Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 12:39 UK

WW1 relic rescued from the deep

By Enda McClafferty
BBC News

The Laurentic gun is raised from the sea bed
The ten-ton gun is raised from the sea at Downings by a team of divers

After almost a century on the sea bed a priceless World War One relic has finally been restored and put on display.

The ten-ton deck gun from the SS Laurentic was raised from the sea last year by a team of divers from Downings in County Donegal.

They have now restored the weapon and put it on show at the local pier.

The gun was one of eight guns on the Laurentic and the second to be recovered from the sea bed.

The divers spent two years diving on the wreck before lifting the gun using a massive air bag.

It was then towed ashore by a fishing boat and lifted by a crane onto the pier in Downings.

The local community raised 5,000 euro to pay for the salvage operation.

One of the four divers involved, Ivan Irwin, said it was a complex operation as none of the team had any experience in lifting such a heavy object from the sea bed.

"Had it not been for the support of local fishermen and the wider community in Downings, the gun would still be lying on the Laurentic," he said.

"There is a wealth of history lying off our shores and very few people get to see it up close.

"At least now locals and visitors will get the chance to examine the gun and see at first hand the craftmanship that went into making a weapon of this type," said Ivan

The divers are now collecting the shells from the wreck to place alongside the gun and hope to have an official unveiling in the coming weeks.

German mine

Built in Belfast in 1908, the Laurentic was on its way to Canada to collect ammunition for the war effort in 1917 when it struck a German mine off the Donegal coast.

More than 300 men lost their lives, and a further 300 were rescued.

The ship was carrying over 3,000 gold bars at the time.

It is now owned by Derry man Ray Cossum, and while most of the gold has been recovered, some of the bars are thought to be still on the wreck.

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The gun was raised from a ship which sank in Lough Swilly in 1917



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