• Morgan Fagg

A look at our history book and the Irish leader, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare

Updated: Oct 13, 2018


They say you should never judge a book by its cover but that is the whole idea of the cover, to give you an idea of what to expect, a snapshot of the story held between cover and end.

This dated book that was shared with the group and opened up the discussion at the recent Embassy event to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the Irish leader, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare.

People passed the book, some carefully turning the pages, some unwilling to touch the ancient manuscript without using gloves and others even smelling the book which had seen so much of Spanish Irish history.

Turning back a page of history, the discussion went from clan to clan and battle to battle and land to land, crossing the Shannon in skin covered boats.

The book had one of the worst covers I have seen in awhile but was certainly worth a look. At €500, the book looked its age and our guest speaker had paid almost a €1 for every year, since the book first appeared.

Dating back to the time of the great writers Cervantes and Shakespeare, this book had travelled far to tell the tale of Irish leader Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and the first Irish to arrive in Madrid.

The book was in good hands as Senior Lecturer in History at University College Cork, Dr. Hiram Morgan had brought his book on a early flight from Cork. The early morning flight was the first part of the weekend celebrations of Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and Dr. Morgan was not alone in his travels. O’Sullivans in both Ireland and Spain had travelled to Madrid for the event.

Starting at 7.30 in the Ambassador’s Residence, José Luis Hernanz Elvira, Historian at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid joined Dr Morgan for a bilingual talk on the life and death of Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and the Irish who fled Ireland for Spain at the start of the 17th Century. Welcomed to Spain, the talk and a subsequent walking tour on Saturday morning focused on the places in Madrid where the Irish lived and died. Starting at the place of his death in Plaza de Santo Domingo.

The event marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the Irish leader but I imagine Madrid has changed much over the centuries. The city only becoming the Spanish capital from 1561 onwards when Philippe II established his royal court here.

Much has changed yet somethings have stayed the same, one man who had flown to Madrid for the event.

Paddy O’Sullivan told the group about his own efforts to retrace the journey his ancestors made which included a 14 day trek across Ireland and crossing the Shannon in a curragh. He also bought land in the area becoming the first O’Sullivan clan to live there in 400 years.

No doubt many more books can be written about the Spanish Irish adventures in Madrid.

Thanks to Ambassador McGuire and the Embassy for hosting a great night and apologies to the legendary Madrid Harps G.A.A. team whose Quiz Night I missed while in the company of the Irish trailblazers who first made Madrid their home.

Adventure and history inside as we take a look inside our history book

Thanks for reading

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