As Regional Collections Manager for Edinburgh, Rachael Dickson is responsible for the objects and artefacts at Edinburgh Castle and also the Mons Meg Project. In today’s post she explains the processes that have been carried out during the MOT.
Mons Meg undergoes regular annual conservation assessments and these have shown that the paint system requires a complete renewal and restoration work is necessary on oak carriage.
The cannon was heavily over-painted, which obscures the condition of the iron underneath. The complete removal of the paint not only improves the appearance of the cannon but also gives us an opportunity to carry out a detailed condition assessment of the object. Conservators from AOC Archaeology Ltd. have carefully removed the paint from the cannon using a technique called abrasive blasting. This involves propelling a stream of abrasive material, or media, under high pressure. The plastic media used on Mons Meg is made from ground up military buttons. This gently removes the paint layers but causes no damage to the metal below.
Now we have completed the conservation stage, the next step is the careful painting of Mons Meg before she is returned to Edinburgh Castle. We are lucky to have a team of skilled painters at Historic Scotland, who are using the latest paint technologies to not only ensure she looks good but that she will be fully protected
The removal of the paint surface has given us an excellent opportunity to look in more detail at the surface of the cannon. We can see how she has been constructed – from iron bars held together in the shape of a barrel by means of iron hoops. We can also see the many extensive repairs she has undertaken over her career.
Despite her robust appearance, Mons Meg is a fragile piece of artillery. Without her coat of paint we can see clearly the damage sustained when she burst her barrel in 1681. When Mons Meg is painted and displayed at the Castle in her usual orientation, this feature is not immediately obvious.
I am always finding out new things about Mons Meg and her history and keeping good records about our collections is an important part of my job. On a recent trip to Berwick-upon-Tweed I stopped in on our English Heritage colleagues to look at eight stone cannonballs that we believe may have been fired from Mons Meg during the siege of Norham Castle. An exciting prospect!