I came upon these pair of bad boys standing guard outside the Town Hall on a recent family trip to Youghal in County Cork. Now whilst they are not per say, a normal Ruinhunting attraction, they do play an important role in the history of the town, which dates back to early Christian times when the likes of St. Corán and St. Declan of Ardmore fame were said to have established monastic settlements here during the fifth century. Youghal or Eochaill to give it its old name which means “yew wood” also became an important base of operations for our friends from the north whom established a Viking settlement here during the ninth century. By 864 A.D. the Viking fortress at Youghal had been destroyed by the local Deisi clan. Then in 1173 a great battle took place at sea, when a Norman fleet whom had just raided nearby Lismore and where returning to their base in Waterford defeated a fleet of native Irish and Vikings. And so began the towns association with the Normans. When exactly Youghal became a walled town is open to interpretation, but it is deemed to be sometime in the 13th century although earlier defensive features would have most certainly been in place before this. From the 13th century onwards Youghal was known as a fine walled town. There were at least 12 towers on the surrounding wall, which were protected by a cannon battery. This showed just how important Youghal had become during the medieval period.
Having being built on the edge of a steep riverbank, Youghal had a long, but narrow layout. Its importance as a sea port for both commerce and the military allowed the town to flourish and it saw the town receive special privileges from the crown. Sir Walter Raleigh was a resident for some time after gaining lands here after the defeat of the Desmond rebellion and is said to have planted the first crop of potatoes in Ireland. The two cannon which are now located on the steps of the town hall were once part of the cannon battery which protected the town and are believed to have been donated to the Town Council by a Mr. Joe Buckley. Sadly both guns are no longer in working order, but provided my three little Ruinhunters with some serious playtime. These guns in their day would have packed quite a punch, I would say that they were probably a 3-4lb cannon. It reminds me of a slightly smaller cannon that my towns local re-enactment group have and demonstrated at the local town festival. Although only a smaller 2lb gun it certainly impressed the hell out of me when fired. You can see it in action HERE. Back in 2008 the Town Council received €20,000 in Heritage Funding Youghal Cannon Gun Restoration Project. By 2009 both cannon had been restored and two gun carriages had been made for them at a reported cost of €9,000 each. Sure it’s no wonder they can no longer be fired, considering the expense!