Forthill Cemetery

Galway City Centre, Co. Galway

It was at Saint Augustine’s Hill, then surmounted by a monastery where in 1589 Sir William Fitzwilliam decrying the leniency of the city, ordered over 300 Armada men to be put to death, by being beheaded. It is scarcely necessary to observe that Fitzwilliam perpetrated these murders because he could not find gold or silver in possession of the sailors or native Irish. This act so terrified the remainder of the shipwrecked sailors that, though sick and half-famished, many preferred to perish in the seas than to try and evade capture on land, a consequence of which scores of others perished.

A fort was subsequently built in 1602- following the disastrous defeat of the Irish & Spanish forces at the Battle of Kinsale under orders from Queen Elizabeth I as much to protect the town and its harbour as to overawe its citizens, some of whose loyalties had come into question. The fort was dismantled by the townspeople in 1643 for fear of reprisals on the largely Catholic and pro-Royalist townspeople by the Protestant and pro-Parliamentarian commander of the garrison. Having been originally been used by the Augustinians the local Catholic population regarded the site as sacred and gradually began to use it as a place of burial in the 18th century. Today a plaque set in the east boundary wall commemorates the greatest act of mass murder in Galway’s history. Erected in 1988 by members of the La Orden Del Tercio Viejo Del Mar Oceano, the oldest marine corps in the world, the memorial is only written in the Irish and Spanish language as an intended snub to the language of the perpetrator.

Our Take

Take the time out of a busy day in Galway to walk to Forthill Cemetery and 'feel' the history of the place. A hidden gem.