Plaque to 'flown earl' unveiled in Spain


One of Ireland’s “best loved and lost” leaders, Red Hugh O’Donnell, will be remembered in the Spanish city of Valladolid today where a plaque is being unveiled in his honour.

Two-and-a half-year-old Hugo O’Donnell is the youngest of the earl’s descendants to attend the ceremony, which marks the culmination of many years’ effort by the O’Donnell clan to mark the burial place.

Ireland’s ambassador to Spain, Justin Harman, and Mayor of Valladolid Francisco Leon de la Riva will jointly unveil the plaque. Family representatives will include Vincent O’Donnell, secretary of the O’Donnell Clan Association and Don Hugo O’Donnell, Duque de Tetuan and current head of the Spanish branch of the O’ Donnell family.

Red Hugh or “Aodh Rua” died at the young age of 29 in September 1602, having contracted an illness while trying to persuade King Philip III of Spain to come to Ireland’s aid after the Battle of Kinsale defeat in 1601.

Historian Micheline Kerney Walsh says that his wish to be buried in the Church of St Francis in Valladolid was granted.

Many O’Donnells subsequently served as officers in the Spanish army in the 17th and 18th centuries. Donegal poet and historian Ludhaigh Ó Cléirigh described how Red Hugh’s body arrived in a four-wheeled hearse, “with blazing torches and bright flambeaux of beautiful waxlights blazing all around on each side of it”.

“He was buried after that in the chapter of the monastery of St. Francis with great honour and respect and in the most solemn manner any Gael ever before had been interred,” he wrote.

The unveiling coincides with a conference of Spanish and Irish historians in both Madrid and Valladolid, supported by the Irish embassy. A distant O’Donnell relative, film director Richie O’Donnell, has been invited to screen his award-winning documentary The Pipe  on the Corrib gas controversy, at the Valladolid film festival this weekend.

The documentary secured its most recent award in Iceland, and will be screened in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, at the end of this month.