A three pound block of ancient butter unearthed in a Tempo bog, and now permanently housed at the Fermanagh County Museum, could be 1,500 years old!
But, thanks to an intriguing piece of historical detective work now taking place, a more definite date, it is hoped, can be arrived at.
The unusual bog butter was unearthed 30 years ago by Jack Shannon and his sons Brendan and Martin while cutting turf in a bog at Carrownagiltagh, near Tempo. The father and sons handed in their find to the museum for safe keeping, and they were invited back to hear about dating research being undertaken by the museum with the help of students from the University of Ulster Museum Studies.
Shannon recalled for them how he had unearthed his find. “I was cutting turf with my two sons and noticed this white thing sticking out of the side of the turf bank. More out of luck than good guidance, my turf spade never touched or damaged it. Finding it was just remarkable, and I donated it to the museum to make sure it stayed within the county,” he said.
A spokesman for the museum told the Fermanagh Herald that the practice of burying butter in a bog to preserve it for consumption in the winter months dates back to Early Christian and Medieval times.
“In some rare cases,” she added, “bog butter found has dated as far back as the Iron Age, when depositing butter may have been for ceremonial purposes.”
The Tempo bog butter was now grayish-white in color with a texture like candle-wax. It apparently tastes a bit like soap and smells of cheese. Results on its age are expected in the next few months.