St. Colman’s Abbey is a small ruin on a remote island off the West coast of Ireland. It is situated on the site of a seventh century monastery established by Colman of Lisdisfarne around 668AD. Archaeologically speaking this is a modest site but it is the setting for a remarkable sequence of events that were to have profound consequences for the development of anthropology in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
On Wednesday 16 July 1890 – 125 years ago to the day – the steamer Fingal anchored in Inishbofin. The Fingal had been chartered by the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) for survey work on the fisheries of the western seaboard. One of the scientists on board was Alfred Cort Haddon, a marine zoologist who had developed an interest in ethnology—the comparative study of races—
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