A film about the adventures of a Spanish Armada soldier, shipwrecked on the Irish coast in 1588, will be premiered in Madrid on March 12th next as part of Semana de Irlanda (St. Patrick’s Week).

The film, titled Armada 1588: Shipwreck & Survival, describes how, on 21st September 1588, a huge storm led to the shipwreck of three Spanish Armada ships at Streedagh Beach in Sligo, resulting in the deaths of more than a thousand Spanish sailors and soldiers. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, a small number of Spaniards escaped, among them Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, who later wrote a detailed account of the shipwrecks and of the following seven months he spent on the run, doing all that he could to flee from English soldiers sent to capture him, until he finally managed to escape from Ireland in early 1589.

“It truly is an incredible story,” says Eddie O’Gorman, President of Spanish Armada Ireland, a voluntary group that produced the film. “From being hurled by the waves up onto the beach, until he escaped to the relative safety provided by some local Gaelic chieftains, de Cuéllar was in constant danger during the months he spent in Ireland. The testimony he later wrote is a very significant part of Armada history and was what we based the film on.”

Armada 1588: Shipwreck & Survival (or Armada 1588: Naufragio y Supervivencia in Spanish) explores the origins of the Spanish Armada. It describes how the two major world powers of the 16th century, Spain and England, faced off in a major naval conflict in the English Channel. The English prevailed, and the Spanish retreated northwards, rounding the coasts of Scotland and then Ireland before taking the long route back to Spain. But arriving off the Irish coast, the Spanish fleet encountered huge storms, resulting in the loss of 26 Armada ships, including the three that sank at Streedagh.

“This film is a mix of dramatic reconstructions, CGI (computer generated imagery) and animation,” says Al Butler of Medicaoop, director of the film. “The filming of maritime scenes is challenging at the best of times, and we wanted the film to reflect reality as much as we could. And recording the scenes on the beach during a violent storm gave us a flavour of the conditions experienced by the Spanish on the west coast. Working in rain and hailstones, the cast and crew did an amazing job.”

The result is spectacular. The lead actor, Fernando Corral, plays the part of Francisco de Cuéllar as he dices with death on the beach and following his escape, encounters one dangerous situation after the other. Shipwrecked in unknown lands, unable to communicate, his life was under threat from the native Irish as well as from the English swordsmen sent to kill all surviving Spaniards. By some stroke of good fortune, he managed to find his way to the local chieftains O’Rourke and McClancy, who offered the Spanish protection. For this they would pay a high price. Within a couple of years, both men were dead, killed for the help they had provided to the Spaniards.

The film was financed by the Department of Rural and Community Development under Town and Village Renewal funding, and supported by Sligo County Council. “This enabled us to create a film that would help bring the Armada story to much bigger audiences,” says Micheál Ó Domhnaill, one of the film’s producers. “The story of Francisco de Cuéllar has everything you could ask for in an adventure film. This finance, allied to the incredible enthusiasm given by the creative team and by the local community, means that we now have a production of the highest broadcast quality. Screening the film in Madrid during Semana de Irlanda will help us reach new audiences and we are grateful to Tourism Ireland, the Irish Embassy and the Naval Services in Madrid for this opportunity. We hope that many of the viewers will be inspired to visit Sligo themselves to find out more about the area’s remarkable Armada legacy.”

Armada 1588: Naufragio y Sobrevivencia (Duration 27 mins) will be screened in Spanish (with English subtitles) on March 12th next at two centres in Madrid. Tickets are FREE but are limited in number and can be booked via SpanishArmadaIreland.com or on the Semana de Irlanda social media channels. The screenings will be hosted at:

12:00 Cuartel General de la Armada, C/Juan de Mena, 7, 28014 Madrid.
19:00 Centro Cultural de Casa de Vacas, P.º de Colombia, Retiro, 28009 Madrid.

The Armada 1588: Naufragio y Sobrevivencia trailer can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/420315219.

Further Information:
Omedia, The Model, The Mall, Sligo F91TP20, Ireland.
or at Semana de Irlanda