The Tobermory Treasure Galleon

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After the defeat of the Spanish armada by the British fleet in 1588, it is said that a critically damaged Spanish vessel took shelter in the bay of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. The following are details of newspaper clippings reporting and speculating on the Tobermory Galleon wreck and the various salvage attempts that have taken place over the years. At the moment all of stories listed below are from the The Times but we will be adding lots more in the future.

Tobermory Galleon Timeline (printed sources)

The Tobermory Treasure Galleon

The Times - September 5, 1906 Records the recovery of a piece of silver plate weighing 2lb's with a diameter 11 inches. The article also noted that when the plate was recovered it was covered with a brownish coating.
   
The Times - September 21, 1910 Records that the ship lies in 11 fathoms of water.

The wreck originally belonged to the Duke of Lennox, Great Admiral of Scotland. In 1641 the Duke of Lennox gave rights to the wreck to the Marquis of Argyll in return for a one hundredth share of any treasure salvaged from the wreck.

Records that the Marquis of Argyll first attempted to salvage the wreck in 1665, with further salvage  attempts occurring in 1676, 1680 and 1694. These salvage attempts 'yielded little more than a few ships guns, of which some may be seen at Dunstaffnage and Inverary, some copper kettles and tankards, and many cannon balls.'

In 1730 gold and silver coins were recovered from the site along with a finely made cannon dated 1584. In 1740 further salvage efforts yielded more cannons including 'a French field piece carrying the device of Benvenuto Cellini.'

Records that the first modern attempts at salvaging the wreck occurred in 1903, the salvage operation being run by a Captain Burns of Glasgow.

Information supplied by the Spanish Admiralty identifies the wreck as the Duque di Florenzia (the Duke of Florence). Commanded by Captain Pereira, the galleon weighed 941 tons, was constructed of Africa Oak, carried 52 guns, 386 sailors and 100 marines.

Article questions the legend that the Tobermory galleon was carry 30 million pieces of eight: 'Thirty millions of such coins would weigh 765 tons which would not allow much room for men and horses, stores, guns and ammunition.'

The majority of coins recovered from the site so far are pesos from the reign of Philip II.

The Spanish Admiralty sent an officer to Tobermory in 1905 to ask that any human remains recovered by salvors or local people be carefully collected so that the bones could be sent back to Spain for proper burial.

   
The Times - September 24 1910 Two letters refuting some of the information contained within the article published in the Times on September 21, 1910.

Julian S. Corbett states:

That there was no such ship as the Duque di Florenzia

 

The Times - September 27, 1910 Two more letters to the editor:

J. K. Laughton states:

That the ship was not the Florencia, but the San Juan Bautista weighing 750 tons, carrying 24 guns, 297 soldiers and 136 mariners. The ship being commanded by D. Diego Manrique.

   
The Times - September 28, 1910 Letter to the editor from J. K. Laughton commenting on the use of iron chain cables on shipping.
   
The Times - October 1, 1910 Two more letters to the editor:

Archibald Campbell references the Tobermory Cellini gun, salvaged from the Tobermory galleon by the second Duke of Argyll, postulating that it may have been captured by the Spanish at the battle of Caria. The Cellini gun may have been sold to Dulwich college.

'there is an Armada ship lying in Loch Don, facing Oban'

'there is a vessel off the Morven shore, which I believe is now being exploited'

Thomas B Ecroyd calls attention to inaccuracies in J. K. Laughton's letter in the September 27th issue of The Times: 'So far the name of the vessel lying at the bottom of Tobermory bay remains a mystery'

   
The Times - October 4, 1910 Letter to the editor from J. K. Laughton
   
The Times - October 22, 1910 Letter to the editor from Mr. E. K. Purnell
   
The Times - October 31, 1910 Short entry recording the discovery at the wreck site of a priests medal with the inscription 'Ego sum lux mundi via veritas vita', a Portuguese copper coin from the reign of King Sebastian (January 20, 1554 - August 4, 1578) and a number of muskets the previous Friday.
   
The Times - January 16, 1911 'The syndicate which has been searching for the treasure supposed to be lying in the sunken Spanish ship in Tobermory Bay intends to renew its operations on January 23.'

'A number of relics which were recovered from Tobermory Bay during the explorations of last autumn are on view at the offices of  Messrs. W. C,. Read and Co., the secretaries of the ' Pieces of  Eight' Syndicate (Limited), at 5. Great Winchester-street, E.C.,
and can be inspected by any one who is interested in the subject.'

About 20 coins found in total.

   
The Times - April 4, 1912 Records the recover of a silver salver, a stone cannon ball and pieces of African oak.
   
The Times - August 23, 1922 'Evidence of the ship's presence, moreover, has been supplied by the recovery of. various pieces of plates. cannon balls, parts, of muskets swords and daggers, a bronze cannon, 4 1/2ft.. long and with a 3in. bore, and some gold buttons- and silver ware. A quantity of human bones have also been discovered.'

'On Saturday night another bronze cannon, a little, larger than the one recovered previously, was brought to the surface'

   
The Times - March 3, 1950 The Admiralty enter into an agreement with the Duke of Argyll to undertake diving operations on the wreck site: 'It should be made clear that the Admiralty are concerned only in the location of the wrecked galleon, and not in any subsequent operations'
   
The Times - April 1, 1950 Records the discovery of timbers at the wreck site by Royal Navy divers.
   
The Times - May 8, 1950 Records the discovery of two silver medallions at the wreck site by Royal Navy divers. They were found with a suction dredge below 20 feet of silt.
   
The Times - May 9, 1950 Very short statement from the Duke of Argyll about the Royal Navy's operations at the wreck site
   
The Times - August 25, 1950 Notice about Tobermory Galleon related documents that had been put on display at Inverary Castle. Original deed for rights to the wreck from Charles I. Notes c.1677 written by the Duke of Argyll describing the recovery of cannon and other items via a diving bell.
   
The Times - July 15, 1954 Notice in The Times about the Duke of Argyll's acquisition of the ship Ardchattan, to be used in salvage operations on the Tobermory Galleon Wreck site.
   
The Times - August 9, 1954 News of new salvage operations at the galleon wreck site the expedition being led by Rear-Admiral Patrick McLaughlin, R.N. (retd.), and Lieutenant-Commander L. K. Crabb (better known as Buster Crabb, he would later vanish under mysterious circumstances just two years later in 1956).
   
The Times - August 11, 1954 The Duke of Argyll states that the search for the Tobermory galleon is not a treasure hunt: 'The expedition is an attempt to identify and explore the only known galleon of the Spanish Armada'
   
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