Parys Underground Group / Grwp Tanddaearol Parys

Rock Cannon

The firing of rock cannon to mark a local or national celebration has been carried out in some areas of North Wales for many years. The earliest recorded firing dates from 1797. The are  early records for the use of rock cannon at Parys Mountain.
North Wales Gazette 16 July 1818
Coming of Age of the Earl of Uxbridge, at Amlwch
“Monday the 6th inst being the day on which the Earl of Uxbridge attained the age of twenty one groups of people were to be seen at an early hour in every direction approaching Parys Mountain about two miles from Amlwch where it had been previously announced the scene of rejoicing was to commence. On the highest part of the mountain a fine ox was roasted whole which was laid out on a large table the head ornamented with laurel and garlands of flowers and surrounded with pieces of bread ready for distribution to the Populace.. By ten o’clock am from 6 to 7000 people at the lowest calculation were assembled a general holiday having been proclaimed throughout the neighborhood. the band of the Anglesey Militia attended playing national tunes, The Success cutter Captain Greet made her appearance in Amlwch Bay covered with flags of different nations. The day was uncommonly fine and the merry faces of the multitude showed how heartily they enjoyed the scene. The British ensign was hoisted on a staff and the crowed amused themselves by forming a Carnedd round its base, which consisted of a great pile of loose stones according to the custom of ancient times to mark the spot where an extraordinary event occurred. At noon a six inch mortar was fired being the signal for firing rock cannon of which several hundred had been prepared in the mines below as well as on the rocky surface of the mountain: these cannon are holes bored in solid rock ,filled with gunpowder and so contrived as to explode with a tremendous noise without busting. Many of them were from 3 to 400 feet underground. The hollow rumbling sounds issuing out of the cavernous depths below, mingled with the sharper explosions nearer the surface and on top the cutter in the bay returning the salute succeeded by the cheers of the assembled multitude combined together in forming a scene of a truly grand and novel nature— the company was now regaled with beef ale &c provided for the occasion and excepting a few good humored struggles amongst the younger men in trying to convey a portion to their favored fair ones outside the crowd the day passed off without the least accident to mar the pleasure of the day.
The company then moved to procession headed by the band of music to the town where a very numerous and respectable party sat down to dinner at the Ty Mawr inn        After the usual loyal toasts were given the Noble Head of the House of Anglesey gave , the Earl of Uxbridge, which was drunk with enthusiastic applause.
Several barrels of ale and porter were again distributed among the populace. The evening closed with a splendid display of fireworks from the town and the cutter in the bay and the most general illuminations ever witnessed at Amlwch.
 

Whilst the above scenes of festivity and mirth were going on another no less interesting spectacle was exhibited on the lawn behind the inn: a number of old miners past labour, and their families who had been employed under the late Mona Mine Company which dissolved in 1811 and who are supported by pensions granted them by the Marquis of Anglesey and Owen Williams Esq M.P. of Craigdon to the number of 50 and upward were regaled to dinner and ale in quietness they being too infirm to struggle with the crowd. When it became known that these pensioners have been supported silently and unostentatiously without any claim but that of humanity and at the expense of between 4 and £500 per annum the candid mind can do no less than hail the benevolent donors with the title great and good.”
 

North Wales Gazette 15th September 1821.
" HM King George IV ,coronation on 19/7/1821 was celebrated at Amlwch, Anglesey by firing cannon from the copper mines on Parys mountain where a new shaft was to be sunk on a vein of ore was christened 2 Coronation" Toast were given to Henry William Paget ,Marquis of Anglesey and Col Hughes among others, then the miners joined in the firework display in the town below.

North Wales Gazette Thursday 26th July 1821.
Amlwch: This populous neighborhood was all bustle and joy, on the occasion of his majesty's Coronation. A general holiday was given. The morning was ushered in by the firing of Rock Canon, at the Copper mines on Parys Mountain, which attracted, very early, crowds of people there. About eleven o'clock, the ceremony of christening a new shaft to be sunk in a vein of ore, took place. This is always attended with a good deal of form, but, on this occasion, the preparations for giving it due solemnity, were unusually great. The spot being chosen, a Miner stuck in a pick and he name of "Coronation Shaft" was given to it, amidst the loud exclamations of the assembled multitude, accompanied with some hundreds of rock cannon, which were now exploded . . . We are happy to add, that the whole passed off without any serious accident, two men were scorched in their faces with Gunpowder, rather badly, but not so as to endanger the sight of either of them.

North Wales Gazette December 6th 1821.
Rejoicing at Amlwch:
... on the happy event of the birth of a son and heir to Colonel Hughes MP we now have the pleasure to record what took place at Amlwch. on Monday all was bustle and glee. the shipping in Amlwch Port displayed their various colours. The miners employed at the great Copper mines on Parys Mountain, made a complete holiday of it and continued firing rock cannon without intermission, throughout the day.

North Wales chronicle 30 December 1830
"About noon upwards of 500 of the hardy miners had assembled on the brow of the mountain where they were marshalled by their agents and from where they marched in a procession with colours flying and accompanied by a great number of the inhabitants of Amlwch to the Mona yard where they were shortly joined by the Mona band of music. a substantial dinner was laid out upon tables fir to accommodate 20 persons each and at a signal given by several pieces of artillery the company took there seats... The chairman gave " The health of their noble master the Marquis of Anglesey which was most enthusiastically drunk with 9 times 9 and the cheering replied to the by the salute of 15 guns from the artillery on the mountain.
 

Caernarfon Herald 12 September 1831
Coronation of William 1V celebrated at Amlwch
“The Noble and Honorable proprietor of the extensive mines of Parys Mountain having made known to their agents through J.Sanderson Esq their intention of treating the miners, smelters, and others connected with the mines with a dinner on Coronation Day, extensive preparations were made, some idea of which may be formed from the circumstance that 1,200 to 1,400 were to dine. One of the finest oxen in the neighborhood. fed we believe by Mr Hughes, Madyn ) and several of the fattest sheep were slaughtered on the occasion. There was also an abundant supply of good bread and vegetables, and cwrw da. The men met at 10 o’clock in the morning opposite the Mona Nine yard, on the summit of the mountain and a more loyal, obedient, and tractable assemblage never met in the United Kingdom. They proceeded in a regular procession, headed by a band of music, and a great number of flags with appropriate devices from the mountain, through the town to Mona Lodge for the purpose of escorting Mr John Sanderson Esq to the scene of the festivity After Mr Sanderson and a great number of the gentry of the town and neighborhood had Joined the procession it returned to the Mona Mine where their arrival was announced by the firing of vollies of rock and several pieces of cannon.


The rock cannon were made by hand boring a series of holes into a rock outcrop or large boulder. These holes were normally linked  to each other by a narrow channel cut into the surface of the surrounding rock. Each hole would be partially charged with gunpowder, a fuse , normally a goose feather quill, was inserted and the remaining space in the hole filled with crushed stone compacted with a brass or wooden stemming rod. A thin trail of gunpowder would be run in the linking groves between the cannon and back to the firing position. 

The length of the linking groves and the varying depth of the cannon varied the timing and sound of the canon as it was fired.  It is said that some skilful miners could arranged the holes and firing time such a way as to make the cannon sing out a simple tune such as happy birthday.

So far the site of three Rock cannon have been found at Parys mountain. All are in an area designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument within  the Great Open Cast 

 

The first site has 16 holes arranged in two horizontal rows of 8. The holes are around 1.5 inches diameter and depths ranging from 5 to 7 inches. The remains of some sort of black powder has been found at the bottom of some of the holes and people are advised not to poke into the holes. There are no obvious tracks linking the holes so they may have been connected on the surface of the rock using grease impregnated with gunpowder.
The rock face in which they are located is about 1 foot above ground level and slopes at 45 degrees to the vertical.  When fired the cannon would have been aimed in the direction of the village of Penysarn to the north east. From the probable trajectory the blast would not have been seen from outside the opencast. It is likely that the echo of the blast in the opencast would have intensified the sound.
The second site, close by, has 14 cannon holes arranged in a pattern of 8 and 6. The group of 8 have a diameter of 1.75 inches. The other group range from 1 inch to 1.75 inches in diameter . The depth of these holes range from 4 to 27 inches. The bottom of some of the longer holes seem to contain a black powder which may extend the total depth of the holes even further.

The main group are again about 1 foot of the ground and the holes appear to be almost horizontal. Material ejected from them would be fired across the opencast in a North Westerly direction towards Amlwch town. Again it is unlikely that the blast would be seen from outside the opencast. The positioning and direction of fire making maximum use of echo within the open cast.

The third group consist of 10 holes in a single line. They are 1.5 inches in diameter and between 3 and 6 inches deep. The direction of fire appear to he higher than the previous ones described.