Rare Spanish Armada crucifix among Donegal items on sale

16th Century Spanish Silver Crucifix, possibly from an Armada Ship, found in Killybegs. Lot 3 in Whyte’s History, Literature & Collectibles auction 26 January 2013.

By Cronan Scanlon
A RARE sixteenth century Spanish Armada associated crucifix which was discovered in Killybegs is to go under the hammer at an auction in Dublin at the end of the month.

It is one of a number of items of Donegal interest which will form part of the upcoming History, Literature and Collectables auction at Whyte’s.


The “extremely interesting” silver crucifix probably dates from the last quarter of the 16th Century, according to the auctioneers.

The metalwork suggests an origin in provincial Spain and was found on a beach during sand dredging near Killybegs in the early 1900s.

“This warrants further research, it is a truly scarce item,” a spokesperson for Whyte’s said.
The crucifix measures seven inches in height, five and-a-half inches wide and weighs 226 grammes.

It is believed the seller is from South Donegal and that it has never come on the market before.
It has an estimated value of between €500 and €700.

In 1588, it was reported that Killybegs was the last port of call for the Spanish vessel La Girona, which had dropped anchor in the harbour when the Spanish Armada fetched up on the Irish coast during Spain’s war with England.

Also on sale will be a collection of County Donegal Railway posters as well as a scarce  colour tourism poster of Sheephaven Bay and an 18th Century Ardara lead token of Reverend George Nesbitt.

The railway collection is made up of five letterpress posters advertising various events and services including a GAA Grand Challenge Match between a Kilcar-Carrick select and a Ballintra-Townawilly select on May 30, 1935.


Other posters include a pilgrimage to Doon Well on August 19, 1934. The collection is valued at €200 to €300.

The scarce Paul Henry British Railways Sheephaven poster is valued at between €500 and €700 and includes the inscription “To Ireland with ease, by rail and sea.”

Meanwhile, the “very rare” Ardara token is stamped “GN”. Rev George Nesbitt of Woodhill, the principal landowner at Ardara, issued a series of lead tokens to his employees, some of which were later presented to the numismatist, Aquila Smith, by Nesbitt’s grandson.

The token is valued at between €200 and €250.

For further information on the upcoming auction, which will be held on Saturday, January 6, contact Whytes on 01 676 2888 or log on to

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