Waterford’s Crimean connection

The Sevastopol guns, used in the Crimean War, which have stood in the People's Park since August 1857. 								| Photos: Mick Wall

The Sevastopol guns, used in the Crimean War, which have stood in the People's Park since August 1857. | Photos: Mick Wall

Given the ongoing standoff between Russia, Ukraine and the west over the future of Crimea, we thought it was worth noting to readers Waterford city’s connection tot the troubled peninsula, a link stretching back almost 160 years.

The two guns, which have been positioned either side of the Band Stand in the People’s Park since August 1857, were taken by British troops from the port city as spoils of battle following the 1854-55 Siege of Sevastopol.

Both guns have been popular perches for children over five generations and are frequently used by parents when taking family photographs on afternoons out or during holiday time.

How the guns came to Waterford is re-told expertly by Dermot Power in his 1996 essay detailing the history of the People’s Park.

Power notes: “In May 1857, (then Mayor of Waterford John Aloysius) Blake had written to the War Department, asking for some trophies from the Crimean War so that they might be displayed in the New Public Park.

“In June, the War Department agreed to send two Russian Guns and these arrived in Waterford in August.

“On 1 August, the two Sevastopol guns arrived on the steamer Citizen and were landed on the Quay. It was said that they each weighed over two tons.

“Incidentally, when the War Office decided to send the Sevastopol Guns to Waterford, they included a price list of gun carriages which would be suitable to hold such guns.

“However, the mayor John A. Blake, who at that time was in Parliament as MP for Waterford, decided to go to the arsenal at Woolwich.

“He found some carriages there which he believed would be suitable, and having telegraphed the War Office, he received a reply that he might have them. He then promptly had them shipped to Waterford.”

The famous ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in which 673 British Army horsemen galloped into the wrong valley at Balaclava, contained no less than 114 Irishmen.

Their deaths were immortalised in the words of one of Lord Tennyson’s most famous poems: “Not though the soldier knew, Someone had blundered…. Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die, Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.”

Of the 188 men who were killed in the charge, 21 were Irish. Lord Cardigan, one of the British Army’s four leaders in the Crimea, and leader of the Light Brigade, spent time in both Kilkenny and Cork.

In ‘Ireland and the Crimean War’, historian David Murphy estimates that of the 111,000 men who fought in Britain’s Crimean army, over 37,000, were Irish, of which 7,000 lost their lives. Some 4,000 Irish served in the British Navy during the war, with the very first Victoria Cross (VC) being awarded to an Irishman, Sergeant Luke O’Connor, a native of Elphin, County Roscommon. In total, 28 Irishmen received VCs for their service in the peninsula.

Interestingly, a General Sutton, who hailed from County Wexford, fought for the French in Crimea.

Kieran Walsh and Dermot Keyes

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