A canon that lay on the sea bed off the Donegal coast for four centuries has been restored and is now on display in the National Museum.

There is a lot of history hidden in the seas around the Irish coast. The north Donegal coastline has yielded a piece of weaponry that the National Museum in Dublin regards as particularly unique.

A siege canon which is 414 years old, and which lay embedded in the sea bed for four centuries, has been recovered and restored by staff in the National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin.

Part of the arms store on board the fourth biggest vessel in the Spanish Armada fleet, the 1100-tonne Trinidad Valencera was wrecked in Kinnagoe Bay, North Donegal on September 12, 1588. The Armada was part of King Philip II of Spain’s plan to invade England and depose Queen Elizabeth I. Philip’s wife Mary Tudor, when queen, made Catholicism the state religion of England, but when she died, Elizabeth took over and restored the Protestant faith, and war ensued.

Conservation work on the cannon took 18 months by staff at the National Museum. Head of Conservation, Rolly Read explains,

When the canon was brought up, the metallic structure would have been impregnated with salt, and if it had just been left to dry out at that point, it would have been very unstable, and it would have corroded a lot...we have used conservation treatments to wash the salt out of the metallic structure.

Also on display is a smaller ship’s cannon, a pedrero, from another ship of the Armada, the Juliana. But it’s the big siege cannon that might have changed the face of history, that will attract most attention.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 31 July 2002. The reporter is Tom MacSweeney.