Editorial changes at Archaeology Ireland as editor steps down

New editor appointed

Twenty years on, 80 issues later and having sourced contributions from a staggering 500 different authors, the editor of Archaeology Ireland, Tom Condit, has decided to step down from that position. Tom took up the role in 1997, succeeding Gabriel Cooney, who himself held the post for ten years. Both Gabriel and Tom were involved with the magazine from its launch in 1987.

Tom graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a degree in Classics, and was initially involved ‘down here’ with the Archaeological Survey, the Sites and Monuments Record and the Discovery Programme before moving on to the National Monuments Service, where he still works.

Tom has been involved over the years in much original research, most notably his identification of large hillforts in the Wicklow region, and his interests centre on large landscape monuments and their interpretation. Readers will know, however, that he can write with authority on any period between the Bronze Age and the early twentieth century. Many will remember his article on WWI trench warfare preparations in the Phoenix Park, in which he displayed his mastery of the interpretation of aerial photography.

Tom also instigated the Heritage Guides, which are a regular feature of our magazine, providing good-quality digestible information in over 79 separate editions. He not only sourced and inveigled people to write on all of these sites but also produced many of them himself. His contributions are marked with a succinct clarity that makes them exemplars of archaeological writing and description.

Tom’s grounding in the Classics will surprise no one who reads his long-running Herodotus column in Archaeology Ireland. His quirky humour (Ballycarnassus—geddit?) and eye for the unusual betray a well-read mind and sharp wit. Herodotus was the first historian to collect materials systematically, check them for accuracy and arrange them in a coherent narrative, and the same might be said of Tom’s tenure at Archaeology Ireland.

Tom also doubled as Books Editor and must have digested and described the best part of 400 publications, from learned (and sometimes turgid) monographs to lighter fiction with an archaeological setting. Mostly he was able to find something positive to say, but often displaying a sharp critical edge in the process.

It is impossible to do justice to Tom’s editorship in this short piece, but he will step down with the grateful thanks of the thousands of our readers who have been entertained and enlightened as a result of his skill as editor. He will also receive the grateful thanks of all of us at Archaeology Ireland who have worked with him over the years: the designers, copy-editors, marketing, administration and production people, who will lose an editor but thankfully still have him as a friend and mentor.

Perhaps Tom’s approach can best be summed up in an extract from his second editorial, written in June 1997, where he said:

‘The archaeology of our country, like an endangered animal species, is vulnerable, finite and irreplaceable. The authorities should make sure that no shortcuts are taken in the provision of the funding, adequate staff and facilities to carry out the multifarious functions which now accompany heritage management. Archaeology should be brought to the people not just through legal devices, or as the broadcast moral of the latest archaeological atrocity, but through an ongoing programme of information and education which, for a relatively small financial investment, would go a long way towards creating an environment in which the protection of the archaeological heritage is the common aim of both the state and the public.’

For news on Tom Condit’s successor CLICK HERE

Nick Maxwell