Back to Home page

Millmount Tower
Inaugurating the Guns
13 December 2008

Millmount Tower, which overlooks and dominates the town of Drogheda, goes back to the period of the Martello Towers which were a network of defensive towers built around the Irish coastline, shortly after 1800, to counter an expected seaborne invasion by Napoleon.

The Millmount tower itself dates from just after the construction of the network of Martello Towers along the east coast. While the Millmount site claims it as a Martello, it is radically different in design and purpose from the standard Martello Tower; it is not included in this network in the 1815 Military Map of the Eastern Region; nor is it acknowledged as a Martello by Paul Kerrigan in his work on the Martello Towers of Ireland.

The 200th anniversary of the construction of the Millmount Tower in 1808 was celebrated on 13 December 2008 by the inaugural firing of the Tower's two new 9 pounder cannons.

It has been held that the mound at Millmount is a re-used passage-tomb, dating all the way back to the Neolithic age; that it is part of the Brú na Bóinne complex; and that it is the burial place of the Milesian warrior-bard-astronomer, Amergin.

In its time it has hosted a mill, hence the name, a military fortification, and now a tower.

Looking north-west from the Tower, you can see the river Boyne coming into the town, flowing left to right, on its way to the nearby coast.

Part of the same view, this time from inside the Tower.

The interior has been tastefully "restored" and houses a very impressive museum illustrating the site through the ages in the context of the history of the Town. Individual showcases illustrate particular historical events and contain an impressive array of military artefacts.

This one illustrates the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This was a decisive battle in the history of North/South relations and has iconic status among Northern Unionists. People may remember the occasion in May 2007 when the then Northern First Minister gave the then Southern Taoiseach a present of a musket used in the battle.

But to go back to forty years before the Boyne to Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

You can see a brief summary of Cromwell's New Army campaign in Ireland here, and other aspects of that Army elsewere on that page. There is a description of the Cromwellian assault on the town here on the Millmount site.

On 9 September 1649 Cromwell summonsed the Governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, to "deliver the Town to the use of the Parliament of England". The Governor refused and Cromwell began storming the Town.

In his report to Parliament, on 17 September 1649, Cromwell records that:
Divers of the Enemy retreated into the Mill-Mount: a place very strong and of difficult access; being exceedingly high, having good graft, and strongly palisadoed. The Governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, and divers considerable Officers being there, our men getting up to them, were ordered by me to put them all to the sword.

The upper gallery level houses a collection of pictures and documents. The door at the top of the stairs leads to the stone spiral staircase.

This is Captain Stapleton who "held the fort" at Millmount when the Free State Forces took control after it was shelled on the 4th July 1922.

This photo shows the full extent of the damage from the shelling and the task which faced the restoration team.

Back outside, in the freezing cold, preparations are under way for the main event of the day: the multiple firing of the two new cannons.

Last minute adjustments by the Chief of the Gun Team, the Officer in Charge, and the Project Leader.

The retracted cannon is loaded and primed by the gun crew prior to firing.

The gun is then hauled forward to project over the parapet.

And then fired. This is about the 7th firing on the day. Various dignitaries took turns firing the cannon. This shot shows the first of the two CE workers who fired the gun. By the time of the 7th firing, the practice of rolling the cannon forward was dispensed with, presumably in the interest of shortening the whole ceremony and avoiding further unnecessary exposure to the freezing temperatures.

Boyd Rankin was Officer in Charge on the day. He had procured the cannons and assembled the gun crew and attendant soldiers for the occasion. He organises the re-enactment of the Battle of the Boyne every year and other weekly ceremonials at that site.


You can see videos of Boyd's introduction here (8MB) and a full firing sequence here (14MB). You can either (i) view these by left clicking the mouse, or (ii)download them as files, by right clicking the mouse and following the menu options. [If you have any difficulty playing them try Windows Media Player.]

After the firing, Brendan Matthews launched his new book " A Tower of Strength" outllining the history of Millmount. He is shown here preparing to sign a newly purchased copy.

Further links:

Slide show including photos additional to those above.
Report of the Inauguration on the Millmount site
Wiblick's photoset of the Day on Flickr

Back to Home page