Background – The Spanish Armada
The Girona was a Spanish Galleass, part of the mighty Spanish Armada that in 1588 set out to conquer England. After the defeat of the Armada in the English Channel, the Spanish ships sailed north into the North Sea and then south-west past the coasts of Scotland and north-western and western Ireland. Due to heavy storms as many as 24 ships were lost to the weather.
The ship originally had a complement of 121 sailors and 186 soldiers. However, while anchored for repairs on the rudder at Killybegs, harbor, Donegal, she came across about 1000 other Spaniards, the remnants of two Armada ships that had run aground, the Santa Maria Encoronada and the Dunquesa Santa Ana. Rather than stay in Ireland where they were in danger of being found by English soldiers on the look of for Spaniards, Don Alonso Martinez, captain of the Encoronada, decided to load everyone on the galleass Girona and sail for then Catholic Scotland. There they could rest, repair the ship and then set sail for Spain.
With the rudder fixed she sailed from Killybegs to the open sea. It rounded Inishowen but the rudder was again damaged in extremely bad weather. With fierce winds blowing the ship towards the shore, the Spanish tried to keep her from grounding by rowing. However, on the midnight of October 28 it run aground off Lacada Point and sunk. Of the estimated 1300 persons on board, less than 10 survived.
Hundreds of bodies were washed ashore and some were buried on St. Cuthbert’s cemetery in Dunluce.
The destruction of the galleass Girona is commemorated on the reverse side of banknotes printed by the First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland.
In 1967 and 68 a team of Belgian divers discovered the wreck and brought up the largest treasure ever recovered from a wreck. Much is on display in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
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