Little-known meteorite linking Limerick to the Vatican to star in RTÉ documentary

Dr Patrick Roycroft with the Brasky Mass.

ONE OF Limerick’s lost pieces of history has been unearthed for a new RTÉ documentary.

And, the curator in charge of looking after the unique exhibit from the stars is hoping its appearance to a national audience might help solve an age-old mystery that links Limerick to the Vatican.

The Brasky Mass, part of a meteorite that landed in the Breaska area of Limerick in September 1813, will feature on a new RTÉ documentary titled Ireland’s Hidden Treasures, airing this Sunday (April 21).

Dr Partick Roycroft, curator of geology at the National Museum of Ireland, who features on the show, spoke to the Limerick Post.

Dr Roycroft explained that on September 10, 1813, three pieces of rock fell from the sky and landed in a field in West Limerick.

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“The National Museum of Ireland has the very largest piece, which weighs 69 and a half pounds – just over 27 kilos. It’s about the size of your head and it is the biggest fragment of a meteorite to hit Ireland or Britain in historic times,” he explained.

The smallest fragment of the meteorite is currently in a museum in Oxford, but the second piece, Dr Roycroft says, is missing, and may be in the hands of a private collector or even someone who doesn’t know what they have.

“Nobody knows where it is. People have been looking for this for decades, if not over a hundred years. If it was in a museum, it’s pretty certain it would have been spotted, so it’s very, very likely that this huge fragment, the second biggest ever to hit Ireland or Britain, may still be in somebody’s private collection or somebody’s house and they may not recognise what they’ve got,” Dr Roycroft said.

Sunday’s documentary will document the history of the little-known Limerick meteorite.

The meteorite was in private hands up until 1947, when local farmer John Collins decided to sell it to the National Museum.

“John Collins, because he wasn’t too wealthy, he agrees to sell it to the National Museum of Ireland in July of 1947 for £100, and it’s been with the National Museum ever since. It’s had quite a complicated story,” Dr Roycroft told the Limerick Post.

While the meteorite is not currently on display at the National Museum, Dr Roycroft said that it is their hope to have it on display one day, because of the meteorite’s remarkable story.

“Even more remarkable, it’s in Ireland. Because if you think about it, Ireland is not one of the great places to go and find meteorites,” the curator said.

Dr Roycroft says that parts of the Limerick meteorite are strewn all over the world, including locally in the Limerick Museum.

“There was a number of bits recovered. And they themselves have been sawn, fragmented, given away to different institutions for research. Even the Vatican has pieces of the Limerick meteorite.”

For now, the Brasky Mass will remain away from the eyes of the public, but the search for the missing piece is still ongoing.

“We’ve scoured the museums of the world and nobody has found anything remotely appropriate. I think it’s in private hands and we’d love to find it,” Dr Roycroft concluded.

Ireland’s Hidden Treasures will air of RTÉ1 on Sunday at 6.30pm.