Europe

Belfast and Dublin museum treasures 'touchstone to Ireland's magical past'

King William’s Gauntlet, one of the items featured on Ireland’s Treasures Uncovered on Monday 15 February, BBC One Northern Ireland at 9pm
Image caption King William’s gauntlets are featured on Ireland’s Treasures Uncovered on Monday 15 February, BBC One Northern Ireland at 21:00 GMT

The story of King William of Orange's gauntlets worn at the Battle of the Boyne features in a new programme on the treasures that helped shape Ireland.

The inky creased gloves can be seen in the National Museum in Dublin and are among the artefacts to feature in Ireland's Treasures Uncovered.

For presenter Dr Gavin Hughes, they are a touchstone to the past.

They are a link to a moment in 1690 on the Irish battlefield of the Boyne.

Image caption These doe skin gauntlets were actually worn by William of Orange

"On the night of the battle, they say that William slept in his carriage and then the next night one of his officers, Sir John Dillon, invited him to stay at Lismullen House, County Meath.

"He must have been in fairly buoyant mood as he showered Sir John with presents," he said.

Image copyright William Cherry
Image caption Dr Gavin Hughes and Prof Alice Roberts are the presenters of Ireland’s Treasures Uncovered

Among them were two pairs of gauntlets.

"One set is creased and there is ink on them," Dr Hughes said.

Image caption The intricate detail of the Broighter Hoard boat

"There is the distinct impression of a hand - as if William had been holding the reins of the horse. These are items personally used by the king and given to his officers.

"If we are trying to find a potential link between history and 'moments in time', then perhaps such seemingly ordinary objects as those unassuming gloves are as close as we can get.

"They represent a tangible moment in history that we can trace back almost to the day."

Image caption The intricate detail on the Tara Brooch

In the programme, Prof Alice Roberts and Dr Hughes explore the artefacts that shaped Ireland past and present, north and south.

They were given access to Belfast's Ulster Museum and the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Image caption The Broighter Hoard was ploughed up from fields near Limavady in 1896 and sold to the British Museum

There, they get up close to the Tara Brooch, the Broighter Hoard, the Waterford Charter Roll and the Coggalbeg hoard.

The programme brings together archaeologists and curators who have spent their lives working to understand the true context for these emblematic treasures.

The Coggalbeg hoard is made up of three pieces of gold jewellery dating back to circa 2300 to 1800 BC.

They were found by a man cutting turf in a bog in Roscommon in March 1945.

Image caption Sunniva Sheehan told the story of the burglary at the family chemist and 'daddy's necklace'

He gave them to the local chemist who put them in the pharmacy safe in an envelope for safe keeping. And there they stayed hidden for over half a century.

Image caption The gold lunula that was rescued from a skip

ln 2009, thieves broke in and stole the safe, dumping the documents inside into a skip in Dublin.

Police moved in and, after a long and dirty search, they found the gold lunula - a crescent shaped necklace - and two small gold discs - treasure worth more than the thieves could ever have imagined.

The story made headlines across the world. It was the story of what the family called "daddy's necklace" that was in the safe.

Image caption St Conall Cael's bell is said to date back to Donegal in 6 AD

Every piece in the programme has a story to tell.

"These are showcase treasures - but if this helps to get people out there and going into their local museums, they will find so much. There are so many stories and so much to enjoy," said Dr Hughes.

Image caption The Book of Kells was penned in Latin in the ninth century

Prof Alice Roberts said: "We explore the forgotten riches, remarkable discoveries and surprising tales behind Ireland's most precious artefacts.

"We will reveal how ancient treasures continue to shed new light on the story of Ireland, both north and south."

Ireland's Treasures Uncovered is on Monday 15 February, BBC One Northern Ireland at 21:00 GMT.