5 years, 68 days, 6 hours, 31 minutes, & some seconds …

I walked into the Anthropology Dept in Maynooth University at 9am on February 2, 2015 to begin a PhD and at 4.31pm yesterday afternoon Mark, the postman, delivered a letter confirming that I had been awarded the Doctoral Degree by the Academic Council of the University.


This project would not have been possible without the support of Nuala Finn, who, apart from emotional and intellectual support, carried the financial burden of five years of full-time research on my part. Brendan Finn and Claire Comerford provided accommodation and company in Dublin. Clodagh Finn and Douglas Smyth did likewise and all four provided invaluable encouragement to Nuala and I.

This project is, in many ways, a continuation of the “Irish Headhunter” project, which I developed between 2010 and 2015 in partnership with Dáithí De Mórdha of Ionad an Bhlascaod Mhór (The Great Blasket Centre) and the Office of Public Works (OPW). The “Irish Headhunter” project was a truly collaborative enterprise that involved many people. I acknowledge especially the contribution made by Felicity O’Mahony, Bernard Meehan, Jane Maxwell and Tim Keefe (TCD); Amanda Ryan (The Heritage Council); Justin Carville (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology); Aidan Baker (Haddon Library) and his wife Clare Sansom, Margaret Risbeth (the Haddon family); John D. Pickles (Cambridge Antiquarian Society); Jocelyne Dudding (Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology); the late Seamás Mac Philbin (National Museum of Ireland, Country Life); Liam Ó Maoladha (Oireachtas na Gaeilge); Padraig Ó Direan and Padraig O’Tuairisc (Oileáin Árann); Nicola Reynolds, Mark Maguire, Seamás Ó Suíocháin, and Abdullahi El-Tom (MU Dept of Anthropology); Fiona Murphy (DCU School of Business), Seán Mac An tSíthigh (RTE), Chris Rodmell (photographer & film maker) and Ciarán Rooney (Film Bank). Each in their own way supported the “Irish Headhunter” project and helped lay the foundation for “The Skull Measuring Business.”

The transition to full-time research was made possible by the generosity of Siobhán Ward, Davis Coakley, and Martina Hennessy (School of Medicine, TCD), who gave me unprecedented access to the treasure trove that is “Old” Anatomy in TCD. Opening that door opened the way to an application to the Irish Research Council (IRC). Securing IRC funding was a project in itself and was achieved through intensive teamwork. The team included Mark Maguire and Andrea Valova (MU), Róisín Burke & Ian Jackman (Abarta Audio Guides), Ciara Breathnach (UL), and Justin Carville (DLIADT). The IRC agreed to fund the project in 2015. In 2016, Rob Kevlihan (Shanahan Research Group, formerly Kimmage Development Studies Centre) rescued the project by becoming a new enterprise partner after Abarta had to pull out of it and, furthermore, ensured that the funding for the project was secured until completion in February 2019. Mark Maguire’s leadership during the various twists-and-turns and ups-and-downs kept the whole project on track and moving forward. I take this opportunity to acknowledge his practical support for and intellectual engagement with the “Skull Measuring Business.”

The vital financial support of the Irish Research Council and Shanahan Research Group is hereby acknowledged.

Translating IRC funding into a viable thesis was only possible with the assistance of Research Supervisors Mark Maguire, David Prendergast, and Martina Hennessy, who worked alongside my enterprise mentor Rob Kevlihan. I had no background in academic anthropology and I am indebted to the teaching staff of the Dept of Anthropology for developing my understanding of the discipline. These include Steve Coleman, Abdullahi El-Tom, Pauline Garvey, Jamie Saris, and Tom Strong. I am especially grateful to Jacqui Mulally, Denise Erdmann (MU Anthropology Office), and Conor Wilkinson (MU Post Grad Office) for their support. Hana Červinková (Head of Department) joined MU Anthropology in 2019 and guided this project through its final stages.

This is an Anglo-Irish project and, from the outset, was supported by Cambridge University Library (CUL), Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (CUMAA), and the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI). I am very grateful to Frank Bowles and Katrina Dean (CUL); David Shankland and Amanda Vinson (RAI); Jocelyne Dudding and Anita Herle (CUMAA). I am especially grateful to Aidan Baker and Clare Sansom, who provided a home from home in Cambridge. Likewise Jimmy MacSweeny, who provided a base for my researches in London.

I also acknowledge the contribution of Matthew Cheeseman, Caroline Oates, Carina Hart (The Folklore Society); Maxim Fomin (Irish Conference of Folklore and Ethnology); and Ciarán Rooney (Film Bank).

Míle Buíochas díobh go leir.

Ciarán Walsh


Posted on

June 12, 2020