Saturday, 2 April 2016

Le Duc on the road - Part 1 - Carrickfergus Castle

Not much gaming in recent weeks, though I have been out on the road a bit, so here’s some (relevant…no really) pics from recent visits.
Carrickfergus Castle is one of the last remaining (if not pre-eminent) Norman castles in the UK and Northern Ireland. It has a long history from the days of Norman expansion, and was originally constructed (well the keep and a bit more after a motte & bailey concept) by John de Coucry in 1177, as a base when he conquered the rest of Ulster. He built it on a rocky 'crag' - and the area became 'crag-fergus' or 'castle of crag', now Carrickfergus.

It sits on a strategic position on the northern arm of Belfast Lough, and has been besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French over the years.
It was besieged by Schomberg in 1689 when held by Jacobites, is the landing point of William III in Ireland in 1690, and was attacked by Thurot’s French in 1760 in a little known seven years war escapade.
Oh yes…and in 1778, John Paul Jones of AWI fame lured a RN ship from its moorings nearby on Belfast Lough, before winning an hour long sea battle.
Later, the castle was used as a garrison in WWI and a magazine/armoury in WWII (the secret tunnels and stores areas still exist - stretching out well into the lough).
 There is also a Churchill tank and a 25 pounder not far from the castle (see pics below). The Churchill (an earlier version - perhaps named after Churchill himself or his 17th century ancestor Marlborough-John Churchill, in line with the historical designation of the Cromwell etc.?) was originally conceived and prototyped by Harland & Wolff in Belfast (which still exists...just, after decades of shipbuilding, to provide  heavy fabrication & wind farm structures), and there was some local manufacture afterwards.

My father actually remembers an area of H&W called the 'tank shop' right into the 1960s - yet he could never work out why, so I'm surmising that the prototypes were built there before being transferred to Vauxhall.

Bronze statue of William III, who landed near the castle in 1690.

 View looking east along the coastline from the battlements. If you squint, you can see a tank and a 25 pounder.

 View south toward the opposite arm of Belfast Lough - Bangor direction.

View of the town, looking to the north-west.

Clearly some Frenchie has stolen the business end of his Brown Bess.

 ...and his mate is pointing his firelock in entirely the wrong direction...unless the buggers have got in already...

 Classic 1970s horror film view of the 'The Keep'

A nice replica of the castle during the 1689 siege, with some lovely 54mm minis inside.

 So they explain the different painting schemes away through outlining how the Jacobite defenders were a bit of a 'motley' crew in terms of uniformity. I think either (1) the painter got bored and wanted to change his/her colour scheme or (2) there were originally supposed to be a lot more figures...and the painter got bored or (3) the budget ran out.

 Nice sketches of period uniform though.

 King John on the pot. Apparently the only authentically medieval crapper in the castle.

 The great hall at the top of the keep. This work was done in the last 20-30 years, as this area used to house arms and armour from across the years.

 ...and these stairs used to allow access to the top of the keep, until the Health & Safety guys said 'nope'.

 D&D anyone?

 It's a trap!

1970s horror...part 2.

Yep. I thought her bum would be a bit cold sitting there too.

 Cuthbert the crossbowman. No really, that's what it said on the bloomin' sign.

 ...and in case you couldn't see the Churchill earlier...

Looking west. The castle in all its glory.

 Close up of the 25 pounder at 'Marine Gardens'.
 And the Churchill. It really is in very good condition, and as with many WWII tanks I've seen, contains hatches which most blokes of today would find increasingly hard to get out of.  (ah, the perils of chocolate and fast food).


  1. Most enjoyable travelogue! Photos and first-hand interpretations are just as welcome as wargaming content in my book.
    Thank you!

    1. CHeers Jonathan. Yes, it's well worth a visit if you're ever in Northern Ireland. The only thing is the perennial rain (which can be seen creeping into the final photographs).

  2. Those rooms and halls look cold drafty,and dreary. Perfect for Dark Age and Medieval gaming!

    1. Yes, it's a great place. Actually the rooms inside can be hired out...for weddings normally, but I'm sure they wouldn't say no to a gaming convention.