(Tower & Battery No.9 South)
31 July 2012
The Dalkey Island defences consisted of a Martello Tower (above) and a Battery (below). I have already drawn attention to what appears from the mainland to be the excellent condition of what remains of these defences relative to that of some of the other abandoned emplacements. I gather Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, who own the island, are making plans to restore both these buildings. This would be a huge resource for both general and military tourism and the sooner it is done (sentitively!) the better.
There is increasing interest in the Martello period in recent times and a number of emplacements in the Dún Laoghaire/Killiney area have recently been restored/converted in a way that does credit to their owners (eg Towers No. 7, 10 and 14)
The first priority is to keep an eye on the boat as the tide goes out. We haven't exactly come prepared for an all night stay.
The first building to greet you is the ruins of St. Begnet's church. Not exactly a military installation unless you are thinking in terms of the Chruch Militant, a hardly appropriate contemporary image. Nevertheless, this church can claim some connection with the Martello project as it is reputed to have been converted into a house during the construction of the military installation.
I gather the cross in the belfry is not native to the island, having been transferred there from a mainland graveyard for temporary safekeeping.
A fine specimen entirely. And the flag flying to welcome us and remind us that we are not entering a foreign country, whatever the King of Dalkey might have thought in the past. However, I gather this flag is unofficial and making a statement yet to be determined.
Getting in is no easy task. And this is through the "convenient" first floor door which was only added at a much later stage. During its military service, the Tower could only be entered through a small entrance just below the parapet (see below).
Bill Clements finally makes it to the crown of the tower, camera in hand. He's not going to miss recording any of this unique opportunity.
A Singular Entrance
The "normal" tower had an entrance door one floor up and on the landward side. As this tower is on an island, there is no landward side. Attacking vessels could, in theory at least, sail all around it. The entrance was therefore a further storey up, just under the parapet, and it led directly on the the crown of the tower. It was accessed by a ladder from the ground.
You can see this clearly on the above section drawing of the Dalkey tower. I have highlighted the ladder and the chamber to which it gave access. The plan was discovered by Bill Clements, author of Martello Towers Worldwide, and in the absence of construction plans for any of the towers, is one of the few such drawings available. He has reproduced it on p75 of his book (2011 edition).
You can see the entrance, now bricked up, just under the parapet (at the top of the drain pipe).
A closer view shows it more clearly.
This is the view from immediately inside the bricked up entrance.
And the view into the entrance chamber from the crown of the tower out onto which it leads. When you enter the chamber from the outside you can access the internal tower, avoiding exposure on the crown, by turning right (left as you look at the picture). If, however, you are a cannon, you just keep going straight ahead and directly out onto the crown of the tower.
This is a slightly further back shot, showing the exit onto the crown of the tower.
Having scrolled down this far. If you look carefully at the tower wall, as you scroll back up, you will see the remains of five pairs of pins which supported the ladder.
Community Youth Centre
While there may be some interesting military archeology angles to the structure of the ground floor, the overlay clearly indicates youth at play.
A closer view, just in case you haven't got the message. This tower seems to have served the need for a community youth centre along the lines of that already alluded to in the case of abandoned Battery No.5.
And some more. Just to make sure we don't leave out someone's favourite tipple.
General view of the Battery from the crown of the Tower. While the Battery looks well from the mainland and an amazing amount of the structure is there, it will take a lot of work to restore it to any sort of reasonable condition. This is underlined in the photos that follow below.
Photo: Conall Coleman
A Rare Sighting
Photo: Niall O'Donoghue
Me struggling my way in to the Tower through the "convenient" entrance. Note the lifejacket (no penalty points) and the appropriate headgear given the number of mysteries still left to be unravelled.