Irish Black Powder Story (Pilot)

In relaying the story of Gunpowder in Irish History it is necessary to travel along a time line on a journey that stretches over one thousand years. The journey takes us across the world from the Far East to the Atlantic seaboard at a time when it was believed that the world was flat. The peoples of the Orient had established that the powdery substance had pyrotechnical properties.

Beara Penisula Cork. Image courtesy of Tourism Ireland Image Library

When it became possible to harness the power of black powder from within the bore of a metal tube its usefulness for military endeavour was quickly realized. The native Irish Lords built up arsenals of powder and equipment supplied from Spanish sources. The equipment included everything from heavy cannons and light armaments such as the matchlock hand gun.

Further to the closure of the Gaelic Order the process of manufacturing black powder developed in the Industrial Revolution along the lines of mass production. The pressures surrounding the establishment and control of many empires demanded that greater quantities of this powerful powder were needed. Selling for about £4 a barrel in the early part of the 17th century its value as a commodity was rising greatly. Entrepreneurs responding to the arising opportunities established manufacturing facilities to supply the growing market. The enterprises were established along natural occurring rivers so that the head of water could be harnessed to drive the milling equipment.

Incorporating Mill Assembly. Image courtesy 'An Scannanlann'

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Irish black powder production once employed in excess of 500 workers. Its energy yielding capabilities found uses on civil engineering projects including quarrying, railway and canal developments at home and throughout the world. On the field of military adventures it was used by both sides in the American Civil War. In relaying the story of Black Powder in Ireland we focus on the ruinous remains of the 18th centaury manufacturing facility on the banks of the River Lee at Ballincollig in County Cork.

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Sliábh Beagh Heritage (Pilot)

In relaying the story of Sliábh Beagh Heritage we must go back in time. This module will seek to inform the visitor to Central Ulster of the heritage of the region until the first  plantation of Ulster in the forth century A.D. Presenting a rich tapestry of events along a two thousand year time line we will be looking back to another world.  Civilizations as diverse as the Greek, Roman and the Egyptians to mention but a few see large numbers of inquisitive tourists explore the ancient heritage of those cultures. The passing of time seen those great empires of civilization diminish and in Ulster the older civilizations were likewise seeing their circumstances change.

The ancestral family tree line of the Gaelic Clans of Ulster from 100 A.D. to 350 A.D

Making reference to the early Kingships of the region we will see their rise and fall as we approach the time period of the first Plantation of the central Ulster territory. Many diverse characters present in this heritage including the well known names of Cormac McNessa the King of Ulster at about the time of Christ, his wife Meabh, his foster son Cúchaillain, Fionn McCool, Saint Patrick the Hy-Neill and the neighboring Kingdoms of the region. Likewise the High Kings of Ireland will feature along with their nephews the Colla brothers. We will seek to present these people in their real world settings including giving them a place and a context in the political world of their times.  This story will commence at Cruachan (Tulsk) in Roscommon and finish at Emain Macha (Navan Fort) in Armagh.

Emain Macha (Navan Fort Armagh) the Spiritual centre of the Ulster Region prior to the invasion of the Colla Brothers in 332 A.D. Image courtesy of Tourism Ireland Image Library

These early Ulster peoples who present as many of our ancestors were experts in green living.  They left little physical evidence of their existence upon the territory other than fort structures like Emain Macha in Armagh and Aileach in Derry. Further to the fall of the Gaelic Order and the development of the 2nd Ulster Plantation some twelve hundred years later did the landscape and the living environment of the Central Ulster territory change significantly? The changing order of the late 16th and early 17th century will form the focus of a future Heritage Explorer module.

A reconstruction of the Rudrician round house at Navan Fort before its destruction by the Colla Brothers. “ © Crown copyright. Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office”.

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