An emotional ceremony in memory of the Spanish Armada brought the 6th annual Celtic Fringe Festival to a close at Streedagh Beach in Sligo yesterday afternoon, Sunday. Tributes were paid on land and at sea to the memory of the 1,100 souls who perished at Streedagh in 1588 when 3 Armada ships were wrecked during Winter storms.
And while the weather was more benign yesterday afternoon, when intermittent Autumn showers fell on the crowd who gathered at the Armada monument at Streedagh, further out to sea, the OPV Centinela
, a Spanish Navy ship, performed a moving tribute to their fallen comrades.
“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 4 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.” Members of the Spanish Navy prepare to lay a sea wreath on board the OPV Centinela
This was the first time a Spanish military vessel had journeyed into Sligo Bay since the ill-fated voyage of the Spanish Armada, when the 3 ships, La Lavia, La Santa Maria de Visón
and La Juliana
were lost as the Spanish retreated following a failed invasion of England.
Many of the lives were lost as the Spanish sailors, soldiers and merchants tried unsuccessfully to make it to shore, and the subsequent letter, written by one of the survivors, Captain Francisco de Cuellar, to King Phillip II of Spain, provides us with a unique insight into the Ireland of the time.
“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.”
The OPV Centinela
in the distance off Steeedagh beach
Among the weekend Armada-themed highlights, which 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.
And as this year’s Celtic Fringe Festival comes to a conclusion, those interested in finding out more about Sligo’s Armada connections by visiting the website www.celticfringefest.com