The pipe stem with “Derry” inscribed on it.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Forget about the pipes doing the calling to Danny Boy.
This time the pipe is being called for.
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A pipe that once was puffed in the Derry/Londonderry air.
The Tower Museum in Derry has sent a request for the loan of a tobacco pipe that was unearthed in the Duffy’s Cut archeological dig in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
That dig is currently on hold pending the results of a recent ground-penetrating radar probe, this just yards from the railroad track running beside the last resting place of as many as many as 57 Irish railroad workers who died there in 1832.
Since the dig began in 2004, the remains of a number of the dead have been discovered, along with a trove of artifacts.
One of the artifacts is the stem of a clay pipe which has the name “Derry” inscribed on it.
It was from Derry that the ship, the John Stamp, set sail with passengers including the ultimately doomed railroad workers.
According to Professor William Watson of Immaculata University – who has led the Duffy’s Cut dig as project director since it first began in 2004 – the pipe is the only one recovered at the site with the name of a city inscribed on it.
The request from the museum is to borrow the pipe and exhibit it at the planned Martitime Museum of Derry/Londonderry.
The museum will be based at the former military site of Ebrington Barracks, close to the city’s Peace Bridge.
“A major narrative throughout the museum will focus on migration to and from the port of Derry. During our research, I came across the story of Duffy’s Cut,” said curator Roisin Doherty in a letter to Professor Watson.
The planned museum is scheduled for opening in the summer of 2019, but there is already a search for artifacts that is stretching far and wide, and in this case right across the Atlantic.
The Duffy’s Cut project, has, over the years, been piecing together the story of Irish railroad workers who died on the site from Cholera, or were murdered by anti-immigrant vigilantes, more than a decade before the start of the Great Hunger in Ireland.
The project was originated by Prof. Watson and his brother, Rev. Frank Watson, back in 2002.
In the following years, the research and on-site excavations have been led by the Watsons and Earl Schadnelmeier.
The three, together with John Eates, combined to write a book, “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut,” which was published in 2006.
Over the course of he dig, human bones have been uncovered as a result of using ground penetrating radar on the site which adjoins a Philadelphia commuter rail line.
The recovery work has led to the reinterment of two identified Duffy’s cut victims, a man and a woman, in Ireland.
In addition to the “Derry” pipe, work at Duffy’s Cut has bruoght to light artifacts including a belt buckle, coins, eating utensils, buttons, pickaxes and various kinds of spikes and nails.
A portion of 1832 rail track was even found during an early phase of the dig.
But the discovery of human remains elevated the work to an entirely new level. And the next phase is being focused on what Professor Watson has long believed is a mass grave.
Duffy’s Cut covers roughly an acre.
The exact whereabouts of the remains of the Irish workers within the boundaries of the site, or just beyond its borders, had been a mystery for more than a century and a half.
Watson believes that some of the Irish workers at Duffy’s Cut might have been buried alive during a stage of cholera known as cold cholera.
At this point in the disease’s lethal progress, it is possible to appear dead, though the individual is still alive.
Some of the remains uncovered, however, point to a non-natural end at the hands of hostile gangs of nativists and know-nothings.
One recovered skull had a bullet hole in it.
Separate to the excavation at Duffy’s Cut, Watson and his team have been working to trace the originis and the arrival of the rail workers through shipping records for the port of Philadelphia.
The team has uncovered records for the arrival of eight ships in Philadelphia at the time, all carrying immigrants from Ireland.
Most of them were natives of counties Tyrone, Donegal and Derry.
The primary ship linked to Duffy’s Cut, however, is the John Stamp, which set sail for New York and Philadelphia on April 24, 1832.