Drogheda Borough Council mace recently restored
The mace and the sword of state are precious heirlooms of Drogheda Borough Council, formerly the Corporation of Drogheda. They are two very fine objects, some of the most impressive of their sort in Ireland, befitting Drogheda’s status as one of the country’s most important and historic towns.
The mace and sword were given to the Corporation of Drogheda by King William (III) of Orange, shortly after the Battle of the Boyne, to replace the previous mace, which James II had melted down to enhance his depleted exchequer.
The mace and sword are both ceremonial weapons and symbols of royal authority, illustrating a king’s power and majesty. Kings presented swords and maces to loyal towns. Civic maces, originally derived from weapons wielded by the king’s own personal bodyguard, no longer closely resemble the original implements and would be difficult to use as weapons.
Many parliaments of English-speaking countries have maces where they must, by law, be present for the parliamentary meetings to be legal. Many towns and cities also have maces, including in Ireland, though few are as magnificent as Drogheda’s. Swords were presented to towns which had withstood sieges and proved loyal in battle and are even rarer than maces.
The mace is one of the biggest in Ireland and also one of the finest. It is solid silver, weighs 108 ounces, and is five foot five inches long, mounted on the original wooden pole. It is constructed in eight parts which are laced onto a central shaft and secured at the base by a nut. It is decorated in repouseé and chasing on the shaft, with floral and foliate motifs. Around the head are a crowned rose, thistle, fleurde- lis and harp, each of them between the letters WR and within the laurel wreaths linked by foliate female busts. Above, on the cap, is the royal arms of William III.
The words Honi soit qui mal y pense meaning ‘shame on him who thinketh evil’, the motto of the English chivalrous Order of the Garter, are also engraved on the head.
It is not known for certain who made the mace, but it is generally felt that it was made by Thomas Bolton, a Dublin silversmith. The hallmark M appears 3 times on the head of the mace tracing it to the years 1695- 1699. Bolton also made the Dublin Lord Mayor’s chains in 1701 and a mace for Trinity College in 1708.
The sword of state and scabbard
The sword of state and scabbard with the royal arms are also the gift of King William III. The sword is 3 foot 6 inches long, and the scabbard bears a decoration with the letters CR, meaning Carolus Rex, or King Charles (I), suggesting that even if the sword was presented by William, the scabbard may have been reused from an earlier sword (Drogheda famously withstood a siege in 1641/2, during the reign of Charles I).
Mayor of Drogheda Michael O’Dowd welcomes the fact that the mace presented to the town by William of Orange is now going on public display. “A symbol which for so long had divisive connotations can now be viewed by all as an icon of our shared heritage and continuing good relations. The history of the mace is what makes it especially intriguing. Handed over by William, used to designate first royal power and latterly civic power it was spirited away for safekeeping during the War of Independence. Now it is going on display in a former and deconsecrated Catholic Church which at one stage, unknown to the Franciscan community, housed republican weapons.
The mace has survived over three hundred years of our history, through national wars, famine, and civil war. It is very much part of the shared history between North and South and Ireland and the UK.
As a town we can proudly display the mace - its royal symbolism no longer relevant as we live in a republic, its civic symbolism tempered and dependant on democratic acceptance by the citizens of Drogheda.
The mace has been restored to its former glory and I welcome one and all to view it.”
Highlanes Gallery is a municipal art gallery for Drogheda and the north east. This exciting new state of the art facility aims to be one of Ireland’s most important visual art spaces presenting a dynamic and diverse programme of temporary exhibitions and exhibitions drawn from the Drogheda Municipal Art Collection.
Highlanes Gallery was developed with the F.E.McWilliam Gallery & Studio, Banbridge Co. Down through an Arts Partnership and the partnering of two local authorities - Louth County Council (Drogheda Borough Council) and Banbridge District Council and received capital funding from the Interreg IIIA programme through the SEUPB (Special EU Programmes Body) in the East Border Region.
Admission Free, donations welcome.
Monday-Saturday 10.30 a.m.-5.00 p.m.
Highlanes Municipal Art Gallery,
Laurence Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland.