A woman who collected navy shells, and kept them around her fireplace, had enough to flatten a whole town.

That is according to Senator Tom Clonan, who is a former Captain in the Defence Forces.

He told Moncrieff old shells and devices are found all over the country, with some people taking them as souvenirs.

“I know of one incident where an Irish naval officer went to a farmhouse in Co Wicklow to buy a dog,” he said.

“When he was in with the lady making a cup of tea, she had a whole pile of US naval shells arranged around the fireplace.

“He said ‘Where did you get those naval shells?’ and she said ‘My brother used to bring one home every year, he was in the US Navy’.

“They were all highly polished, brass casings.

“He was looking at them and he noticed that they were all live, every single one of them.

“They were around the fireplace and they were actually sweating – and he thought if one of them went off, it would demolish the house.

“There was enough naval shells around this fireplace to flatten a whole town.

“He immediately alerted the emergency services and they were all safely disposed of”.

‘High incidence of callouts’

Senator Clonan said people should not take any chances.

“A lot of ammunition [of] explosive nature – weapons, firearms, handgrenades, old ammunitions – turns up all over the country all of the time,” he said.

“When I was in the Defence Forces back in the day, we had callouts for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams as often as three or four times a week.

“I know that there’s still quite a high incidence of callouts”.

‘Don’t assume it’s safe’

He said many are found during renovations of old buildings, dating from the War of Independence.

“Some of them are still live, so they have to be treated with caution,” he said.

“The bottom line to the public is if you find something that is suspicious don’t assume that it’s safe, and if in doubt call the emergency services”.

Senator Clonan added: “If there’s a lot of corrosion in certain cases some of them can be quite unstable; so you’re best not to move them.

“The rule is really if you come across a device like that you leave it in situ – you don’t touch it, you don’t try to carry it out or move it.

“You get people away from it”.

Main image: A load of 105 mm shells rest in a munitions trailer in the US state of Florida in January 2017. Picture by: Chuck Little / Alamy Stock Photo