The North Base Tower in Magilligan C611344
The South Base Tower in Ballykelly C634221
1824 The Ordnance Survey of Ireland
decided that the Lough Foyle shore of our Borough
was the ideal place to measure a base line for the map of the rest of
the island. They selected this area because it was close to the sea -
horizontally as well as vertically - and was close enough to Scotland
to tie in with the Hiberno-Scottish triangulation.
Major-General Colby, the leader of the surveyors, designed a special measuring apparatus that compensated for changing temperatures and the project began on the 6th September 1827 - after that famous Dubliner Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington and prime minister at the time gave the marching orders - and continued until the 20th November in the following year. The length of this line turned out to be 41 640.8873 feet, or roughly eight miles.
The North Base Tower is in a field in Magilligan owned by a rather nice farmer whose name I forgot to ask. The South Base Tower is in Ballykelly at the edge of a football field near the Drummond Hotel. There is also a Minearny Base Tower, about which, more later.
1960 the boys from the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland came back
and re-measured the distance with the latest equipment involving a
brand new geodimeter combined with a tellurometer - both instruments
representing the cutting edge of 1960 measuring technology. They found
a difference of one inch!
If, like me, you have always wondered what might be inside these mysterious low towers, don't look any further than this page. Beneath a pile of best Roe Valley top soil is a small chamber, the base of which (B) is formed from blocks of Dungiven sandstone. Set into this foundation is the centre point of the base (A). It consists of a mark made in a platina wire which is set in lead and concrete. Above this is a flagstone (C), which has a metal plate with an edged cross directly above the mark in the wire below.
Remarkable stuff, isn't it?
|On top of noble Benevenagh Mountain near the Gortmore viewing point which allows a magnificent view over Lough Foyle, the intrepid traveller can inspect a commemorative plaque, erected by the Society of chartered Surveyors in the Republic of Ireland. (It's the ugly thing behind the the dog's behind).||
This is what it says:
The Survey of Ireland
The Lough Foyle Base Measurement
Colby devised an original apparatus for the measurement - a compensation bar of iron and brass about 10 feet long between the pivots, the total length of which was unaffected by temperature changes. Measurement of the base commenced on 6 September 1827, initially under Colby's supervision but later under the direction of Lieutenant Thomas Drummond one of the Ordnance Survey's leading mathematicians. Work was completed on 20 November 1828 having taken the most part of two summers to complete. The length of the base, levelled and reduced to the adjoining sea level, was 41,640.8873 feet or nearly 8 miles. In 1960 the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland remeasured the base using electronic equipment; the difference was approximately 1 inch - surely a tribute to the accuracy of the 19th century surveyors.
A base at Salisbury Plain was measured in 1849 using the same apparatus and methods perfected by Colby in Ireland and is connected to the Lough Foyle Base through the principal triangulation network. To preserve the site the Government acquired the land and erected three base towers that can still be seen today. The North Base Tower at Ballymulholland and Minearny Base Tower at Minearny are surrounded by private land and are not readily accessible to the public. South Base Tower, situated at the rear of the Kings Lane Estate in Ballykelly Village, can be visited.
Thomas Creevey MP, who was one of the treasurers of the Ordnance Survey and on a visit to his Dublin office writes to one of his step daughters, the Miss Ord:
Ordnance Office, Dublin, Novr. 21st 1831
..... Our Irish Survey Establishment about four miles out from Dublin is by far the most perfect establishment you can imagine. It is the head quarters for the general Survey now going on in Ireland, which is ten times more minute than that of England. Fifty maps perhaps for a single county when it is a large one - containing every parish or home-land, I might almost say every house. Then in books is contained the history (that is the statistical history) of every parish, its soil, productions &c. &c., and in various cabinets is contained a portion of its mountainous substance . . . . As the County of Derry is the only one finished, they produced a sheet of it, and most beautiful it was.
(From "Creevey's Life and Times, A further selection from the Correspondence of Thomas Creevey, edited by John Gore)
I have recently learned that there was a fourth - the Mount Sandy tower out towards Lough Foyle and that this was claimed by the sea quite some time ago.
I cannot end this account without showing the Minearny tower dwarfed by noble Benevenagh, the mountain that watched this enterprise when it began and will still be standing when the towers are no more.
Benevenagh mountain watching over
the Minearny tower
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