An archaeological dig has begun in the Spanish city of Valladolid to find the remains of Irish Chieftain Red Hugh O’ Donnell, who ruled over Tyrconnell in the 17th Century.
The Donegal-born Lord who led a nine-year rebellion against the English was one of the outstanding and best loved figures in Irish history. His 400-year-old remains are believed to lie beneath the streets of the northwest city of Valladolid.
The skeleton of O’Donnell, if found, may be easily identified as he had no big toes. Historians say he lost his toes through frostbite suffered in the Wicklow mountains after escaping imprisonment in Dublin Castle in December 1591.
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 29. Other legends say he was poisoned by an Irish traitor.
O’Donnell was succeeded by his brother Rory O’Donnell who was the 1st Earl of Tyrconnell.
Red Hugh is believed to have had an honourable burial in the chapter the monastery of St. Francis in Valladolid. However this convent was demolished in the nineteenth century and the exact location of the tomb is unknown.
This week, diggers have launched a search for the remains of Red Hugh and of Cristopher Columbus at the ‘Chapel of Wonders’ where both are thought to be buried.