Meet Shannon the Cannon

IF you're looking for regular hours, there are few jobs to beat it.

And the post of One o'Clock gunner at Edinburgh Castle comes with other benefits too - the stunning views, for a start.

Today, Sergeant James Shannon - known to colleagues as Shannon the Cannon - was celebrating after becoming the 29th man to take on the high-profile role.

The 46-year-old Territorial Army recruiting sergeant follows in the footsteps of Tam the Gun, District Gunner Sgt Thomas McKay, who famously filled the role for 25 years, until his death last year.

Sgt Shannon is well acquainted with his new duties, having performed the job on a temporary basis for the last 11 months.

Today, he spoke of his delight at his appointment, but insisted it was the gun he fires, a modern 105 Millimetre Light Gun, that is the star attraction - and not him.

"I'm really happy to be getting the role permanently," said Sgt Shannon, who is part of the 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, in Colinton.

"Tam was a very popular local figure and he became a well-known face but there were 27 district gunners before him.

"The gun has been being fired for 145 years, so it's the gun that's important, and I want to raise awareness of the gun's history.

"It is an Edinburgh tradition and although it's not an actual time signal any more, it has an important tourism function. The number of tourists who come to see it is phenomenal."

Although the job of firing the gun takes only about an hour each day, the post also involves various administrative tasks. These include regular safety checks on the gun, as well as a full monthly "MOT", ordering and collecting ammunition, preparing the uniform and managing gun-related accounts.

Sgt Shannon will combine these duties as district gunner with his role as recruiting sergeant, until he retires from that post next July. Then, he is looking forward to many years of service at the Castle.

"I have no idea if I'll serve as long as Tam. I'm retiring from the Army next year so I'll just be doing this after then," he said. "I'll keep going as long as I have the energy to do that and am still doing it well."

Sergeant Shannon, who has been the chairman of the One o'Clock Gun Association for three years, said he hoped to raise awareness of the gun's links with the 105 Regiment.

"I see it as part of the job to promote the gun and I'll be working with other members of the One o'Clock Gun Association to make sure the exhibition [at the Castle] is up to date and has all the information we know in it," he said.

George Robinson, secretary of the association, said: "It is about time that they confirmed that Jamie has the job - he's been kept waiting for a long time.

"He's a very popular guy at the Castle and he knows all about the history of the military so he's perfect for the job.

"It is great that he got the job because he is a real number one gunner in the regiment and he takes his job very seriously. It is now a great chance to celebrate the gun itself and its historical role."

An Army spokesman said: "Barring all clearances, the Army in Scotland look forward to Sgt Shannon taking over the duties as the world-famous district gunner of the One o'Clock Gun."

The facts

The One o'Clock Gun was established in 1861 by Edinburgh's first district gunner, James Findlay, astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth and clockmaker James Frederick Ritchie.

They saw it as an alternative time system to the time ball on Calton Hill, which was difficult to see in smoky Auld Reekie or in foggy weather. The loud blast of the gun was used to inform ships on the Firth of Forth when it was one o'clock, so that they could adjust their times and co-ordinates.

The time signal was sent from the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill to the gun at the Castle via a 4020 foot-long overhead electric wire.

Edinburgh is one of only five places in the world still to use a time gun.