Award for protecting Armstrong gun

Celia Joyce and Laurie Stewart hold the Armstrong disappearing gun's Institution of Mechanical Engineers' Engineering Heritage Award, while Ken Tushingham (back left) and Ross Smith look on. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Celia Joyce and Laurie Stewart hold the Armstrong disappearing gun's Institution of Mechanical Engineers' Engineering Heritage Award, while Ken Tushingham (back left) and Ross Smith look on. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
It served in Dunedin's coastal defence for more than 30 years, fired 488 rounds and, yesterday, the Armstrong disappearing gun at Taiaroa Head was formally awarded the 91st Engineering Heritage Award.

The award recognised ''the efforts of the locals here [in Dunedin] in protecting the gun in its original environment'', Institution of Mechanical Engineers Oceania region chairman Ken Tushingham said, while presenting the award yesterday.

About 80 people were at the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head to watch the presentation.

Mr Tushingham said the gun was an impressive feat of mechanical engineering as ''although this gun was never used in anger, the real advantage was it going below ground to protect the crew, as well as the gun'' when it needed reloading.

The gun was installed in 1889 to protect Dunedin, then New Zealand's largest city, against the threat of a Russian naval attack, following escalating tensions between the British Empire and Russia.

After firing, the gun would use the force of the recoil to rotate backwards into a protected pit, where it would be reloaded and aimed.

The award was presented to the Otago Peninsula Trust, the New Zealand Antique and Historical Arms Association Otago branch and the Fort Taiaroa Education and Resource Group, which were instrumental in retaining the gun in its original location, its maintenance and providing public access.

Otago Peninsula Trust chairman Ross Smith said it was a ''very prestigious award for the Otago Peninsula Trust and the community of Dunedin''.

- timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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