Mícheál de Mórdha is the recently retired director of the OPW Great Blasket Centre, which is situated in Dún Chaoin, West Kerry. He is a native of Dún Chaoin and, except for a few years in employment in Dublin, has spent most of his life up to now living and working in his native patch.
He was appointed manager of the newly built Centre in 1993, and prior to that he was employed by RTÉ as a Clár Reachtaire (producer/broadcaster) with Raidió na Gaeltachta at their station in Baile na nGall. He has also done some work for television, especially for TG4.
In late 2015 his book on the social history of The Great Blasket Island: An Island Community – The Ebb and Flow of The Great Blasket Island (Liberties Press, Dublin) was published and currently he is in the process of writing a book on the theme: Blasket Shipwrecks.
Amongst his other passions are traditional music and song, especially ‘sean-nós’ singing; Irish language and literature and The Western Isles of Scotland.
He was President of Oireachtas na Gaeilge in 2010.
The Armada in Kerry: A Local Perspective of the Wrecking of the ‘Santa Maria de La Rosa’ in Blasket Sound. Some facts, folklore and enigmas
In this talk we examine the facts and the fiction connected with the sinking of a large Spanish Armada ship, the Santa Maria de La Rosa, of the Guipuzcoan squadron, in Blasket Sound, on 21 September 1588. There were several different witnesses to this tragedy: at least two other large Armada ships; a youth called Antonio, perhaps the only survivor from the Santa Maria de la Rosa; and also from the representatives of British forces on the mainland.
We also examine the folklore surrounding this sorrowful event especially the once common belief that ‘the son of the King of Spain’ lies buried in Dún Chaoin, opposite the Blasket islands, having been drowned in the Sound with a lot of other ‘tall men’.
Then we look at the reported discovery of the wreck of the Santa Maria de La Rosa by a team of divers in the late 1960s and the excitement and the enigma attached to these reports.
But perhaps the saddest story of all is that of Don Juan Martinez de Recalde’s, admiral of all the fleet – a once acclaimed and noble navigator, who found himself and his majestic St. Juan of the Portuguese squadron, in dire straits in the lee of the Blasket island for a few days in September 1588, before he narrowly escaped the clutches of a severe storm to return home a sick and broken man, where he died a few days after reaching his native shore….