The forgotten voyager
In a box in the archives of the National
University of Ireland Galway, there is a bundle
of yellowed letters dating from 1935 to 1936
about a mysterious Galway man who sailed with
Columbus on his first voyage to the west in 1492.
It seems that in 1935 a Chicago-based
organization named the Guillermo Herries League
enlisted the help of historians, librarians and
scholars, in a bid to prove that this Irishman
had in fact discovered America before Columbus. They hoped to name a new bridge after
this brave Irish explorer, but unfortunately their hopes were never realized.
The Irishman in question was recorded in the Spanish navy records as
Guillermo Herries, an unlikely name for an Irishman you might think, and youíd be
right. Perhaps, if he had been known by William Harris rather than the Portuguese
translation of his name, then he would be better known in Irish history. Surely
every Irish child should learn that an Irishman was part of the famous voyage
of the Nina, the Pinta and Santa Maria.
To this day St Nicholasí Church in Galway
is known to have been visited by Columbus in 1477
and it was supposedly here that Guillermo met
Columbus and inspired him with tales of lands to
the west that he had visited himself.
Spanish documents suggest Irish arrived
in America before Columbus The legend of Saint
Brendanís voyage were said to have provided
extra fuel for Columbusí dreams.
It is certainly not impossible that Guillermo could have reached America
before 1492 as Leif Erikson and his band of Norsemen had already discovered
America 500 years beforehand. Tim Severinís reenactment of St. Brendanís
voyage proved that the 6th century monk may have even reached America
centuries before that. So why not Guillermo? Unfortunately, the voyage of
1492 was to be his last.
The story of an Irishman who discovered America