Napoleonic Signal Tower

The Napoleonic Signal Tower of Dromore West

Many people may not know what the old tower at the top of Ballykilcash is or was, so here is a small write up about it and hopefully will explain more about it.

Built between 1804 and 1806 the Napoleonic Signal Tower located in Carrowmably, Dromore West was number 66 out of 81 built in total, It is built on the site of an Iron Age Fort dating back to between 500BC and 500AD. They were built by the British after French invasion and Irish rebellion attempts throughout the 1790s. In particular the 1798 French landing at Killala, Co. Mayo. At the time it cost £600 to £900 to build one of the signal towers. (£600 from 1800’s = about £19,000 in 2005 and £900 = about £29,000)

Signal Towers 1 to 81

Distribution of Signal Towers 1 to 81 Clements, Bill. Billy Pitt had them built: Napoleonic towers in Ireland. Holliwell Press, Stamford (2013)

The signal towers worked on a signaling system or optical telegraph as it is sometime referred to, by raising or lowering a large rectangular flag, a smaller blue pendant (or a narrow rectangular flag), and four black balls in various combinations from a system centered on a 15m (49ft) wooden mast. The stations also communicated with ships and this is why the mast on the signal towers always faced the seaward side of the tower.

Every tower could see the adjacent signal tower on either side. If all of the 81 signal towers were operating simultaneously a signal could travel the 1,076km (669 miles) around the coast of Ireland from Pigeon House Fort in Dublin (Tower 1) to Banba’s Crown, Malin Head, Donegal (Tower 81). The average distance between signal towers was 13.5 km. The shortest distance was between Brow Head and Mizen Head, at 3.8km and the longest was between Ballydavid and Kerry Head, at 36.9km.

Sligo had 5 towers in total, 3 no longer present that were located at Knocklane (Tower 67), Streedagh (Tower 68) and Mullaghmore (Tower 69).

5 Sligo Towers

5 Sligo Towers

Following Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was less threat of invasion, and by 1809 the British decided to abandon them.