That rings a bell

Published Wednesday, 24 April 2013
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"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them..."

These lines from Tennyson's poem, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' could just as easily describe the situation of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall on Derry's Walls.

But we'd have to add the line "Cannon underneath them" to complete the picture, ever since the recent discovery of four cannon entombed in the basement. How they came to be there, who hid them and why, are questions that remain unanswered.

Those of you who saw our programme on Urney, Co. Tyrone last year might share my proposed solution to the mystery. The Urney bell, forged in 1869, acquired legendary status when the parish priest hid the bell, fearing that it might be requisitioned to make armaments at the start of WWII.

Under cover of darkness the priest, with a number of burly parishioners, dug a grave in the cemetery and buried the bell out of sight, where it remained for much longer than the duration of the war. Time passed and so did most of the people who knew anything about the bell or its whereabouts.

It was only rediscovered when a different parish priest, who had previously abandoned all hope of ever finding it again, was told by an elderly man one day to look in the register of graves under the name, "A. Bell".

So, my theory, for what it's worth, is that these cannon were hidden to prevent them being similarly requisitioned and that the people responsible all passed away without passing on the secret.

So, when I came upon this story I thought, "That rings a bell..."

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Joe Mahon
Joe Mahon

Joe Mahon is the presenter of UTV's long-running series Lesser Spotted Ulster.

He is a man who has seen more of the nooks and crannies of the Ulster countryside than anyone else.

His travels for the show have seen him cross land and sea finding the hidden histories of the local landscape.

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