Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment


Ye Olde Hurdy- Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio

What is it?A museum dedicated to our communications heritage. It has old radios, music boxes, gramophones and early Morse code equipment. Its curator, Pat Herbert, will demonstrate working models for interested visitors. The collection is housed in the Martello tower overlooking Howth Harbour, in north Co Dublin.

Why visit?The building is as interesting as the memorabilia. One of the Martello towers built for defence during the Napoleonic Wars, it was never used for its original purpose. It was, however, occupied by the Preventative Water Guard (forerunner of the Coast Guard) from 1825 as part of its anti-smuggling work.

The tower was also used as a signalling station and was the starting point for the telegraph cable to Holyhead, in Wales, in 1852. Later, it was the scene of early radio broadcasts between Britain and Ireland, and the founder of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, demonstrated his technology when he communicated with a ship using a high aerial erected in the grounds of the tower in 1905.

The tower came under the control of the minister for posts and telegraphs in 1922. An Bord Telecom sold the tower to Dublin City Council in the late 1980s. It was refurbished in 2001 and opened as a museum in 2003.

Why now?The museum features in The Martello Towers of Dublin (€25), a book just published by Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councils. The book tells the history of the 26 iconic buildings that were built along the Dublin coast between Balbriggan and Bray. Illustrated with old maps, photographs and drawings, it is a rich source of local history and a celebration of our built heritage.

On Tuesday, August 21st, at 11am, a Martello heritage trail will be launched at the tower in Howth. Pat Herbert will also give a talk on the Howth tower and its collection.

How do I get there?Ye Olde Hurdy-Gurdy Museum is up a steep path opposite the Abbey Tavern on Abbey Street in Howth, a short walk from Howth Dart station. Dublin Bus numbers 31 and 31B pass nearby. It’s open daily from 11am to 4pm from May 1st to October 31st and from 11am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays from November to April. Adult admission €5; children free. Call 086-8154189. See also fingaldublin.ie