Martello Towers (Irish Times, 1904)

1.542-44. The Irish Times, (Dublin), Saturday, 5 March, 1904, 8.

Extract from The Irish Times, on Martello Towers.

On March the 5th, 1904, The Irish Times’s daily ‘Passing Events’ column gave the following information on the origins of the name ‘Martello’, steering as discreetly clear of political history as a tourist brochure might, but as even Mulligan is disinclined to do:

A much vexed etymological problem, the origin of the name “Martello Tower,” can now be regarded as finally solved. The curious erections to be seen along our coasts were known to have been imitated from a Corsican fort, first taken from the French by a member of the Wolseley family in 1793, but recaptured and again held against the British two years later. How the name arose was disputed. Two explanations, ingenious, but quite baseless, were propounded. The first derived it from a designer, one Martel, who has existed solely in the realm of hypothesis. The other took the term to be neither more or less than the Italian word for “hammer,” it being supposed that a small instrument of the kind was used to strike a bell inside the tower as a warning of approaching pirates. The simple truth is that the word should really be spelt “Mortelia,” and as such appears in the contemporary map given by Sir J. F. Maurice in his recently issued publication of “Sir John Moore’s Diary.” The name was applied to a tower and bay on the north coast of Corsica, and, in all probability, was given in allusion to the myrtle which grows luxuriantly on that part of the coast.