The Great Girona Gold Hunt

Gold Ruby Salamander PendantAnother post in an occasional series on maritime history. Blueprint’s short run may have finished but tonight BBC NI are showing what looks set to be a fascinating programme in the BBC 1 9pm slot – The Great Girona Gold Hunt – and here.

Forty years after discovering the wreck of gold-laden warship from the Spanish Armada on Antrim’s treacherous north coast, Robert Stenuit dives the site again and reveals the intrigue behind the recovery of the greatest haul of Armada treasure ever made. On a wild autumn night in 1588, the warship was wrecked and the Girona lay undiscovered for nearly four centuries, until treasure hunter Robert Stenuit found her wreck site and secretly began to salvage its golden hoard.

That hoard, including the gold and ruby salamander pendant, is on permanent display in the Ulster Museum [when it re-opens – Ed]. The Girona was commanded at the time of the wreck by Don Alonso Martinez de Leiva, Commander Designate of the Armada [pdf file]. The ship was crowded with 1,200-1,300 men when it sank. Producer Roger Ford-Hutchinson provided a equally fascinating background to the making of the programme in the Belfast Telegraph today. Adds Highly recommended, by me anyway, and available on the BBC’s iPlayer.

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  • pauljames

    Brilliant history, great human interest and I must admit presenter Neil Oliver has grown on me enormously since Coast. Well done Roger Ford Hutchinson and BBC NI.

  • Pete Baker

    Totally agree, pauljames.

    Excellent in every aspect.

    I hope they iPlayer it. And add the original documentary mentioned.

  • Peter Brown

    The thing that struck me about it was not only that it was a fascinating programme (I particularly enjoyed the fact that although the original team which starred in the documentary did most of the work and therefore deservedly got most of the credit one of the most important artefacts was discovered after they left by the local “pirates” they saw off in an underwater scuffle who arrived with a jackhammer!) but also that but for the work of Laurence Flanagan the collection would have been split up by being auctioned had he not offered the conservation facilities and then negotiated the purchase of the enitre collection and raised the funds to do it in just 6 months.

    His thanks for this piece of invaluable contribution to Norther Ireland as anyone who visited the Girona Collection at the Ulster Museum (the only thing I recall from my school visits othe than the mummy and the wavy painting) [text removed by request – mods]

  • A quality documentary, atypical of BBC NI. This is the kind of local TV that its worth bumping the national schedule for. More of this and less Good Dog Bad Dog replacing Have I Got News For You.

  • overhere

    I missed the programme was watching “pushing dasies” on ITV3. But would have loved to see it so hopefully it is on i-player. I did not know it was on as I usually tune into BBC NI from London for the news. Unfortunately the Gaelic games are always shown on BBC2 NI and I cannot get that.

    I wondered if any of the survivors (if there were any) got ashore and married ito the local population it would have been interesting to see if there were any Spanish surnanes or DNA traces in the North Antrim area.

  • Pete Baker


    The relevant iPlayer link is in the update to the original post.

    Download and keep for 30 days available too.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Any mention of the Spanish Armada reminds me of a very sad time in our history. The Spanish Armada aided by the Popes excommunication of Elizabeth brought about the second period of trouble to Ulster. The first period happened when a previous Pope gave Ireland to an English King in the 12th century.

    Isn’t it about time we recognised this common denominator and combined together to get ride of it from our shores?