Spanish Armada cannons retrieved from Sligo seabed

Underwater archaeology unit recovers material at Streedagh which dates back to 1588

Two 16th-century cannons in extraordinarily good condition have been recovered by underwater archaeologists from the Spanish Armada wreck site off Streedagh, Co Sligo.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys watched one of the two cannons from the wreck, La Juliana, being raised from the seabed when she visited the location in Sligo yesterday morning.

The decision to retrieve the cannons and other artefacts was taken by Ms Humphreys’s department after storms exposed material from the Armada wrecks at Streedagh earlier this year.

The recovery by the Underwater Archaeology Unit attached to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was assisted by skipper Anthony Irwin on his boat Dúlra na Mara.


“The divers prepared the seabed area and then we used airbags and chain blocks to winch the cannons on to the deck,” saidMr Irwin.

One of the cannons bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, venerated by the people of Catalonia and Barcelona. The cannon also bears the date 1570, the year La Juliana was constructed, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, according to Ms Humphreys.

The ship, built in Barcelona in 1570, was trading between Spain and Italy when it was commandeered by Philip II of Spain for his fleet of 130 ships deployed to invade England.

More than 1,000 soldiers and sailors are estimated to have lost their lives when La Juliana, La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision broke up in storms off the west coast in September 1588.


The retrieved material will be conserved by the

National Museum of Ireland

, but the Grange and Armada Development Association (GADA) hopes the artefacts can return to Co Sligo for display close to the wreck location.

GADA wants to establish Grange, Co Sligo, as the Armada centre for Ireland.

Its chairman Eddie O’Gorman welcomed Ms Humphreys’s interest and said his group hoped the Government would fund an interpretative centre as a first step. The community group has leased the old Grange court house as a visitors’ centre for its work in highlighting the Armada links.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times