Armada Treasure Chest for Ennis

Clare Champion, Friday, July 5, 2001

Ireland's links with the ill-fated Spanish Armada of 1588 are strewn all over the waters off the west coast. From the Blasket Sound all the way up to Donegal, the floor of the sea is home to many over twenty galleons of the Armada. The captains didn't know the floor of the sea as they should have - like fisherman do, fisherman who know the floor of the sea as well as a farmer knows his land. This was especially true of the water off the west coast of Clare. Three Armada galleons were lost as the Spanish tried to retreat home, lives were lost and treasures were lost.

Over three hundred men lost their lives and 60 were captured when the 750 ton San Esteban was driven ashore at Doonbeg. A second ship was wrecked off Mutton Island. Its crew was hanged by Boetius Clancy and their remains buried near Spanish Point. The third ship, the Anunciada, was scuttled by her crew off Scattery Island.

But all the treasures were not lost as the latest addition to the Riches of Clare Museum could provide a link with one of the galleons that perished off the Clare coast. A treasure chest in the true sense of the word. The chest is a rectangular iron box measuring 27 inches long by 14.5 inches wide by 15.5 inches high and is held together with forged iron horizontal bands. The interior is lined with tin or pewter sheets while both narrow sides contain double iron rings through which two iron carrying bars can be pushed. With all of this metal the box is very heavy, weighting about six stone.

The chest has been presented to the museum by Lady Averil Swenfen of Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. Lady Averil, who has lived in Spanish Point, Lisdoonvarna, and Corofin in the past is the author of 'Forgotten Stones - Medieval Churches of the Burren', a highly regarded work. The Armada Chest is thought to have been purchased by either her father or her grandfather, on one of the family's many visits to the west of Ireland, probably Kilkee.

John Rattigan, Curator, is delighted with this acquisition. "Although we can't prove that the chest came from an Armada ship, its origins in Kilkee and the fact that it has been known for many years as the Armada chest suggest possible links and make it a very interesting object", he said.

The chest is now on view in the museum in Arthur's Row, Ennis. The opening hours of the museum are 9:30a.m. to 5:30p.m., Monday to Saturday and from 2:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. on Sunday.

John Rattigan, Museum Curator and J J McCormack, Museum Attendant with the Spanish Armada sea chest, July 2001.
John Rattigan, Museum Curator and J J McCormack, Museum
Attendant with the Spanish Armada sea chest, July 2001.
Photo: John Kelly

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