CLARE is losing part of its culture and history as a 430 year old table made from wood of the Spanish Armada is to go on sale at an auction.
In the autumn of 1588 as many as 27 ships of the Spanish Armada were lost off the Irish coast, two of them were lost off the shores of west Clare. After their sinking the timber from the ships started to come ashore. The high sheriff of Clare recovered some of the decorative carvings from the galleon which were then made into a 3m table. The table was at Dromoland Castle, home of the O’Brien, clan for over 300 years until it was moved to Bunratty Castle in the 1960’s.
Lord Inchiquin, Conor O’Brien has cited ‘financial reasons’ for his decision to sell the table but it caused ‘great personal sadness’. Recently the table was removed from Bunratty by crane.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, John Burke who is Managing Director of the Armada Hotel and also an active member of the Spanish Point community, highlighted his disappointment with the decision to auction the historic table.
“It’s his table to do as he chooses with to a certain degree. Ultimately it’s a big part of Clare history, it would be very disappointing if it left Clare let alone the potential of it leaving the country. The Armada was such a defining period for places like Spanish Point, Doonbeg and the countywide, when you think of the loss of life associated with the Armada, there was over 400 people on board each of these galleons that foundered off the shores here and the table is without a doubt the most significant artefact connecting us with these people and those lives in that period of time, the potential of that disappearing and leaving the county is very sad and it’s sad that we can’t remember that time and the people that died and stay connected with them in some way”.
He is still holding out hope that certain groups or organisations can do something to keep the table in Co Clare. “It can be retained in the county in some way, I’m sure something will come of it. There’s a lot of agencies with cultural and historical mandates that can do something about this and hopefully by publicity of articles that it might trigger the necessary alarm bells at the right level that somebody shouts stop and gets involved in some way”.
No contact has been made by representatives of the Spanish Point Community Group or Mr Burke with Lord Inchiquin but the hotelier is quick to point out that its most recent home of Bunratty Castle was the ideal location to house the table.
“We don’t want this table in Spanish Point because we don’t have the appropriate home for it, maybe at some stage we will and there will be a Spanish Armada visitor centre but at the minute we don’t have the right home for this table it’s just too significant. Bunratty Castle was the perfect place for it, it was representative of the O’Brien clan who would have received it as a gift from the people who salvaged it in the area and that’s important to remember it was the people of Spanish Point who salvaged this table and gifted it to the O’Briens and we’re perfectly happy as a community that it would remain in Bunratty Castle”.
John is fearful that a foreign investor could snap up the table and use it as a piece of furniture abroad. “When you have these defining moments of our history it’s important that we fight to retain them and they don’t disappear into a private dining room of some billionaire who has had no connection with the area or the history of the table”, he concluded.