How we spent our summer

By Kathy Bratkowski, HEC-TV Producer and Director

“There are only two types of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were.” –Irish proverb

32 days.

2 cameras.

5 crew.

9 students.

3 professors.

3,928.1 Miles or 6,321.6 Kilometers (STL-Dublin).

4+ inches of rain.

200+ photos.

6 Terabytes of 4K footage.

Those seemingly random numbers add up to an experience that is in some ways indescribable: HEC-TV’s documentary shoot in northwest Ireland in summer 2016.

Five of us were tapped to travel to a rural part of Ireland to videotape an archeological excavation near Lough Cè (Lough is Gaelic for “Lake”). After three years of extensive archeological field survey work, St. Louis University professor Dr. Tom Finan launched the first ever dig of what is potentially a Gaelic medieval market town.

Why is that important? It’s long been believed that the Irish were nomadic, with ring forts (an enclosure for cattle or a fortification) as the only form of settlement. But Finan’s research is literally “breaking new ground” in the historical narrative. His work and a handful of other ongoing archeological projects are beginning to paint a new picture of the heritage and history of Ireland . . . with evidence of towns that are distinctly Gaelic, and not Anglo-Norman.

We can’t wait to reveal all the details in our upcoming documentary to be released early next year.

Here’s what we can tell you:

It rains a lot in Ireland. Cameras need rain jackets. You do, too.

The Irish people are great conversationalists and, hands down, the friendliest people on the planet.

Despite the stereotype, college students/millennials are not afraid of hard work. The students who excavated the site are some of the hardest-working young people we’ve ever seen. And we mean hard work: shoveling, hauling wheelbarrows of sod, kneeling in mud, sifting through wet soil in search of artifacts. There were relatively few complaints and good spirits prevailed (mostly) in this month-long archeology boot camp.

You can never have enough power converters when recharging camera batteries overseas. We learned this the hard way after blowing up several converters and waiting for Amazon deliveries to a remote corner of the globe.

You can live for a month off the grid (that is, without good access to wifi and iffy cell phone service). But it helps to find restaurants, coffee shops and stores with free wifi, especially when data is scarce.

There may be more sheep and cows than people in Ireland. This is unconfirmed.

Brilliant professors can be really fun people. Tom Finan, Alan Hayden and Jim Schryver are ridiculously smart and good-natured, even when cameras are in their faces all day everyday.

Archeology takes patience. Without revealing too much (we want you to watch!) we can say that good stuff was found. And a great story is about to be told about the mystery of a medieval lordship, one that promises a new look at the history of the Gaelic people.

Christina Chastain