Friday, July 08, 2005

The Golden Fort


Larry Dunne, a local archeologist, gave my wife and I a tour of an official dig just over the hill on the shore of Smerwick Harbor. Dune erosion has revealed substantial medieval structures, in several levels, including a church and burial ground. Here is a child peaking up out of the sand, its long repose briefly disturbed.

What the archeologists would like to find is some connection with Dun an Oir, the Golden Fort, just a mile away across the bay. In 1580 an English army led by Lord Grey of Wilton, and including among its hangers-on the poet Edmund Spenser and the adventurer Walter Raleigh, besieged here an invading force of Italians, Spaniards and Irish who sought to foment a Catholic uprising against the infidel English queen. The invaders were holed up in the clifftop fort, and cut off from escape by sea by an English fleet. The leader of the garrison may have betrayed his own people, in collusion with Grey, by talking them into surrender and the laying down of their arms. So rendered defenseless, about 600 Catholics were slain, virtually everyone in the fort, including women and children. Most of those killed were decapitated and their bodies thrown over the cliffs into the sea. The mutilated corpses would likely have washed up near the archeological dig.

So far, no bodies without heads or heads without bodies.

Queen Elizabeth's response to Grey: "I joy that you have been chosen the instrument of His glory."