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Gelignite /ˈɛlɪɡnt/, also known as blasting gelatin or simply jelly, is an explosive material consisting of collodion-cotton (a type of nitrocellulose or gun cotton) dissolved in either nitroglycerine or nitroglycol and mixed with wood pulp and saltpetre (sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate).

It was invented in 1875 by Alfred Nobel, who had also invented dynamite[1] and left a will that led to the creation of the Nobel Prizes. Unlike dynamite, gelignite does not suffer from the dangerous problem of sweating, the leaking of unstable nitroglycerine from the solid matrix. Its composition makes it easily moldable and safe to handle without protection, as long as it is not near anything capable of detonating it. One of the cheapest explosives, it burns slowly and cannot explode without a detonator, so it can be stored safely.

In the United Kingdom an explosives certificate, issued by the local Chief Officer of Police, is required for possession of gelignite.[2] Due to its widespread civilian use in quarries and mining, it has historically been often used by irregular or paramilitary groups such as the Irish Republican Army,[3] and, less frequently, by British loyalists.[4]


The 1970s saw Irish Industrial Explosives Limited producing annually 6000 tons[ambiguous] of Frangex, a commercial gelignite intended for use in mines and quarries. It was produced at Ireland's largest explosives factory in Enfield, County Meath. The Gardaí and the Irish Army patrolled the area, preventing the IRA from gaining direct access but indirectly they acquired amounts including 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb) in the possession of Patrick Magee at the time of his arrest[5] and 660 pounds (300 kg) discovered in a hijacked road tanker in January 1976.[6] IRA informer Sean O'Callaghan estimated that 25 pounds (11 kg) of Frangex could be planted to kill everyone within a 60-foot (18 m) radius.[7] The Real IRA also acquired Frangex; in December 2000, 80 sticks were discovered on a farm in Kilmacow, County Kilkenny, near Waterford.[8]

Use in popular culture[edit]

The material is referenced in the title track of Drunken Lullabies by Flogging Molly.


  1. ^ Braddock, Kevin (3 February 2011). "How to handle gelignite". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  2. ^ CITB Construction Ste safety, A13 Statutory Forms
  3. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat (January 2002). The IRA. Palgrave McMillan. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-312-29416-8. 
  4. ^ Houses of the Oireachtas, Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, Interim Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings (The Barron Report), December 2003, Appendices: The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, pp. 64-71; retrieved 7 October 2011.
  5. ^ Stewart Tendler, "Brighton charge: man in court today", The Times, 1 July 1985.
  6. ^ Christopher Walker, "Dublin Government embarrassed by Ulster explosives haul as hunt for source continues", The Times, 20 January 1976.
  7. ^ Whitaker, James, "John and Norma aghast at wedding", The Daily Mirror, 23 May 1998.
  8. ^ The Sun, "Yobs try to torch cop shop", 22 December 2000.

External links[edit]