The Armada in Donegal:
The wild and remote coast of Atlantic Donegal was not kind to the Armada ships and their crews that found their way there in the storms of 1588. Though numbers vary as to how many of the Armada were wrecked, what can be said with certainty is that many ships and even more lives were lost – both at sea and on lonely shores. Archaeological investigation has taken place at the known wreck site of La Trinidad Valencera both by Dr Colin Martin and later by the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU), with results informing on the richness of such sites that has further elucidated on the ship, its crew and the wealth of a nation.
Anecdotal, historical and at times artefactual evidence from other areas, like that in Loughros Bay, Mullaghderg, Castle Island and Rutland harbour, tease at our curiosity as to whether a wreck is located there or not – and if so, then where exactly? New wreck site similarly can seem to fit perfectly with the historical accounts of the loss of an Armada wreck, like the Rutland Island Wreck that was the focus of extensive excavation by the UAU over a five year period, but which itself remains shrouded in mystery, refusing still to reveal its true identity.
The paper will provide an overview of the Armada in Donegal, with particular details on known sites and, like that for the Armada losses around the rest of the Wild Atlantic Way, it will show that while many questions have been answered, many more remain.
Dr Connie Kelleher is a member of the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU), National Monuments Service since 1999. Connie’s work has allowed her to direct archaeological surveys and excavations, including maritime landscape studies, post-medieval coastal archaeological sites and direct work on a number of specific wreck sites ranging from the 1588 remains of the Spanish Armada ship La Trinidad Valencera; an early 17th-century possible pirate vessel in West Cork; the early 17th-century wreck near Rutland Island, Burtonport in Donegal; the possible remains of one of Cromwell’s Parliamentarian ships, Great Lewis, in Waterford Harbour, to the 1697 remains of the HMS Looe in Baltimore, Co. Cork and most recently as part of the UAU team investigating the Spanish Armada wreck sites at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.
A graduate of NUI Cork, her doctoral thesis from Trinity College Dublin looked at ‘The Confederacy of Pirates in Southwest Ireland in the Early 17th-Century: Trade, Plunder and Settlement – a historical and archaeological study’. She lectures part-time in the Archaeology Department in University College Cork, delivering the ‘Introduction to Underwater Archaeology’ course. Connie has published articles and chapters in books on her work to date.
A past council member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland (RSAI), she currently sits on the board of the International Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA). She is a member of the European Scientific Diver Panel (ESDP), is currently chair of the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) and a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (MIAI)