Northern Ireland

Victorian monument to famous swashbuckling soldier to be restored following safety concerns

The Rollo Gillespie Monument In Comber
The Rollo Gillespie Monument In Comber.

A statue of a Co Down soldier who went on to become one of the most famous servicemen in the British empire is to receive a £15,000 renovation following concerns over deterioration.

Ards and North Down Borough Council has agreed to the required works to the Rollo Gillespie Monument in Comber town centre.

The 12-metre tall monument was erected in 1845 in memory of local military hero Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, who was born in the town in 1766 in a now-demolished house which stood on the south side of Comber Square.

He joined the 3rd Irish Horse regiment in 1783, and four years later, killed an opponent in a duel. The killing was later ruled justifiable homicide following a trial.

He rose to major general through fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Vellore Mutiny, the Invasion of Java, the Anglo-Nepalese War, and his final campaign, the Battle of Nalapani in Nepal, during which he was killed in 1814.

Famous military historian Sir John Fortescue called Gillespie “the bravest man ever to wear a red coat”, and tales of his death suggest that before being taken out by a Gurkha sharpshooter as he led an attack on a hill fort, Gillespie was heard to shout “one shot more for the honour of Down”.

His monument in Comber is a grade B1 listed structure.

DUP Alderman Trevor Cummings said: “The monument of Rollo Gillespie in Comber is cherished dearly by the residents of the town and many who visit.

“Its disrepair has given rise to much concern, indeed health and safety concerns were raised during stormy periods in the Winter. Many people have been worried that the deterioration was getting to such a degree that it would be too late to do anything with.”