Four hundred and twenty eight years ago, three Spanish Armada ships en route home from a failed attempt at invading England sank off the Sligo coast at Streedagh Beach, claiming more than 1,100 souls.
Last weekend, as part of Sligo’s 6th annual Celtic Fringe Festival, emotional tributes were paid on land and at sea to those who perished.
An installation of crosses was laid out on the Streedagh shore, with the Armada monument and Ben Bulben in the background.
Meanwhile, out at sea, a Spanish military vessel arrived in Sligo Bay for the first time since 1588.
The OPV Centinela performed a moving tribute to their fallen comrades and the three wrecked ships, La Lavia, La Santa Maria de Visón and La Juliana.
“Today was very special for all of us on board,” said the captain of the Centinela, Lieutenant Commander Miguel Romero Contreras after a poignant ceremony in which he, as senior officer on board, and his most junior seaman, Alvaro Couce, laid a floral wreath on the Atlantic ocean, which had claimed the lives of so many of their countrymen over four centuries ago.
“The emotion of a day like this is difficult to put into words,” added the Lieutenant Commander. “Remembering the passing of so many countrymen many years ago far away from home was a very important event for us, and I would like to thank sincerely the people of Sligo for making us feel so welcome here.”
Other Armada-themed events over the weekend included lectures, plays and musical events, was a gala reception at Sligo City Hall. Hosted by Mayor of Sligo and Streedagh native Councillor Marie Casserly, guests included Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, Deputy Head of Mission at the Spanish Embassy in Dublin, Rafael Soriano, MEP Marian Harkin, TDs, Councillors and many other dignitaries, academics, and Armada enthusiasts from home and abroad.
“The Celtic Fringe Festival enables us to engage with part of our local history which has often times been neglected,” said Eddie O’Gorman, Chair of the Celtic Fringe Festival, at the conclusion of this year’s events. “We have – due in no small part to the recovery of cannon from La Juliana last year – been able to reach many more people than ever before. With increased interest here and abroad in the Armada legacy we have here in Sligo, we’d hope that next year’s planned International Armada Conference in Sligo will really fire the imagination of Armada enthusiasts around the world.”
To learn more, visit www.celticfringefest.com