Divers uncover a Spanish Armada gun carriage wheel at Streedagh Beach in Sligo in 2015 © Underwater Archaeology Unit

Divers uncover a Spanish Armada gun carriage wheel at Streedagh Beach in Sligo in 2015 © Underwater Archaeology Unit

A leading Irish archaeologist has claimed that Sligo has a strong case to develop a National Maritime Museum to house the 13 cannon and other artefacts which have been recovered in dives at Streedagh Beach in the north of the county.

Fionnbarr Moore, Head of the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service and leader of the dive team which brought 9 cannon ashore from La Juliana in the most recent dives in 2015, said that Sligo would be the natural home for such a development.

“Ireland sadly lacks a National Maritime Museum.  A museum like that doesn’t have to be based in Dublin. The West is probably the most obvious place in terms of people’s connection with the sea. The Streedagh sites will be there to be investigated forever, and to have a museum that engages with that and the broader maritime archaeology story, and in Sligo, I could see that as the perfect centre for it,” he said.

Of the significance of the Streedagh Armada wrecks, where three ships, La Santa María de Visón, La Lavia and La Juliana, foundered in 1588 with the loss of 1,100 lives, he added: “In world terms, that is a rare find of massive significance. Because there’s so much information on the guns, you can say so much about the time and the people, they are an extraordinary find. I think as the story grows, we develop our research further, I think that there will be a growing awareness of how important the story is.”

Mr. Moore was one of the speakers at the first Spanish Armada International Conference, which is taking place in Sligo this weekend (Friday Sept 22-24 – see spanisharmadaireland.com).

Speakers from countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, the UK and Sweden gave fascinating insights into the history of the Spanish Armada, a failed military mission which attacked England in the late 16th century but was rebuffed by the English forces led by Drake. Being forced to retreat via a northward route around Scotland and Ireland, up to 26 Armada ships foundered off the Irish coast during severe Winter storms. Streedagh is unique in that three ships were wrecked on one stretch of beach. A contemporaneous account by a Spanish Armada sailor, Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, provides a unique interpretation of this iconic story.

The Spanish Armada International Conference continues throughout the weekend, where, apart from the lectures, many other fringe events will take place. This includes the Remembering the Armada ceremony which will take place at Streedagh Beach on Sunday afternoon September 24th at 3pm, guided walks, a bus tour of the De Cuéllar Trail, a pop-up Spanish Quarter in Grange and other free events, taking place throughout the weekend. For details on all events visit spanisharmadaireland.com.