Gun Hill: Marking hundred years of silence

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Courtesy Maureen Young

Mussoorie, One of Mussoorie’s many famous tourist spots is Gun Hill. Atop the hill-station’s dominant peak at 7,029 feet, Gun Hill is connected by cable cars’ that ferry tourists from Jhullaghar on the Mall Road. Taking you 1,310 feet in just ten minutes, hundreds and thousands during peak season make this trip a day. For the more determined, a steep walk up to the summit is also worth it.

Very few people visiting the place know that it was named after the Cossipore cannon mounted atop the hill. The gun came to the Mussoorie Municipality shortly after 1857, from the Cossipore Arsenal, Kolkatta which opened in 1801 and is today known as the Gun and Shell Factory.

In times when wristwatches were expensive and clock towers had yet to come, high noon was marked by a blast from this very cannon. In the year 1919, the gun was dismantled and the barrel melted down to replenish depleted armories on the ending of the First World War.

Courtesy Maureen Young

2019 marks a century of this iconic cannon going silent, a fact that even the towns’ residents have conveniently forgotten.  Young chairman Anuj Gupta has plans of getting Gun Hill a gun in the near future, but for now, those nostalgic about Mussoorie share images, clippings and news of yesteryears from home and abroad.

 

Historian Ganesh Saili tells us, “We were told the boom came by ramming a mixture of moist grass and waste cotton down the barrel.

The Miscellany (1936) adds. Pointed East, Miss Brian and Miss Hamilton – running the Grey castle Nursing Home complained that ‘when the gun fired, it loosened plaster from the ceiling of the wards, which fell on patient’s beds, unnerving them.’ Towards the North it could not be faced because it meant blasting away Mr. Yerborough’s house, Dilkusha. Faced northeast, and came a complaint from Crystal Bank. Swivelled south, the cannon sent the ramrod clean through the roof of Stella Cottage. As a last resort, the cannon faced the Mall.

A hundred years is more than half of the hill stations’ existence and it is milestones like these that shouldn’t pass unnoticed, unspoken or unheard off as it is these precious gems that add luster to the Queen’s crown.