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Memory of Red Hugh O’Donnell honoured in Valladoloid

Spanish city of Valladolid honours the memory of Irish hero Red Hugh O’ Donnell, who was buried there in 1602.

Justin Harman, Ambassador of Ireland to Spain and Francisco Leon de la Riva, Mayor of Valladolid, yesterday jointly unveiled a commemorative plaque marking the burial place of Red Hugh O’ Donnell in Valladolid. The plaque was unveiled in the presence of 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. The youngest representative of the O’ Donnell Clan two and a half year old Spaniard Hugo O’ Donnell, grandson of Don Hugo, was also present.

The unveiling is the culmination of efforts over many years by the O’ Donnell Clan, in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Madrid, to mark in a formal way the final resting place of Red Hugh O’ Donnell.

Red Hugh, whose family forged a unique connection with Spain, was one of the outstanding and best loved figures in Irish history.
 Following the defeat of the Irish and Spanish forces by Lord Mountjoy at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, Red Hugh sailed to Spain to plead with King Philip III for further assistance. While waiting for an audience with the King in Simancas near Valladolid, he fell ill and died in September 1602 at the age of twenty-nine. According to historian Micheline Kerney Walsh, his wishes were to be buried in the Church of St Francis in Valladolid and this was done.
Ludhaigh Ó Cléirigh, 17th Century Donegal poet and historian described his burial:

“His body was taken to Valladolid, to the King’s Court, in a four-wheeled hearse, with great numbers of State Officers, of the Council and of the Royal Guard all round it, 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.”

The unveiling of the plaque coincides with a Conference of Spanish and Irish historians, supported by the Irish Embassy in Madrid, taking place in Madrid and Valladolid to discuss Power Strategies in Spain and Ireland 1600-1825. Prominent Irish academics attending who will also be present at the plaque unveiling include Dr Declan Downey, UCD and Dr Linda Kiernan, TCD.