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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 07:17 GMT
Experts puzzle over cannon mystery
The mystery cannon
The cannon is more likely to be used now as an ashtray
It has been part of the furniture in the heart of Londonderry for centuries, even being mistaken for a fancy ashtray, but it is actually part of a cannon.

The very old artefact sitting in the city's Shipquay Street may even have been used during the Siege of Derry, but its history still remains a mystery.

This weekend, a specialist team will remove it from the ground. Attempts will then be made to trace its origin.

In all, 34 cannons from the city walls are being restored in a multi-million pound two-year project.

It will be taken away for analysis as part of an ongoing project
Some date back to 1590 and were used during the Siege of Derry.

They have been transported to Dunmurry and stripped down before being given a fresh lick of paint.

The project also involves an expert dating the cannon and establishing which foundry they were made in, as well as cataloguing anything found inside, even if it's just cigarette butts.

Tony Monaghan of Derry City Council admitted they did not know much about the Shipquay Street cannon.

"That's why we are taking it away to have it stripped down and checked out," he said.

The historic cannon are being restored
The historic cannon are being restored
"What we do know from our historians is that the cannon gun was used as a bollard in the street and in earlier centuries as a halting point where people would have tied up their horses.

"More recently, it has been used as a modern-day ashtray."

Of course, the gun may well turn out to have no real historical significance, in which case it could be returned to its prominent position in the city for all to see.

Perhaps then, people in the city will take more notice of it.

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