and artists have sought out solitude in order to reflect and create. Responding to the Monastic sites of Ferns and through the activity of excavating and exploring the history and heritage of farming in Ferns, I wish to illuminate the beauty of this place and its people.

During this residency I will be making a video documentary on the heritage of farming in Ferns, facilitate a 12 week visual arts, storytelling and gardening project with St Edan’s National School and produce a new body of work in drawing, print, painting, ceramic and writing. From silence and contemplation comes expression. I savour the opportunity to kneel in a field and delve through the surface, experience sifting the soil, witness revelations the trowel unearths and how this may percolate into my work, through observation and recording, and through encounters with people, places, objects and stories. I look forward to sharing what I have learned.

I have begun walking and documenting the hedgerow of a 24 acre field in Ferns, gathering materials and ingredients as I go, and making inks with these in order to respond to this farmer’s field and his fascinating family history.” – David Begley

Date: July 2020 – Aug 2022

Funded By: Wexford Percent for Art

Learn More at:

Project Outputs:
New Garden
Documentary Film

Uncovering the Past

Archaeology Project

Uncovering the Past

The ‘Uncovering the Past’ archaeological project will investigate sites in Pembrokeshire and North Wexford by geophysical survey to reveal information about the early Celtic Church, Celtic Saints, their followers and subsequent pilgrimage that will uncover more information about historical links between the two regions thereby contributing to the cross-border story. Geophysics is a technique that takes readings of the surface of the earth and what is below it by generating an electronic signal recording the archaeology under the ground and mapping it.

The ecclesiastical landscapes of Pembrokeshire and Wexford capture in their churches, chapels and cemeteries the stories and associations with Saints David and Aidan – a reminder of the importance of the shared Atlantic sea-lanes that served to link the churches of Ireland and Wales.

The sites targeted so far are:-

Pembrokeshire February 2021.

St David’s Cathedral was clearly the focus of substantial ecclesiastical activity in the 1st millennium AD as an episcopal centre, the possibility of the survival of earlier medieval features had been raised and geophysics was completed on Chanters Orchard in August 2020 to the south-west of the cathedral. The results reveal a lot of activity with intriguing features potentially relating to  earlier enclosures, a potential boundary wall and features associated with the nawdd  (zone of sanctuary).

Mathry Church – a large early medieval circular enclosure around possibly a 5th or 6th century precursor to the ecclesiastical site at St David’s.

Llanrhian Church environs – a potential early medieval church enclosure.

Waun y Beddau Cemetery/Carreg Nymllwyd  – the names suggest an early medieval burial ground which has already produced graves of early medieval date.

Capel yr Hen Fynwent – the name means ‘the chapel of the old cemetery’ which implies an earlier medieval or early medieval phase of activity at the site.

Rosina Vallis/Hodnant – a possible  predecessor of the later ecclesiastical site at St David’s defined by an enclosure with fragments of medieval floor tile.

Wexford August 2021

Ferns Abbey – Founded at the turn of the 7thtcentury by St Aidan, also known as St Máedhóg (who died in 624). He was reputed to have been a pupil of St David of Wales. There are three plain granite crosses and a cross slab that testify to the earlier origins of Ferns. Diarmait MacMurrough King of Leinster reputedly died at Ferns in 1171 and the broken fragment of a decorated high cross in the graveyard is said to mark his grave. Ferns was later known as St Mary’s Abbey and that field contains the probable early monastery and monastic enclosure that have been already been targeted for excavation by the Irish Archaeological Field School and geophysics will help with the excavation targeting.

Toombe church – probably an early monastery with an oval ecclesiastical enclosure consisting of an inner and an outer enclosure.

Ballyorley Upper – an early ecclesiastical enclosure  with a tradition of being an early church site.

Kilmyshall – site of an early  church, graveyard and holy well in an oval enclosure.

Date: October 2019 – February 2022

In Partnership with: DigVentures/MetGeo for Pembrokeshire County Council, in partnership with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Wexford County Council and Visit Wexford

Project Outputs:
Geophysical Report
Project Page on the DigVentures Website
Participation in Geophysical Events
Workshops on how to do Geophysics

Learn More at:

Archaeology Archaeology

Discovering Saint Aidan’s Monastery – Ferns

Archaeology Project

Discovering Saint Aidan’s Monastery - Ferns

In June 2021 the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) will launch a major next archaeological excavation at the site of St Aidan’s Monastery, Ferns, Co. Wexford. The project, established as a partnership between the IAFS, Wexford County Council and the local community, aims to assess one of the most historically significant, but hitherto relatively unassessed, Early Medieval sites in southeast Ireland. The St Aidan’s Monastery project is centred on a major research excavation of both the 7th century monastery and a latter 12th century Augustinian Abbey, which hopes to draw the site into the town of Ferns as a ‘key heritage attraction’, in the process providing added economic and amenity value to the local community.

A Historically Important Site

The site is a multi-period complex, originally founded by St Aidan at the turn of the 7th century, which also contains Early Medieval crosses and cross slabs, a twelfth century Augustinian Abbey (founded by the King of Leinster, Diarmuid McMurrough), and thirteenth century medieval cathedral (Edan’s Cathedral) within its wider confines. However, despite the historical importance of the site, or the occurrence of limited archaeological work there in the recent past, the site does not feature heavily as a heritage attraction; our work is an important step in establishing the monasteries rightful importance to the medieval histories of Co. Wexford in both the Early Medieval and High Medieval periods.

The official launch of the excavation element is in summer 2021. However, considerable progress has been made in 2019 in terms of non-invasive surveys (3D Lidar scanning at the site and Ferns Castle), geophysical assessments (at the possible site of Clone Church) and a community excavation in December 2019 (the latter of which is now being finalised into a publication). Phase 1 of the project was anticipated to run for three excavation seasons, from 2020-2022, but has since been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The first project phase is partly funded by the Ancient Connection initiative, a new cross-border arts and heritage project linking North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford; it is hoped the project will run for many years thereafter.

Date: 2021 – 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections, Wexford County Council and the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS)

Learn More at:

In Partnership with: Ancient Connections, Wexford County Council and the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS)

Project Outputs: Vlog, Blog, Mini-Documentary Videos, Reports, Social Media Outreach, Community Events, Publications, Public Lectures etc.


History Hunters


History Hunters

Ever fancied delving into your family or local history? Can you imagine yourself as a historic super sleuth unearthing long lost nuggets of history from the dust of ancient archives? Might you enjoy researching, writing and publishing blogs and articles about your region’s archaeology or mythology or are you ready to unleash the slumbering storyteller within? If so, Ancient Connections’ History Hunters programme is for you.

Tell Local Stories

The aim is to support curious individuals and those with an interest in their local history and stories, to develop skills and be mentored to dig effectively into their community’s past, and share what they find. No previous experience is necessary and it’s a lot of fun. History Hunters will form local groups and networks to support each other and share information with support and mentoring from the Ancient Connections team.

A suite of four, free modules of training have been developed to equip participants with all they need to know about collecting, recording and sharing a treasure trove of history and stories from their square mile. Training includes how to collect and record oral history, how to search online and published archive sources for Wales and Ireland, how to share and publish research in the form of articles and blogs, and how to tell these stories.


Contractor Delivering Programme:

Become a History Hunter
Research and share stories.
To apply to become a History Hunter please complete the form below and a member of our team will be in contact with you.
Where are you based?
I agree with the Privacy policy
Thanks for the interest, a member of our team will be in touch as soon as possible.

Date: January 2020

Funded By: Ancient Connections

Project Outputs:
History Hunter’s Training Packs
History Hunter’s Training Programme
History Hunter’s Mentoring
Press Releases & Articles
Social Media

Learn More at:


Ancient Connections – Tourism Ambassadors & Welcomers


Tourism Ambassadors
& Welcomers

It is vitally important that local stories, history and heritage remain alive within their communities and serve the local economy too.  Our Tourism Ambassadors are tasked with learning about their local history and developing skills to share their knowledge with their communities, with visitors and the tourism industry.


We’ll be offering Ambassador training in 2021 over 2-3 days for Ambassadors – those in the front line of our tourism industry as well as local volunteers with time to dedicate to sharing their passion for their place. In addition, we’ll be offering a shorter, half day training programme called Welcomers for those who play an important role in promoting their place, e.g. taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, leisure providers etc.

It’s all about an informed, warm welcome that supports visitors and the local tourism economy. Importantly it helps keep knowledge, history and stories alive too.

Contractor Delivering Programme:
Become a Tourism Ambassador
Share local knowledge with visitors.
To apply to become a Tourism Ambassador & Welcomer please complete the form below and a member of our team will be in contact with you.
Where are you based?
I agree with the Privacy policy
Thanks for the interest, a member of our team will be in touch as soon as possible.

Date: May 2021

Funded by: Ancient Connections

In Partnership with: Ancient Connections

Project Outputs:
Ambassador Packs
Ambassador Training Modules
Welcomer Training Modules
Ambassador / Welcomer Recognition Collateral e.g. Badges, High-vis Jackets Certificates
Press releases and articles
Social media

Learn More at: www.ancientconnections.net/ambassadors


Fern Thomas Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

Artist in Residence

Fern Thomas – Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

YNYS: “…and as the relics, stones, bones and stories from both places washed out to sea, a new island was formed right in the middle. A shared place for culture, history, dreams, poetry and song from all time to live alongside each other. And from this place, a radio station was formed and began to transmit…”

“For this project I am creating a radio station that ‘transmits’ from YNYS, a fictional island located between Pembrokeshire and Wexford. YNYS takes its initial response from the erosion on Whitesands Bay, which exposed the buried chapel of St Patrick. The project considers the potential, through coastal erosion, for all of this history to be washed away – that somehow these coastal places are living right at the precipice, or at the very edge of history.” – Fern Thomas

Click here to listen to Fern’s radio transmissions


A Place of the Past and Future

“Taking this as a broader image I am imagining Pembrokeshire’s history washing into the sea while simultaneously Wexford’s history does the same, and from here they move towards one another and meet somewhere in the middle to form a fictional island. An island where St David can sit alongside the three young men from Wexford in their borrowed canoe; where the fire of Boia’s hill fort or the mermaids off Porth y Rhaw are as present as the eroding sand at Whitesands bay. A place where the past and the future are simultaneously considered.

This audio work will exist as several episodes which will follow the development of the Ancient Connections project where I will weave together excerpts of interviews with community members and participants in the Ancient Connections project alongside folklore, historical research, myths, field recordings from the sites, and sounds from archives as well as the present day to create an audio telling from this timeless land.”

“Embedded in the broadcasts I will offer poetic responses inspired by the questions being asked within the project as it develops, following the mysteries, the stories and the revelations as the Ancient Connection project unfolds.

The radio station’s content will be shaped by communities of Pembrokeshire and also of Wexford through public engagement events and one to one conversations.” – Fern Thomas

Date: July 2020 – August 2022

Learn More at: 


Project Outputs: 
Podcasts, a ceremonial event and an exhibition

Arts Arts Arts

Seán Vicary

Art Commission

Seán Vicary

“I’m going to embark on a journey through an entangled landscape of ancestral heritage and place in search of my great-grandmother’s roots near Ferns.

Using the language and processes of archaeology as a metaphor, I’ll scrape back the layers of landscape to discover hidden narratives, creatively working them into an engaging personal travelogue that moves from N. Pembrokeshire to N. Wexford and ‘home’ again. Voice, text, music, film and animation will combine to evoke these places, building a deeper sense of identity through sharing experiences of reconnection.”

'Field Notes RAF St Davids'

“I recently discovered that my great-grandmother was born in 1874, just 3.5 miles from Ferns in Camolin. She was one of 10 children, I know nothing else about her or her family. In this current time of flux and heightened identity politics it feels apposite to consider where we’ve come from in order to contemplate where we might want to go. I carry my Irish roots in my name, yet I’ve never really acknowledged that part of myself. I’d like to understand the forces that shaped me living here across the water from my great grandmother’s home. By excavating my own past I’ll undertake a process that mirrors the archaeological and historical research underway in both communities.

I’ll be looking at different personal responses to place and landscape, where they overlap, and how artistic representation might open them for another’s understanding. I’m particularly excited about the use of geophysics for revealing hidden structures/ traces in the landscape and I’ll be exploring how the data produced by the geophysics techniques (magnetic gradiometry, electromagnetic conductivity and ground penetrating radar) can be manipulated to inform an artistic outcome.

There’s something alluring about the archaeological process and I find many similarities with my own arts practice. Archaeology’s test pits and stratigraphic sequences map phases of place over time, cutting across our inner and outer landscapes and forcing us to imagine our future as part of this record. Thinking on timescales that reach beyond our own lifespan informs how we make decisions. How might this also affect our understanding of contemporary anxieties?”

Date: September 2020 – December 2020


St Patrick’s Chapel Excavation

Archaeology Project

St Patrick’s Chapel Excavation

The site of St Patrick’s Chapel is a sandy, grassy mound lying between the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and a beach immediately to the north of a car park at Whitesands Bay, St Davids. Surprising little is known about the chapel prior to recent excavations.

In January 2014 the site was damaged when a series of almost continuous storms hit the west coast of Britain. Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the University of Sheffield, with financial support from Cadw and other organisations excavated the most damaged part of the site over a total of eight weeks in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The excavations demonstrated that a cemetery had been founded in the late eighth century AD and continued in use until at least the eleventh century. A stone-built chapel was built on the site in the twelfth/thirteenth century – this was ruinous by the sixteenth century.

Three more seasons of excavation are taking place as part of the Ancient Connections project. The first of these took place over three weeks in 2019, with two more three-weeks seasons planned for 2021. During the 2019 excavation the foundation walls of the western end of the stone-built chapel were recorded, carefully dismantled and the stone safely stored – the foundations will be rebuilt following completion of the excavation in 2021. Dismantling the foundations will allow for the excavation of the graves and archaeological deposits beneath the chapel during 2021. Outside the chapel the 2019 excavation uncovered several burials, several in stone-lined graves, called long cist graves, including some with crosses lightly scratched on the covering slabs indicating the Christian beliefs of the people buried on the site.

Community Involvement

Members of the local community as well as volunteers from further afield are participating in the excavation under the supervision of professional archaeologists. Beyond direct engagement with the participants on the excavation, community outreach is an important element of the project and one member of staff is dedicated to giving guided tours of the excavation to visitors. It is anticipated that 6000 visitors will be shown around the site during each three-week excavation season.

To learn more about our excavations visit us at:

The Dyfed Archaeology Trust welcomes volunteers for the St Patrick’s Chapel digs in 2021. Due to the high level of interest in volunteering on dig sites, details for how to find out more about this opportunity will be advertised here once dates have been confirmed for the digs.

Date: July 2019 – March 2022

Funded by: Funded by The European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-operation fund and Cadw

In Partnership with: 
Dyfed Archaeological Trust, The University of Sheffield, the PCNPA

Project Outputs: 
Interim and final project reports. (Click to download)

‘Dig diaries’ of each year’s excavation
Guided tours are provided during each season of excavation
Talks to local and national groups and societies
Short items on TV news and programmes

Learn More at: www.dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

Linda Norris – what3sherds, a Citizen Archaeology Project

Art Commission

Linda Norris

Sherd: Synonyms or Related Terms: shard, potsherd

Category: Artefact

Definition: Any pottery fragment – piece of broken pot or other earthenware item – that has archaeological significance. They are an invaluable part of the archaeological record because they are well-preserved. The analysis of ceramic changes recorded in potsherds has become one of the primary techniques used by archaeologists in assigning components and phases to times and cultures.
(Kipfer www.archaeologywordsmith.com 2020)

“I am an artist working across artforms, moving from painting to glass blowing, casting to ceramic in my investigations of the genius loci of the landscape. For the Ancient Connections Commission, I am interested in exploring how I can use archaeology to reveal and examine human connections with other places, primarily Ireland and the Celtic Diaspora. I am constantly seeking out things that connect me with the landscape and the people who lived here before me and I am increasingly drawn to small overlooked ‘finds’ that tell untold stories and connect me to the landscape and the people of the area.” – Linda Norris

Links with the Past

“I have recently been focusing on ceramic sherds that I have found in my garden and on beaches and riverbeds on my daily walks. Far from the glamour of precious metal hordes or celebrated monuments, sherds speak of anonymous domestic stories and link us with the people who lived in our homes in the past.

For the Ancient Connections Commission I plan to initiate a ‘citizen archaeology’ project in North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford in Ireland, and extending into the Celtic Diaspora. I will invite people to send me a sherd they have found in their garden, or on walks in their local area. I will record the finds, research and archive them, and, add them to an online map set up for the project. I will be consulting archaeologists on the submitted finds in case anything submitted is of archaeological interest.”

Diasporas and Descendents

“As part of this project, I also hope to research people who emigrated from Pembrokeshire and Wexford to the Diaspora in the 19th century and reaching out to their descendants. I will seek out ceramic fragments from the places where those families now live and asking them to send photographs, which could possibly inspire new art works.

The form of the final physical artworks will be developed in relation to the material uncovered in the research process, but – in addition to the virtual map – I envisage remaking some of the sherds in glass which will be incorporated into new artwork to be exhibited at the end of the Ancient Connections Project.” – Linda Norris

Date: September 2020 – December 2022

Learn More at: www.linda-norris.com