On 20 September 1588, two great ships of the Spanish Armada wrecked on the west coast of County Clare. In total, approximately 7-800 men perished in the stormy waters of the Mal Bay between Doonbeg and Spanish Point.
Their mortal remains washed ashore for miles, only to be buried in mass pits by the natives.
The largest of these is thought to be Tuama na Spainneach, purportedly located at the geographical headland Spanish Point, on the norther shore of Bealaclugga Bay. This July, a first attempt towards locating this site will be conducted by the San Marcos Project in partnership with Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd.
The San Marcos Project was set up in 2014 as a community initiative between the towns of Quilty, Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point. The project, led by local historian John Treacy and diver James McMahon, is searching for the final resting place of the galleon San Marcos and her crew, by performing underwater survey work combined with land based archaeological assessment of possible sites where her crew was interred.
The project completed a preliminary assessment of the proposed wreck site during the summer of 2014 with the support of Geomara, INFOMAR and the Burren Sub Aqua Club. The project draws expertise from a variety of disciplines; interestingly most of the experience has been sourced from people within these communities. The project has publicans, students, metalworkers, academics, media experts, photographers, videographes, veterinarians, fisherman and retirees among the ranks, to name but a few.
The Burren Sub Aqua Club undertakes the underwater survey work and has carried out many dives at the site since the project began. The Burren SAC is a local club of divers affiliated to the CFT (Irish Underwater Council).
Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd is an archaeological and heritage consultancy firm serving the UK and Irish markets. The team, led by Damian Shiels and Enda O’Flaherty, specialise in battlefield archaeology and have carried out a number of similar community engagement projects in the past.
In partnership with Rubicon Heritage Services, the San Marcos Project has been awarded €2000 under the Community Grants Scheme 2015 by the Heritage Council. In July, a team from Rubicon, assisted by the San Marcos Project team of volunteers, will conduct a comprehensive geophysical survey at the site in Spanish Point reputed to contain a mass burial of victims from San Marcos and San Esteban. This survey will help in assessing whether a mass burial did in fact occur in Spanish Point and could pave the way for a further, more detailed archaeological project in the future.
All of us at the San Marcos Project are delighted to welcoming our partners at Rubicon Heritage to the Tuama na Spainneach site on 30-31 July. Damian Shiels, Enda O’Flaherty and team will conduct a comprehensive geophysics survey at this site. It is hoped to ascertain whether victims of the Armada wrecks at Mutton Island and Doonbeg, are in fact interred here.
We will be delighted to welcome members of the public while these works are being carried out, further details will be available via social media, plus local and national media outlets. This project is funded by the Heritage Council’s Community Engagement Program. The San Marcos Project would also like to thank local landowner, Mr. Michael Haran for his enthusiastic support for the works on his land. Damian Shiels will also present a public lecture The Archaeology of Conflict in Elizabethan Ireland on Thursday 30 July (location and times TBC)