The history of Spanish Armada Ireland

The history of The Spanish Armada dates back to the year of 1588 when a landfall was made upon the Irish coast by Philip II to invade England with the help of a large portion of a 130-strong fleet.

The Spanish Armanda was a fleet of 130 ships that sailed from the city of A Coruña (English – Corunna) in August of 1588. The fleet was sent by the king of Spain Philip II and was commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia- The purpose was to escort an army from Flanders to invade England.

During its course the armada met resistence in the English Channel in the Battle of Gravelines. The battle caused the armada to lose 20 ships and to drift towards the North Sea. The commanding officers decided to change the course homewards.

After the battle of Gravelines a large portion of the the remaining ships were damaged or ran low on supplies. Mistakes were made by commanders and navigators that caused the fleet to drift too close to the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

The news that a Spanish armada was close to Ireland alarmed the government of England. She ordered the hanging of Spanish invaders and any Irish who helped them. The English government soon learned that the threat was almost defeated already by the violent storms that caused many of the ships to be wrecked or scattered along the Irish coastline.

Around 28 ships made landfall upon Ireland. The armada had fallen apart and was drifitng to different locations in the provinces of Ulster, Connacht and Munster, a distance of 300 miles.

Ten miles north of Sligo town, near Streedagh Strand, three ships grounded. The history says that 1,800 men drown and around 100 survived. The ships that grounded neat Streedagh Strand was La Lavia, La Juliana and Santa Maria de Visión. One of the survivors was the Captain Francisco de Cuellar, whose experiences and run through Ireland is a remarkable story.

The Spanish Armada lost 63 ships and It is reported that as many as 18,000 soldiers and sailors died during the failed invasion. Around 1,000 men is believed to have been killed by local Irish and Scottish inhabitants.

The history of the Spanish Armada is violent and tragic, however a salvage was made. In fact, several salvages was made and the first attempts were made within months, on the coast of County Clare by George Carew. He moaned about the fact that copious amounts of uisce beatha (whiskey) was needed for the divers. Cannons, guns and treasure chests were recovered from the wrecks.

In 2014, a group of academics, scientists and divers assembled to locate the remains of the San Marcos, a ship wrecked at Doonbeg, of the coast of County Clare. The initiative is still ongoing to this day.

Like most historical events you can visit the actual place where it all happened and read books about them. Of course, it is the same with The Spanish Armada! You might have heard about the novel of Anthony Burgess, Bryne: A novel? This novel features a protagonist who is descended from Spanish survivors who remained in Ireland.

The Grainuaile Suite from 1985 is an orchestral concert that contains a piece about the landings in Ireland by the Spanish.

On the backside of banknotes in Northern Ireland there are illustrations of the Spanish Armada.

Come and visit Sligo in September to take part in The Spanish Armada Festival to see where some of these historical events took place! Book your tickets today and be part of this Autumn’s Spanish Armada Festival in Ireland.

Anna Martinek