Double doctorates in archaeology for Sligo grandparents

Retired couple with combined age of 142 years say they embraced student life

A Sligo couple with a combined age of 142 years have both graduated with doctorates in archaeology.

Richard and Betty Gray both now hold the title of "Dr" after embarking on third-level studies at St Angela's College, Sligo, and NUI Galway (NUIG).

The couple, who have been married for 48 years and are both parents and grandparents, had retired when they signed up for a part-time diploma course in archaeology at St Angela’s College.

They both continued with BA degrees at NUIG, achieving first class honours in archaeology and history and archaeology and classics respectively.


They then signed up for a PhD programme under the supervision of Prof Elizabeth FitzPatrick of NUIG. While Dr Betty Gray researched "high-status" drinking rituals in medieval and early modern Gaelic Ireland, her husband focused on settlement clusters at Irish parish churches from 1200 to 1600 AD.

The couple have recently been conferred with their doctorates by the NUIG school of geography and archaeology, along with Dr Eugene Costello and Dr Thor McVeigh.

“Very rewarding and satisfying,”was how Dr Betty Gray described the last decade.

“We embraced student life and . . . we made many wonderful friendships through our involvement in the student mentoring programme and college societies,” she said.

Both Grays served as auditor of the NUIG Archaeology society, and both spent time exploroing medieval and prehistoric landscapes in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.

“What began for us as a part-time diploma developed into an incredible shared academic journey,”she said.

"It was not our initial aim to complete a PhD," said Dr Richard Gray. "The diploma provided a great grounding in archaeology, and an excellent foundation for further third level education.

“The full-time BA was hard work, but we were welcomed and encouraged by the support for mature students at NUIG,” he said.

The couple also availed of the back to education courses and the support of the academic writing centre at the university’s Hardiman library.

The university's archaeological field officer, Joe Fenwick, described the couple's conferring as "an outstanding achievement" which would "stand as an inspiration to potential students of all ages – young, mature or 'retired' – for many years to come."

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times