Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: August, 2012

Picture it and write: Uncovered

Hi all this is my weeks offering for picture it and write from Ermilias Blog, here. The picture is not mine, it is just for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy!


I suppose there are a few jobs where if you tell people that you do it, they then start making all sorts of assumptions. I can imagine that this is due to a lack of education or the pervasive influence of TV but whenever I tell a woman in a bar that I’m an archaeologist they end up getting all of these notions, images of fedoras and Harrison Ford and buried treasure. Most of time my job is really very dull. In fact I have only found something really valuable once, only a few months ago actually.

It started when a group of lads near Gorey digging a septic tank uncovered a human skull. Naturally, they called the guards who went all CSI on the scene and called in the state pathologist from Dublin. It took her all of five minutes to figure out that the skull had been there for over a century. That meant that it wasn’t a police matter any more (it’s a little over the statute of limitations!) and it was a job for the archaeologist, that means me and my team.

Digging down from the skull we found the almost complete skeleton of a man covered in heavily degraded clothes, linen most likely. The soil he was buried in was a fine silt which match deposits from a local stream which had changed course several times over the centuries. The bands of silt indicates that the body was buried by the silt naturally. That was important, it shows that the body was just dumped there rather than deliberately buried. The carbon dating of the soil and the clothes put the body at between 1700 and 1800, while the style of the clothes put it somewhere between 1760 and 1795. The most shocking information comes from the bones. There were two holes in the skeleton, one in the skull the other in the shoulder-blade which match the lead shot used at the time (a heavily corroded lead musket ball was also found amongst the bones) as well as the notches on the ribs indicting that he had been stabbed as well. Most gruesome was the parts that were missing, and from the looks of it cut off, several of the mans fingers were missing.

From this we were able to picture a scene. A young man, fairly well to do, well dressed, travelling along a road is beset by bandits. There is an altercation and the man is shot, twice. He might have been still alive on the ground so one of the bandits stabs him in the heart to finish him off. Cut marks on a leather cord on what remains of the belt shows that the robbers removed a money bag from the body. They also cut off the fingers with rings on them to save on time. They must have been startled or nervous because they didn’t search the whole body, instead they threw it into a ditch just off the road leaving it there to rot and in time, be covered in soil.

We were pretty sure how this man died and how is body ended up were it was. But we still had no idea who he was. However a huge clue was left thanks to the rushed job the bandits did. Sifting through the remains of the clothes, we found, under a jacket, where it had been originally concealed, was a leather pouch that had survived better than the rest if the clothing. Inside we found a single, gold pocket watch. It had the most unusual design, a rib cage for a cover, something none of the rest of us had seen before. At its rear was a crest, a family standard, we just had to match the crest to a known family and we would have the identity of our victim. We didn’t have to travel far.

The Fitzroys had been ensconced in Wexford since Strongbow and had been based in their stately home only a dozen miles up from where the body was found. I was able to arrange a meeting with Lord Percival Fitzroy, the current head of the family, and brought photographs of what I had found. He seemed very excited when I showed him the picture of the watch, it was almost as if something he had lost had been found. In an essence it had.

Percival took me to one of the drawing rooms where the family had laid out an exhibition about the family for tourists to visit during the summer season. One of the panels was about a strange legend of the family. A George Fitzroy, youngest son of the Sixth Lord Fitzroy, had disappeared on midsummer night 1767. The story was that George had fallen in love with the daughter of a local tradesman and when his father had tried to stop the romance, George had decided to elope. He supposedly took a large sum of money and a new pocket watch that his father had bought for his nephew. The story went on that George never made it to the tradesman’s daughter. The legend was that he couldn’t go through with the elopement but was unable to return home and instead was banished to seek his fortune elsewhere.

Percival pointed to one part of the panel. There was a drawing of the watch, it was a match for the one we had found. “I had always thought the stories told by my family were mainly rubbish. But what you have found makes it all the more real. Even if things did not quite go the way that we had hoped it did”

Well that was pretty much the end of it. It seems that we solved the identity of the mystery bones as well as uncovered a new aspect of an old family legend.

Georges bones, DNA profiles later confirmed he was a Fitzroy, were re-interred in the family plot. As for the watch. That was returned to its rightful owners where it is going to become the centre piece of a new exhibition on the legend of George Fitzroy which is just to show that the truth can be just as interesting, and considerably more gruesome than any legend you’re likely to tell.


Picture it and write: A job to do

Hello here is my offering for this picture it and write from ermilia’s blog, here. The picture is not mine, but I use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy!

A job to do

The great billowing clouds of smoke had almost completely obscured the bridge. It softened the light from the flames, making it seem more diffuse, as if it was coming from all around. But you could still tell where the fire was, from the slight heat coming from the town, and the noise, the roar of the flames, the crash of glass and mortar, and the screams.

Michael stood on the bridge, fingering his police issue revolver, fixing his cap. He knew what was coming but he had to steel himself, he had a job to do.

Through the haze across the bridge he could barely make out some movement, shadows in the murk. The shadows turning into figures and then into people, four people, a family most likely, two adults and two children. The somehow achieved the impossible, both seeming to rush across the bridge and move at a snail’s pace. Further shadows behind showed that there was many more following.

Michael had to act. He took his megaphone, turned it on, tested it with a “Testing” and spoke to the people on the bridge “People! I’m sorry, you can’t cross this bridge. This bridge is reserved for the use of emergency services!”

The figures moving stopped and seemed to be trying to shout something, Michael continued “Under the emergency plan for the city, this bridge is reserved for the use of the emergency services, there is nothing for you on the other side. If you continue along Main street to the next bridge you will find an emergency aid station and further assistance. I’m sorry but I cannot let you cross or remain on this bridge.”

There was more muffled pleading from the figure, more people gathering around them. Michael had to be firm “Again, I’m sorry, I’m only doing my job! But if you do not move I will have to move you by force!”

With that the crowd slowly  moved back. Michael redid the fasten on his holster and breathed a sign of relief. It was tough here on the bridge, he had to redirect people six times already, but he had a job to do, and he was doing it.

With that, the small radio on Michael’s chest made a crackle “Dispatch! Car six. I’m getting reports that a uniform on the I-5 bridge is directing civilians back onto Main street. I’m going to check it out!”

Michael sighed a little, it was time to go. He took off his cap and threw it over the railings into the water. Putting over the mac coat he was wearing to hide his badge. Michael rapidly shuffled down some step over the side of the bridge into a small lot. There he got into his van and quickly started it up.

He was a little nervous driving out onto the still deserted road, not surprising considering the back was still half-filled with highly flammable accelerants. He had a lot of driving to do to get to the next target but he didn’t worry too much about it. Michael had a job to do, and he was going to do it.

Picture it and write: Trapped

Hi everybody! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. The picture is not mine, I just use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy!


Jim had been over half an hour looking for his sister but he was not worried, not yet, she did this kind of thing all of the time. She had always been a little ‘special’ had Susan, always different. But recently she had started acting strangely, even for her. Disappearing into the grounds, hiding for hours, people were starting to worry. She was starting to get at the end of everyone’s tether, even Jim’s. But she was his sister, he had to find her, again.

Jim had spent a lot of time with the game keeper between shoots with his father and his guests. The old man had taught Jim a little bush-craft, like how to track game. He had found that this had come in very handy these last few weeks. He caught Susan’s trail, those small tightly spaced foot prints were distinctive, heading in the direction of the river bank. Following the line of steps, he noted how it wavered and twisted, as if the walker was in a daze. This was definitely her. Keeping his eyes on the tracks, Jim almost failed to notice that he was heading for the briar patch by the river. It was kept deliberately wild, as a haven for the wildlife Jim’s father and his friends hunted. Neither Jim or Susan were allowed in there. There would be hell to pay if they were found there.

To Jim’s relief, he saw that the tracks curved away from the briars and around them. But his relief was short-lived when he realised that the footprints instead were going around the briars and down to the river. If she had been in the water for as long as she was missing, she could be dead. Jim raced to the bank and looked down, fearing the worse he looked down. But all was not lost, in the mud were some more tracks, going into the thorny tangle.

Jim carefully lowered himself into the soft mud and stepped to as close to the thorny vines and he dared. The sky was overcast and with the shading from the forest behind there was not enough light to see. But there was someone there, there was the sound of breathing, and stifled sniggering from amongst the thorns.

“Suzy. Is that you?” Jim asked, hoping his sister would end this charade. A dirty arm came out from the branches, “Suzy’s not home” said a thin reedy voice, Susan, definitely, “But Charlotte’s here!”

Jim did not like the sound of that ‘Charlotte’ was what Susan would say who did anything bad that she had done, like killing that kitten. Charlotte usually meant bad news. “Suzy!” Jim used his big-boy voice, “You should get out here and come home with me!” The voice from the briar patch sounded indignant “Stupid Jimmy should know when not to give orders” the dirty arm extended a finger that wagged in front of Jim’s face then withdrew quickly into the thorns before he could grab it.

Jim had enough of this “Suzy, don’t do this! I’m going to go and tell father” But as he stood there was a scream from the briar that stopped him cold. It was weak, as if it had been struggling and a voice, more like the sister Jim knew called out “Don’t leave me Jimmy, please don’t leave. Charlotte says that if you go She’ll do something to me, something horrible” Jim could hardly believe his ears “Suzy what are you talking about?” The voice changed again “You should listen to your sister Jimmy. She’s on to something!” Then back “Please don’t Jimmy! Please! I don’t want her to hurt me again”

That stopped Jim, he remembered when ‘Charlotte’ was blamed for those cuts on Susan’s arms. He sat down on the muddy bank and said he would stay. His sister’s voice sounded relieved, the other triumphant “I knew you’d be weak, stick with helping you sister. Pathetic.”

Jim tried to speak calmly, maybe he could convince his sister to come out one her own volition. “Stay with me Suzy. Everything will be alright. You might feel trapped, but we’ll, all of us who love you will help to get you out”

“I feel trapped?” the voice, definitely ‘Charlotte’, sounded even colder than usual “I’m not trapped at all, I can leave here whenever I choose, if I choose. Can you Jimmy? How does it feel, Jimmy? How does if feel… to be trapped?”

Listen and Write: Wavering

Hello everybody! This is my offering for this months listen and write from Ermilia’s blog, here. The song today is Hot N Cold by Katy Perry. This is my take on it. Enjoy.


I suppose that from the very moment I met her, I have had a wavering relation with Juliet. That is not to say I didn’t love her. I adored her, I worshipped her, I obsessed over her, for a time. It was remarkable how quickly I could change from besotted to serious doubting, to questioning where I was going, who I wanted to end up with, whether she was the one.

That was the way we lived for nearly four years. One day she would be the most important thing in my life and the next I would be trying to make up excuses to avoid her. I would be a fool to think that she did not feel fed up with me. The worst of all was when I asked her to an expensive restaurant one Valentine’s day, seeming nervous while other men asked their loves to marry them and the I took Juliet’s hand and said… That I was going hiking in South America for three months. She hit me over that one, a foot square in the nuts, can’t say I didn’t deserve it. That seemed the way our life was turning. Constantly moving, but going nowhere.

So I decided to take the initiative. To marry the woman who has given.. from whom I have taken so much and before you ask, no I am not in one of my mad obsessive phases again. I’m if anything still doubting a little, but only a little. I know that she will be happy and that it would be good for me to have her. Beside! I know that in a few more months, the tides of  my heart will change, my passions will swell again and I will be married to the love of my life. Talk about convenience!

Picture it and write: A quick wash

Hello everybody! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; enjoy!

A quick wash

The spray of luke-warm water from the shower-head stopped again after only a few short seconds. Sally took the opportunity to use the flannel to wipe the remaining soap off her limbs, all the while cursing John’s bright idea with the plumbing. It was one of those eco-showers, you had to keep pressing a button every five seconds to keep the water flowing. John was always doing that kind of thing, “You know! To be ecological. To love mother earth.” Sally didn’t think much about it, she just wanted a proper shower again.

I never seemed that it was going to be like this when Sally first met John three years ago. They were in a retreat, she a young woman trying to find her way in life, him an older man, trying to find answers to the big questions, at least that is what he said he was doing. At the time it seemed that Sally couldn’t understand half of what he was saying because it was so deep. He knew so much more about art and philosophy than she did and they would spend hours just talking. He seemed so smart, he said he had taken time out from his hi-flying job to write a book. He was all that Sally thought she wanted, better than any of the dead-beats that Sally had gone out with before.

Within only a few weeks John had asked Sally to come home with him. She was so taken aback that she agreed without even taking time to think about it. John had a small farm away from the city that he said he bought with a bonus one year. It was a perfect little hide-away, as far from the distractions as you could get. The perfect place, John would say, to write a masterpiece.

Sally was happy to help John. There were hundreds of little chores to be done about the place, fields to weed, chickens to feed, wood to be chopped, John would help as often as he could, but you know, he had to write. That was why he was here.

She got a part-time job in a shop in the village to help extend John’s savings a little more, it was a lot of work, to add to all the chores she needed to do. But John appreciated her contribution. He often let her proofread parts of the book he had written. She helped to light the fires when he burned the manuscripts he did not like, which happened very often. Still, he was making progress, he always said he was making progress.

Over the years John seemed to get more and more involved with his writing. His obsession with it was starting to affect how he viewed everything else. He became convinced that there was some sort of eternal factor that was keeping his muse away from him. He became determined to expunge any possible distraction from his life. First to go was the telly, followed closely by the radio, a quiet house was a productive house. No meat was to be eaten there by the end of the second year, after that, no processed foods of any kind. The tractor had to go followed by all fertilisers and pesticides. They would have to make do with a mulch pit. It meant more work for Sally. But that didn’t matter, they were creating! Perfume and deodorants both went by the wayside. Then power and water started to be rationed , something to do with electromagnetic fields and gravity gradients. Sally somehow kept going with all of it, she still believed in John.

It all came to a head while Sally was working the front field that morning. An official looking man, a solicitor from the city had come looking for John. Sally had often acted as John’s contact with the outside world, he hardly every accepted visitors, she saw no reason to change here. The solicitor explained why he was here. It seemed that John had over four years unpaid child support payments to his estranged wife and he had come with a court order, to evict John from the farm he had inherited from his uncle and sell it to make the shortfall, there was no other assets and John had little else having been fired from a security job some seven years previously. His family had reached the last straw.

A wife? A child? Sally was livid as she stormed into writer’s inner sanctum, hoe in hand, to ask him to explain himself. He seemed to trip over his own words trying to talk himself back out. His wife had never loved him, his child was a brat of no use, Sally was his one true love, his soul-mate. Sally found herself getting angrier and angrier with every measly explanation that John tried she eventually started shouting at him, he shouted back, he called her a bitch, she shouted that he was only using her, was useless and a crappy writer, he moved towards her, she remembered the hoe in her hand.

Sally let the water wash over her again inspecting her limbs to make sure all of the blood had been totally washed away. The hoe had made a satisfying thunk when it hit John’s head but there not much of a mess so only a quick wash was necessary. It was nice to be able to stand there as long as she wanted, without having John shouting for her to get out.

She couldn’t stay there forever though, there was still the body downstairs. It was still lying there like a sack of potatoes where it had fallen. Sally was trying to figure out what to do with it. Maybe she would throw it into the mulch pit, with the rest of the rubbish. Somehow; that felt appropriate.