The Disqualified Round Towers of Ireland
 

Messines (Belgium) - visited 28 December 1999


A dramatic 105-foot* round tower built as a memorial to the common endeavours of Irish Protestant and Catholic soldiers who fought side by side in the British army in the First World War. The tower sits on the brow of the hill where the road sweeps south from Mesen commanding vertiginous views. Below, at the bottom of a short, steep hill, is the farm that once housed the headquarters of the Ulster Division. - The tower was built in 1998 at a cost of some £100.000. three-quarters of it from the International Fund for Ireland, and was a labour of love of a North-South collaboration between the former Fine Gael TD,Mr Paddy Harte, the Derry Loyalist, Mr Glen Barr, and the "Journey of Reconciliation" committee. It was built by contractors Gilbert Ash, with workers from North and South as well as some 40 young trainees from both FAS and the North'sYouth Training Programme. President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, Britain's Queen Elisabeth and Albert, King of the Belgians took part in the opening ceremony in November 1998. - The tower is clad with stone imported from Ireland, taken from the former Mullingar workhouse. There are two doors: one pointing towards the valley at the height of about 10 ft and a second door at ground level. A memorial slap beside the tower explains, that the spirits of the dead soldiers should "march to this tower and return home". There is no doubt that there never was a Round Tower in Belgium. Some details of this tower such as the door at ground level and the glass windows are irritating, but this latest copy of a native tower gives a good example of an orthodox round tower design.

(Irish Times/fl)    *(32 meters, one meter for every county)

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