The Spanish Armada

A local reporter with an Irish surname recently wrote an article on DNA testing.  He had his own DNA analysed for a story and was surprised to find he was primarily of Spanish origin.  His genetic traits were predominant in one particular area of Spain.  Turns out his DNA had only a brief stopover in Ireland.

Spanish merchants have long traded in Irish ports and Ireland has a history of political alliances with Spain against the English.  One of the most intriguing connections for me is the Spanish Armada.

When I was at university in Northern Ireland,  I lived in a house with other students on a coastal road that faced the North Channel.    The area has rocky cliffs and spectacular beaches, called strands.   The howling windstorms in winter were sometimes too intense to go out in.  The wind at night sounded like a fist trying to smash in the window.   Spray from the sea from the depths below the cliff would also hit the house.

 In 1588, these fierce North Channel gales destroyed almost 20 vessels from the Spanish Armada – sinking or driving them onto coastal rocks.  The ships were fleeing around the Irish coast after their defeat by Francis Drake’s Royal Navy.  They would have sailed past the headland on which I lived.   Most of the Spanish crews drowned – hundreds of bodies washed ashore.  Many who reached land alive were murdered by the Irish.  Only a small number are thought to have survived, stayed and lived out their lives among the local people.

In the last century, divers recovered artifacts from the wreck of the largest ship, the Gironda.   Weaponry, cannons, gold coins were recovered along with domestic objects – and also, elaborate jewellery.  Many of the Spanish nobility were on board.  Most of the artifacts are in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

One of the most well-known artifacts is a small gold ring with the image of a hand holding a heart.  Inscribed on it in Spanish are the words, “I have nothing more to give you.”


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