Galway and the Armada

A pamphlet of 1588 in Marsh's Library, Dublin, gives the list of the ships of the Spanish Armada lost off the western coast as:-

"In Sligo Haven, 3 great ships, 1500 men; In Clare Island, 1 ship, 300 men; In Finglasse, 1 ship, 200 men; In O'Flartie, 1 ship, 200 men; In Irrise, 2 ships and In Galway Bay, 1 ship and 70 men."

John Lynch author of Cambrensis Eversus, in his Vila Kirovani, relates:

"The men who sailed in those ships having in many instances, escaped the dangers of the raging sea, met on their landing a more implacable foe in the person of the viceroy, William Fitzwilliams, by whose order many of them were basely butchered. The Queen of England censured this unjustifiable cruelty. The viceroy was intent on seizing whatever of the Spanish property was cast on shore, and having instituted a rigid search, committed many persons to prison as abettors of the Spaniards, and thus was given occasion to many of the turbulences which afterwards ensued. The Spaniards cast ashore at Galway were doomed to perish; and the Augustinian friars, who served them as chaplains, exhorted them to meet death bravely when they were led out, south of the city, to Saint Augustin's Hill, then surmounted by a monastery, where they were beheaded. The matrons of Galway piously prepared winding sheets for the corpses, and we have heard that two of the Spanish sailors escaped death by lurking a long time in Galway, and afterwards getting back to their own country."
Fort Hill Cemetary

A photograph, taken in 1901, of Fort Hill Cemetary; this photograph is part of the Lawrence collection at Galway library. Fort Hill Cemetary contains Saint Augustin's Hill and is the resting place of a number of Spanish sailors of the Spanish Armada of 1588.

Rev. C. P. Meehan, translator of Vita Kirovani in a note states:

"Sir William Fitzwilliam visited the city in 1589, and did the atrocity described by Lynch. The Deputy commissioned one Fowle to hunt out the unfortunate Spaniards and Portuguese from their lurking places, and caused about 200 of them to be put to death. The pious conduct of the matrons of Galway offers a splendid contrast to the cold-blooded cruelty of the refined English Viceroy. It is scarcely necessary to observe that Fitzwilliam perpetrated these murders because he could not find gold or silver in possession of the sailors or native Irish. Ware says he undertook a journey in hopes to finger some portion of the treasure; but to no purpose."

Hardiman writes that this summary execution so terrified the remainder of the shipwrecked sailors that, though sick and half famished, they chose sooner to trust to their shattered barks and the mercy of the waves, than to their more merciless enemies, in consequence of which multitudes of them perished. Fitzwilliam himself also journeyed through Connacht.Sir Murrough O' Flaherty, William Burke and several of the principal inhabitants of Mayo and Iar Connacht submitted, and were put under conditions to give hostages, disperse their forces, deliver up all the Spaniards and Portuguese to whom they have given shelter, pay fines, and hand up all the spoils which they had taken.