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Department of Culture makes contact with Spain over dig for Red Hugh O'Donnell's remains

Red Hugh and his father-in-law Hugh O’Neill fought the Nine Years’ War against the English and sought aid from Spain.

Image: Oscar Puentes

THE DEPARTMENT OF Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has made contact with Spanish authorities after archaeologists said this week they believe the burial place of 16th century Irish nobleman Red Hugh O’Donnell’s has been discovered. 

Ongoing excavation in Valladolid in northwest Spain has made headlines this week after archaeologists said they were confident they had found the remains of the church where O’Donnell is believed to be have been buried. 

On Tuesday, mayor of Valladolid Oscar Puente posted images of the excavation work on Twitter and wrote: “In the chapel of Wonders, in the exact place where Red Hugh O’Donnell is believed to have been buried as well as Christopher Columbus, some remains and two coffins have appeared.” 

The photograph shows a human skull and bones along with what appear to be two wooden coffins.

O’Donnell died in Spain in 1602. Red Hugh and his father-in-law Hugh O’Neill fought the Nine Years’ War against the English and sought aid from Spain.

Their forces were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in 1602 with Red Hugh travelling to Spain to request aid from Prince Philip III. He was on his way to Valladolid, then the capital of Spain, when he died. 

This evening, the Department confirmed it had made contact with Spain over the excavation. 

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“Once the Department became aware of the archaeological excavations in Valladolid and the connection with Red Hugh O’Donnell, with the assistance of colleagues in the Embassy of Spain in Dublin the Department’s National Monuments Service contacted the Spanish authorities and are in direct contact with the excavation team,” a spokesperson said. 

“The department is also in contact with the Irish Ambassador who has conveyed to the Mayor of Valladolid the interest of the Irish authorities in this project and our appreciation of the work of all involved.”

Said Minister Josepha Madigan TD: “Whatever may ultimately be discovered or revealed through this work, we welcome the focus on our shared heritage that this project represents, raising awareness of Red Hugh O’Donnell’s life and his death in Spain, in his legacy and that of other Irish emigres of the period.”

With reporting by Orla Dwyer 

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