WHEN Don Gonzalez Fernandez, ambassador of King Charles V of Spain, stepped ashore in Dingle, in April 1529, he may have been greeted by ceremonial drummers.
The present Spanish Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Dona Mercedes Rico, was greeted by the Dingle Fife and Drum Band when she arrived in the town on Friday. She was there at the invitation of the Dingle Historical Society to unveil a commemorative plaque marking the 480th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Dingle.
The treaty concluded between James FitzGerald, eleventh Earl of Desmond and Ambassador Fernandez gave a formal legal and constitutional foundation to the rights of citizenship and other privileges that Irish exiles and emigrés enjoyed in Habsburg Spain, Habsburg Austria and Habsburg Netherlands from the 16th to the early 20th centuries.
Before the plaque was unveiled on the wall of the Temperance Hall Dr Conor Brosnan welcomed Ambassador Rico and outlined the background to the occasion.
In her address the ambassador expressed her delight at being present and thanked the society for the invitation.
"The sense of occasion has been enriched by the marvellous musical march of the Dingle Fife and Drum band and I am most appreciative of the honour that they have afforded me with the parade this evening. In April 1529 your ancestors welcomed the first official diplomatic envoy from Spain to Ireland. When Don Fernandez was asked to come to Dingle he requested 120 ducats to cover his travel expenses but he received four times that amount. How times have changed!" she said to laughter.
"Like my predecessor, I have been greatly impressed by your uniquely charming harbour town. While a lot has changed in Dingle since 1529 some things have remained constant such as the warm and generous hospitality of the people. I was impressed to hear that the old sea pilgrimage from Dingle to Compostella was revived two years ago. I have to say to you that this treaty was very important in the history of Irish/Spanish relations. It gave the Irish people the unique privilidge of full equal rights and equality with Spaniards in Spain," she told the gathering.
Then, with the assistance of Canon Jack McKenna she unveiled the plaque as the band struck up 'Old Comrades'.
"That band is marvellous. We're proud of them and we want them to know it," Canon McKenna remarked to The Kerryman.
Tom Fox informed the assembly that the band would play O'Neill's March on the way to St Mary's Church. "O'Neill's March is very relevant because thanks to the Treaty of Dingle the Wild Geese fared well on the Continent," he said.
The crowd followed the band, in excellent weather conditions, to the church and then packed the meeting room in An Díseart to hear UCD historian Dr Declan Downey's lecture on the treaty and on the relationship between Ireland and Spain over the centuries.
He dedicated his delivery to the late Dr Finbar Ó Sé, Canon Jack McKenna and to this writer.
Incidentally, Charles V's copy of the Treaty of Dingle is in the Royal Library in Brussels and fragments of the Earl of Desmond's copy are in the Bristish Library in London.