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Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas

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Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Irish Guilliermo Herris
Sailed with Columbus
by Amanda Driscoll, Irish Central, October 12,2015

The forgotten voyager
The story of an Irishman who discovered America

Columbus Leaving Port.jpg 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. Columbus landing in the West Indies.jpg 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.