Spanish Armada Ireland walks in Francisco De Cuéllar’s footsteps to educate Ireland. The history of the Spanish Armada is well documented, but not many know of its connection with Ireland.
Sligo has a vast and varied history – and part of our own history intersects with that of the Spanish Armada. The Armada, a fleet of 130 Spanish ships, sailed from Lisbon in 1588 to escort an army with the purpose of invading England and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I.
Eddie O’ Gorman, volunteer of Spanish Armada Ireland (previously the Grange & Armada Development Association) explains
“There are very few places in Ireland that have such a close connection to a world story.”
Over 400 years ago, a tragic event struck the coast of Sligo, as three of the Spanish galleons were wrecked on Streedagh beach on their way back to Spain. The wreckages lost over a thousand men, and make up three of the 26 wrecks that happened all along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Fast forward to 1988 in Sligo: a group of volunteers came together to create a constitutional committee that hosted a conference for people from Spain, and developed the Spanish Armada monument. There is also a trail that now walks in the footsteps of one of the survivors, Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, as he washed up on Streedagh beach in Sligo.
“Our aim is to promote the importance of the overall Armada story, and we do that through an annual commemoration,” Eddie says,
“In September every year, we run a series of events, including lectures [and] musical events – and we have become a gathering spot for all people of Spanish origin living in Ireland.”
Spanish Armada Ireland, the resulting social enterprise in north Sligo, is dedicated to telling the story of the Spanish Armada and what a remarkable feat of seamanship was undertaken.
With upwards of five thousand people coming to the event every year, it is a great opportunity for local artists to get involved, as they put on decorative tiling workshops, arts and crafts, and showcase art that connects with the Spanish Armada.
“Nowhere in the world is there an Armada site of such historical significance where three ships have been largely untouched for more than 300 years,” Eddie explains, “It’s a story of pirates and gold, kings and queens.” he adds.
“Something that every volunteer is proud to have a part in, remembering and retelling the stories. Something that people all over the world are interested in. To have this in Ireland provides a great draw for tourism and giving back to the community”.
Blessed with the beautiful environment and scenery, North Sligo was the perfect location to create a film that tells the story of Francisco de Cuéllar and his journey: from being shipwrecked, to his long journey from Streedagh Beach all the way up to Donegal, where he got passage to Scotland and eventually got back to Spain.
“Francisco De Cuéllar wrote an account of his time in Ireland,” Eddie says. Having such an account available adds to the story, he explains, and gives a better view of his time in Ireland during the time of Irish Chieftains , when it was said the country should be avoided.
It’s an exciting and important story, and Spanish Armada Ireland are doing a great job at sharing with the community – so what’s next for them?
First they’re hoping to bring original Armada cannons recovered from the Streedagh Wrecks site back to Sligo. They are currently in conservation in Dublin. A feasibility study reporting shortly will advise how best to achieve this aim.
Another plan for the future is to gather the names of all the lives lost on the three ships. They are an important part of the story, and to have them would give a better sense of the people involved. “To have a list of names we could highlight on the existing Armada monument would be a great attraction,” Eddie says.
An ambition that Spanish Armada Ireland is hoping to achieve is to recreate Francisco De Cuéllar’s entire journey from Sligo to the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, so that people can travel the same path he walked to get back to the Spanish Netherlands and, from there, to Madrid.
There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to with Spanish Armada Ireland that wouldn’t be possible without the many volunteers that are dedicated to this story. The future looks bright for Spanish Armada Ireland, and Eddie had one final thing to say.
“We would like to develop a Centre for Armada Studies in the North West for the Island of Ireland; a place of pilgrimage where Spanish people can visit and engage in the story of their ancestors lost on Streedagh beach in 1588.”
Find out more at www.spanisharmadaireland.com