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Thread: This day in Irish History 1588: The loss of the Girona & 1,300 men off the coast of Antrim

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Default This day in Irish History 1588: The loss of the Girona & 1,300 men off the coast of Antrim

    28 October 1588: The Girona, a 700 ton Neopolitan gallass was wrecked off the north coast of Ireland at Lacada Point [above], Co Antrim on this day. The Lacada/Liach Fada (the long stone) is a rock promontory that juts into the ocean a few hundred yards west of the Giant's Causeway.The Italian built ship had been part of the ill fated Spanish Armada which Philip II had dispatched from his dominions to restore England to the Catholic Faith.The Girona was a galleass - an oared fighting ship, designed for Mediterranean warfare. But she performed extraordinarily well in northern waters, and survived the coast of Ireland with need of only slight repairs. On board were the survivors of two shipwrecks that had been washed upon the Irish shore. The Girona had picked them up at Killybegs, County Donegal.The Commander of the vessel was a brave and charismatic Spanish Don Alonso de Leyva.He was described by an Irish sailor (James Machary) as:

    Don Alonso for his stature was tall and slender

    of a whitely complexion
    of a flaxen and smooth hair
    of behavior mild and temperate
    of speech good and deliberate
    greatly reverenced not only of his men
    but generally of all the whole company
    The Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland
    Ken Douglas

    Don Alonso decided that overladen as she was the best plan was to make for neutral Scotland and pick up more shipping there for the dash back to Spain. With over 1,300 men inside the ship she was sluggish in the stormy waters and despite having over 200 oars to guide her passage was vulnerable to any contrary turns of weather. In a storm the oars would have been useless.

    Initially her luck held and she made progress towards the Scottish coast. But the wind turned to the north west and pushed her back onto the rocky Antrim shores. Disaster struck when her rudder snapped off and she drifted a helpless hulk upon the waters. In despair the crew and passengers, including some of the noblest names in Spain, could only pray for Eternal Salvation as they were cast to their doom upon the rocks of Lacada Point. Just a handful survived the ordeal and were rescued by the Irish of that coast.While nothing now survives of the wreck, over the last 40 years the place where she sank, has yielded a rich haul of treasure - pathetic gold and jeweled trinkets, badges of rank, religious charms, tenderly inscribed love-tokens, money chains and nearly 1,200 gold and silver coins. A testimony to the riches in the possession of some of Spain's best families on the night that they perished. Much of this recovered haul is now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.Thus perished some of the scions of the noblest families of Spain on that terrible night all those years ago.

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    And now we have Anglo, Santander and Gilmore.
    Heaven and Earth Meet in the Human Heart!

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    Here's a thread that deserves more attention.

    I hadn't realised, until I checked, that the Girona had previously cleared Malin and made landfall in Killybegs to repair a rudder. Then she was heading back to (independent!) Scotland, carrying survivors of other wreckings of La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada and the Duquesa Santa Ana — which was the reason for the huge loss of life.

    Perhaps as many as two dozen — certainly a minimum of seventeen — Spanish ships (in the main, smaller merchantmen and supply ships) came ashore on the Irish coast, with a total loss of perhaps 5,000 men.

    The English authorities were highly efficient in massacring survivors (which seems against self-interest — the loss in ransom must have been substantial): it was treasonable to help any survivors. Names in the frame there: Lord Deputy William Fitzwilliam; the governor of Connacht, Richard Bingham; the High Sheriff of Kerry, Sir Edward and Lady Margaret Denny. On the other hand, Sorley Boy MacDonnell and Bishop Redmond O'Gallagher of Derry got as many as 150, including just nine survivors from the Girona, to Scotland.

    I gather there is still some dispute over what went wrong with the Armada's return voyage to the west of Ireland — apart, that is, from the weather. I think I've come across one version that suggests a factor in the wreckings was the poor quality of Spanish charts — they had the coast line 20 miles of so further to the east. Another is that the navigators, going by dead-reckoning for lack of better data, failed to take account of the North Atlantic drift which pushed them eastwards.

    Any sources for all that definitely welcome.
    Last edited by Malcolm Redfellow; 4th November 2012 at 02:32 PM. Reason: Expansion of final point. Punctuation.

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    Indeed the Girona was grossly overloaded at must have been extremely sluggish in the water

    - it was a desperate gamble to undertake on such a coast

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    One of my calling points, visiting Washington DC, is the Vietnam War Memorial. Since it was constructed, the surrounds seem to have become cluttered by other memorials — all worthy, no doubt. I've always found the Wall in Washington a moving, haunting experience, made all the more poignant by the constant presence of the MIA/POW guys fruitlessly pursuing their hopeless (even misguided) cause, and ageing, greying, becoming fewer at each of my return visits.

    That is irrelevant, a needless diversion in this thread …. except …

    1. Why miss an opportunity to celebrate the magnificent Iris Dement?

    2. (Finally, something relevant to the thread) In 1596 the Spanish sent an envoy to Ireland in the hope of finding survivors. I'd have said that was Alonzo Cobos, but he was here in May 1596 to consult with the Ulster lords (see Brendan Kane: The Politics and Culture of Honour in Britain and Ireland, 1541-1641, following Mícheál Ó Cléirigh of the Four Masters — who at least was around at the time). The envoy located just eight. There has to be a story in that.

    I'm directing my mind back to where I came across that detail (which is retailed by the wikipedia entry). I think it must have been in T.P. Kilfeather's Ireland: Graveyard of the Spanish Armada — which seems to be the main source for that wikipedia entry, but isn't cited in this precise connection.

    For what it's worth, the myth of inter-marriage with and descent from Armada survivors is (spuriously) given as one origin for the expression "Black Irish" (Kilfeather has that one, and rejects it: page 63).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm Redfellow View Post


    One of my calling points, visiting Washington DC, is the Vietnam War Memorial. Since it was constructed, the surrounds seem to have become cluttered by other memorials — all worthy, no doubt. I've always found the Wall in Washington a moving, haunting experience, made all the more poignant by the constant presence of the MIA/POW guys fruitlessly pursuing their hopeless (even misguided) cause, and ageing, greying, becoming fewer at each of my return visits.

    That is irrelevant, a needless diversion in this thread …. except …

    1. Why miss an opportunity to celebrate the magnificent Iris Dement?

    2. (Finally, something relevant to the thread) In 1596 the Spanish sent an envoy to Ireland in the hope of finding survivors. I'd have said that was Alonzo Cobos, but he was here in May 1596 to consult with the Ulster lords (see Brendan Kane: The Politics and Culture of Honour in Britain and Ireland, 1541-1641, following Mícheál Ó Cléirigh of the Four Masters — who at least was around at the time). The envoy located just eight. There has to be a story in that.

    I'm directing my mind back to where I came across that detail (which is retailed by the wikipedia entry). I think it must have been in T.P. Kilfeather's Ireland: Graveyard of the Spanish Armada — which seems to be the main source for that wikipedia entry, but isn't cited in this precise connection.

    For what it's worth, the myth of inter-marriage with and descent from Armada survivors is (spuriously) given as one origin for the expression "Black Irish" (Kilfeather has that one, and rejects it: page 63).
    Well we have them now anyway!

    But I think you mean that amongst the Gaels there is a sub strata of 'dark' people?

    This is more prevalent in Wales BTW

    - my ex pub landlord was as dark as an Indian!

    But a 'Taffy' to his fingertips!

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