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San Juan De Sicilia: Tobermory Bay, Sound Of Mull

Galleon (16th Century)

Site Name San Juan De Sicilia: Tobermory Bay, Sound Of Mull

Classification Galleon (16th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Santa Maria De Gracia Y San Juan Bautisa; Tobermory Treasure; Tobermory Galleon; Almirante De Florencia; Florencion; Florida; Brod Martolosi

Canmore ID 22320

Site Number NM55NW 8013

NGR NM 510 550

NGR Description NM c. 510 550

Datum Datum not recorded

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/22320

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Maritime - Argyll And Bute
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Archaeology Notes

NM55NW 8013 c. 51 55

N56 37 W6 4

NLO: Tobermory [name: NM 505 555]

Sound of Mull [name centred NM 58 46].

Possibly on map sheet NM55SW.

Formerly entered as NM55NW 4 at cited location NM c. 5100 5500 [N 56 37.239 W 6 3.5664].

For Tobermory Harbour (centred NM 505 552), see NM55NW 19.00.

One of the galleons of the Spanish Armada, the Florencia, sheltered in Tobermory Bay in Oct 1588. According to documents in the possession of the Duke of Argyll, in whom is vested the ownership of the wreck, she carried pay chests of the Spanish army which was to have invaded England. On the point of departure from the bay, the ship was damaged by an explosion and sank 300 yds off what is now the New Pier. Attempts to salvage the treasure have been made from time to time, though Sacheverell, Governor of the Isle of Man is reported to have recovered much of the lost bullion on the first salvage expedition in 1688.

P A Macnab 1970

The New Pier is at NM 507 553. No further information.

Visited by OS (D W R) 29 April 1974.

The San Juan de Sicilia, a unit of the Squadron of Levant (commanded by Don Martin de Bertendona) is almost certainly the ship blown up in Tobermory Bay and subsequently the subject of salvage operations by Swedes in the 17th century and by 'The Pieces of Eight Company' between 1906 and 1908. She was of 800 tons, had a complement of 279 soldiers and 63 mariners, and carried 26 guns. Her ordnance stores comprised roundshot (1300 shot), powder (69 quintals), lead (19 quintals) and match (18 quintals).

C Martin 1975.

Location cited as NM 508 552 [N56 37.3 W6 3.8] on unstated evidence. The wreck is deeply buried in mud.

G Ridley 1990.

(Classified as galleon: no cargo specified, but date of loss cited as 5 November 1588). San Juan de Sicilia (formerly Brod Martolosi): the Tobermory galleon? Registration: Ragusa.

(Location of loss cited as N56 37.0 W6 3.0).

I G Whittaker 1998.

(No accurate location cited). Although long variously identified as the San Francisco, Florencia, Florencion and Florida, this identification is questionable. The only ship such a name in the Armada was a galleon which sailed in the Levantine flotilla and is known to have returned successfully to Spain. The remains are more probably to be identified as those of the San Juan de Sicilia although this ship is not named specifically among the known ships of the Armada; it may be one of the several that are listed only as San Juan. Displayed in the National Maritime Museum exhibition of 1988 there was a swivel-gun dated 1563, recovered in 1905 from Tobermory Bay and attributed to the San Juan de Sicilia.

This ship was evidently a member of the Levant squadron of the Spanish Armada and came from Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik) in Dalmatia, where she was known as the Brod Martolosi. She was commandeered by Spanish authorities in Sicily in 1588, and like the La Trinidad Valencera (wrecked in Kinnagoe Bay, Co. Donegal, Eire), was probably a specialised grain-carrier, required for the bulk carriage of siege artillery and invasion stores. Her recorded tonnage was 800 and she was listed as carrying 26 guns with a complement of 63 marines [seamen] and 279 soldiers. As outfitted for the campaign, the ship carried 26 guns of various sizes and the senior officer embarked was Don Diego Tellez Enriquez, the ship being in the charge of Luka Ivanov Kinkovic.

The ship was heavily engaged and received damage in the English Channel engagement, before taking refuge in Tobermory Bay, in late September 1588, refuge, assistance and stores being granted by Lachlan Maclean of Duart in return for the use of a company of the embarked troops in an attempt (which proved unsuccessful) to besiege Mingary Castle (NM56SW 1) and in carrying out other local depredations.

The ship was, however, burnt and sunk (in a depth of less than 20m) before the completion of repairs following an explosion which may have resulted from sabotage by one John Smollett. The lower part of the hull may survive at a depth of about 8m below the present seabed some 80m from the present pier [presumably NM55NW 8013].

A tradition of 'sunken treasure' developed soon after the sinking and resulted in numerous attempts at recovery, all of which proved (inevitably) abortive. Bell-diving began in the 1630's and 1640's at the instigation of the Earl of Argyll and recovered several iron guns. The rights to the wreck were transferred to the Crown in 1660 in consequence of the Argylls' support of the Commonwealth, but were subsequently restored to the family. Further salvage operations (using a bell of Swedish origin) were carried out by James Mauld soon after this but raised only a further two large brass guns. After he left, Argyll himself raised a further six and an unnamed German speculator raised an anchor. Operations were also carried out by George Sinclair of Glasgow before Hans Albricht von Treilaben, the Swedish salvor of guns from the Vasa, began work in 1677. He noted that the forward part of the wreck was burnt, leaving heaped cannonballs visible around the main mast and various utensils elsewhere. The after parts of the wreck were covered by a 'heap of great timber' while cannon (one of which was recovered) were found on the seabed around.

In consequence of the Argylls' support of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685, their right to the wreck was forfeited by James II who authorised operations by Archibald Miller of Greenock, whose description of the wreck also survives and broadly corresponds with that left by von Treilaben but also records 'Dishes both great & small' of pewter or plate as well as ballast in the fore part of the ship. He stated that 'There is no deck upon her except in ye hinder part... in the fore part of the ship lie many great ballast stones and some shot amongst them'. The heap of ballast was probably concentrated forward to counter balance the downthrust of a large sterncastle. Miller also recorded the recovery of a silver bell, seven guns, three anchors, a capstan and various other pieces of ship's equipment while adding other (evidently fictitious) pieces of documentary evidence with the evident intention of securing the support of further backers.

In the event, a contract was given in 1686 to William Harrington, Richard Penclarvis, Cornelius de Gelder and Samuel Souton who recovered a further twelve bronze guns (but apparently little else) over the next three years. Right of salvage was restored to the Argyll family by William and Mary but no further operations were attempted until 1729 when Captain Jacob Rowe of London and his partner William Evans visited the wreck at the instigation of the Second Duke following their successful campaigns on the El Gran Grifon (HZ27SW 8001) and the Adelaar (NF60NW 8001). Using his diving 'engine' (essentially a horizontal copper or brass 'barrel') they accomplished a gargantuan feat of clearance, using winches and explosives to break up the structure of the ship but failing to find any treasure before leaving in 1731. The bronze gun of the French king Francis I that is held at Inveraray Castle (NN00NE 15.00) was probably recovered at this time.

Following the development of the closed ('standard') diving dress further unsuccessful attempts at the 'recovery' of treasure were carried out by Gush (in 1871), by the Glasgow Salvage Association (in 1901) and by Col K M Foss and Magaret Naylor (between 1909 and 1932). Other attempts at recovery were made by 'Buster' Crabb (in the 1950's) and in 1975 and 1982.

C L Martin 1973; K Muckelroy 1980; M J Rodriguez-Salgado 1988; C Martin and G Parker 1988; C Martin 1998; J P Delgado 1998.

(No accurate location cited or implied). This vessel formed part of the total Armada fleet of 130 vessels, but was the only to reach the W coast of Scotland. Known as Brod Martolosi (Martolosi's Boat'), she was of 800 tons [unspecified]; her captain was Luka Ivanov Kinkovic and her home port was Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). The vessel was commandeered for Spanish naval service in Sicily and some two years before the Armada; she may have formed part of the fleet sent to the Azores in autumn 1587 under the command of the Marquis of Santa Cruz.

In keeping with the crusading spirit of the operation, the vessel was renamed the Santa Maria de Gracia y san Jan Bautista; she was not the only vessel under the protection of St John the Baptist, and to distinguish her from another vessel of the same name she caws generally known as the San Juan de Sicilia. She retained her affiliation with the Levant, being assigned to the Levant squadron, one of eight squadrons that formed the armada.

The ship was one of the larger vessels in the Armada; only 22 of the 130n ships in the Armada were larger, and only about the same number were more heavily armed. On embarkation (at Lisbon), she apparently carried a crew of 62 (mainly Slavonic) seamen, under Kinkovic. Embarked forces ('tercios') comprised 135 Sicilian troops (under Miguel de Garros), 54 Flemish troops (under Antonia de Valcarel), and 90 Spanish troops (under Don Pedro Enriquez). She also carried various supernumeraries, chiefly craftsmen and personal servants.

The fleet ran into bad weather soon after sailing, forcing the San Juan and other vessels to take refuge in the Biscay port of Laredo, where a badly-damaged supply vessel was stripped of her guns, provisions and complement. The fleet set sail again on 21 July, regrouping off the Lizard after a week. The San Juan de Sicilia was apparently little involved in the channel fight, and remained undamaged in consequence. She may have remained at anchor longer than other vessels in the fireship-induced destruction off Gravelines, three of her anchors being later reported remaining on board. She was, however, in collision with the galleas San Lorenzo, which lost her rudder and ran on shore, to be subsequently looted.

The San Juan was heavily engaged in the ensuing fighting retreat (northwards), being one the ships that regrouped around the Duke of Medina Sidonia's San Martin. She was evidently heavily damaged, and suffered such casualties as to leave a red wake, but her high sides discouraged boarders. The English ships abandoned the chase when they ran out of ammunition. She evidently passed between Orkney and Shetland, falling behind the other ships and probably suffering from the stresses imposed by the high superstructures ('castles') fore and aft. By a process which has not been established, she reached the superb anchorage of Tobermory Bay, where she gained shelter and provided forces to assist Clan MacLean (based at Duart Castle) against the MacDonalds of the Isles, including laying siege to Mingary Castle (NM56SW 1). The ship was destroyed while at anchor at Tobermory, apparently by the hand of a 'Scotchman named Smollet', and at the instigation of ether Lachlan MacLean or the English. A large quantity of treasure ('30,000,000 of money') was on board at the time.

(Well-illustrated and thoroughly referenced publication by Brown and Whittaker includes summaries of personalities, and reproductions of charts and other relevant documents).

A McLeay 1986; O M Brown and J Whittaker 2000.

No accurate location has apparently been recorded for this vessel. Tobermory Bay is not noted as such on the 2001 edition of the OS 1:50,000 map but its well-defined area is centred around NM 510 550.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 18 March 2002.

The formal name of the ship was the Santa Maria de Gracia y San Juan Bautista. This was shortened to San Juan, but then, as there were several San Juans, the descriptor 'de Sicilia' was added for clarity. She was of course from Dubrovnik, but Sicily was where she was seized in 1586 for service on the Armada. So her name was only assigned by the Spaniards. She was probably previously called the Brod Martolosi (Martolosi's boat) after one of her merchant owners.

A mid 17th century source described her as 'a ship of Florence', and the names Florencia, Florencion and Florida are all the result of this. There was one ship belonging to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but it was not this one. She was the San Francisco, but some Spanish sources call her the Florencia - hence all the confusion. The Florencia/San Francisco returned safely to Spain. There is no doubt of the identity of the Tobermory ship.

The treasure story dates from 17th century salvors trying to raise funds by tempting investors with potential fortunes.

No accurate grid reference is available for this wrteck but it has to be somewhere in the SE corner of square NM 500 550. The site is locally said to be close to the present lifeboat mooring.

Information from Dr P Martin, 9 September 2002.

The history of the salvage and exploitation of the remains of this vessel is lengthy, complex and informative. Early attempts at salvage were apparently carried out using a diving bell, and aimed to recover guns and anchors, presumably for reuse. The use of such apparently primitive technology appears to have allowed the location and lifting of substantial fittings and items of equipment without undue difficulty. A total of at least four anchors and at least 27 guns (apparently including two of iron and two of exceptionally large size) were recovered.

The 7th Earl of Argyll (as Admiral of the Western Isles) claimed salvage rights in 1608, and may have attempted to exploit these. In about 1645, the 8th Earl employed James Colquhoun, who recovered 'half a dozen' iron guns.

The 9th Earl was particularly active in salvage operations. In 1665, he employed diving bell engineers James Mauld and John St Clair (or Sinclair), who recovered two 'brass cannons' and a 'great iron gun'. He also (at an unknown date) entered into a brief contract with a German salvor, who recovered an anchor. In 1675, he entered into a contract with Sinclair, van Treileban and Capt Adolpho Smith, who recovered at least six cannon (one of nearly 6cwt); the Earl was to take one-fifth of the profits. In 1683, Archibald Miller was employed. He used a diving bell to record the remains, which he described in a letter to James, Duke of York (later James II). He recovered a number of bronze guns and other items. The former comprised one 'very large' piece, two demi-culverins, two minions and two falcons. The large piece was recorded as measuring 11ft 6ins (3.51m) in length, and may have been one of those recorded as being carried in the hold for use as siege artillery. He also recovered two brass slings, three anchors, two brass sheaves of 60lb (27.3kg) weight, and the ship's rudder, capstan and silver bell.

In 1686, King James II entered intoa 14-year contract with Harrington, Penclarvis, Gelder and Souton, who worked for at lerast two summer seasons, recovering twelve brass guns and other things 'of no great value'. In July and August 1688, William Sachavarell (later Governor of the Isle of Man) used a diving bell to recover a gun, copper kettles, coins and plates. In 1691 and 1693, Goodwin Wharton orgainsised two expeditions; the first was a fiasco and the results of the second are unknown. In 1729-32, Jacob Rowe (with financial backing from John, 2nd Duke of Argyll, Alexander Mackenzie of Delvine, and Duncan Forbes of Culloden) used 'horn-shaped diving apparatus' (presumably a barrel or bell) to unknown effect. In 1740, Sir Archibald Grant and Jacob Rowe recovered 'some guns' (including that now at Inveraray); subsequent operations were constrained by the remains being covered by silt.

Later operations apparently used a varied of methods to recover portions of timberwork and smaller items of antiquarian interest, the former to made into commemorative artifacts and the latter often for their resale value. Recovery continued sporadically between 1740 and 1814, when Sir Walter Scott visited Tobermory; he later acquired part of the ship's timber. In 1752, 'some cannon, several iron balls and other things' were raised, while in 1871 the Marquis of Lorne (later the 9th Duke of Argyll) employed diver Gush, who recovered some coins and a brass 'stanchion'. In 1873, a 'Norwegian barque' brought up a Spanish gold coin with an anchor.

In 1903-4, Captain Burns of the West of Scotland Syndicate (of Glasgow businessmen) employed Gush's son, John, to operate from the steam lighter Sealight with the use of a sand pump. Further exploration was carried out after 1904 from the suction dredger, and recovered the 'Pereira plate', a swivel gun (now at Charterhouse School), and a two mortars and a pestle (now in the National Maritime Museum). Artifacts sold at auction in London on 20 July 1904 comprised parts of the ship's treasure (58 lots), parts of the ship's outfit (5 lots) and parts of the ship's armament (11 lots).

Between 1910 and 1928, Lt Col Kenneth Mackenzie Foss became obsessed by the wreck conducted several salvage attempts (which were interrupted by war) using a suction pump and mechanical grab. Despite promising a return of treasure, investors in his syndicate (the 'Pieces of Eight' or the 'Tobermory Galleon Salvage Company') saw the recovery of iron shot, musket barrels, a gold ring, candlesticks and tongs, broken pottery, buckled pewter and fragmentary crystal. These operations probably completed the demolition of the wreck.

In 1950 the navy was paid by the Duke of Argyll to locate the remains. Four years later Commander Crabbe and a naval team recovered pieces of wood and timber, lead sheeting, an iron gun and shot, pewter and a skull (all reputed to be from the wreck). In 1975-6, Commander John Grattan recovered pewter candlesticks, iron shot and lead sheathing, and in 1982 Wharton Williams Taylor of Aberdeen (a commercial salvage firm) recovered iron shot, bone, leather and potsherds.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 6 November 2006.

A McLeay 1986; O M Brown and J Whittaker 2000.

The area of this suggested wreck was visited by Wessex Archaeology in August 2006 under a contract for an Undesignated Site Assessment issued by Historic Scotland, and in advance of possible commercial salvage diving. Geophysical survey (using chirp sounder, echo-sounder and sidescan sonar) extended across much of the W part of Tobermory Bay. This was followed by diver verification of anomalies; bottom time totalled 109 minutes.

The location of the wreck remains unknown, the depth of burial is uncertain, and the previously-identified archaeological deposits have been extensively worked-over. The Poop Company Ltd is understood to have undertaken a geophysical survey and located the stern of the vessel. The location of this possible discovery remains unknown, and the survival of such a coherent structure is considered improbable, but cannot be totally discounted. Surviving structural remains are probably limited to keel- and floor-timbers, possibly with other elements of limited size.

Within the survey area, the seabed comprises largely a fine-grained sedimentary deposit (probably of silt and/or clay) overlying a coarse-grained compacted sedimentary deposit (possibly comprising sands and gravels). The underlying basement bedrock probably comprises tertiary lavas. The thickness of these deposits is variable, the compacted sediment and the bedrock lying between 1 and 11m and between 5 and 20m respectively below the seabed.

Six anomalies were identified, and found to include deep depressions, which presumably represent previous attempts at exploration or salvage. No archaeological evidence consistent with the loss of this vessel was identified, and probing failed to detect any archaeological deposit.

The locations of the following anomalies are cited:

5006: N56 37.36438 W6 3.71625 [NM 5086 5524]

(Possible structural element at 12.1m below the seabed: too deep for ground-truthing).

5007: N56 37.30636 W6 3.77163 [NM 5079 5513]

(Apparently a modern mooring).

5008: N56 37.33356 W6 3.83596 [NM 5079 5513]

(A large depression, oriented roughly NW-SE and measuring up to 18m broad by 4.25m deep; the length was not established).

(Detailed recommendations are made; the suggested histories of the ship and the investigation of the remains are summarised. Illustrations include location and site plans, sonar (sub-bottom profiler) records and representative seabed sections).

MS/2784.

The survey area examined by Wessex Archaeology is apparently centred around NM 549 508. An area measuring about 1100m from NW to SE by 500m transversely was apparently investigated.

The description of the large depression that is cited by Wessex Archaeology may suggest its equation with the water jetting that is said to been carried out by Cdr John Grattan in 1975-6.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 19 March 2007.

MS/2784 (fig. 1).

Activities

Loss (5 November 1588)

(Classified as galleon: no cargo specified, but date of loss cited as 5 November 1588). San Juan de Sicilia (formerly Brod Martolosi): the Tobermory galleon? Registration: Ragusa.

(Location of loss cited as N56 37.00 W6 30.0).

I G Whittaker 1998.

External Reference (1970)

One of the galleons of the Spanish Armada, the Florencia, sheltered in Tobermory Bay in Oct 1588. According to documents in the possession of the Duke of Argyll, in whom is vested the ownership of the wreck, she carried pay chests of the Spanish army which was to have invaded England. On the point of departure from the bay, the ship was damaged by an explosion and sank 300 yds off what is now the New Pier. Attempts to salvage the treasure have been made from time to time, though Sacheverell, Governor of the Isle of Man is reported to have recovered much of the lost bullion on the first salvage expedition in 1688.

P A Macnab 1970.

Desk Based Assessment (20 March 1972)

NM55NW 4

Spanish Galleon (Florencia) - sank here 1588

NM 509 530 (Area)

One of the galleons of the Spanish Armada, the Florencia, sheltered in Tobermory Bay in Oct 1588. According to documents in the possession of the Duke of Argyll, in whom is vested the ownership of the wreck, she carried pay chests of the Spanish army which was to have invaded England. On the point of departure from the bay, the ship was damaged by an explosion and sank 300 yds off what is now the New Pier. Attempts to salvage the treasure have been made from time to time, though Sacheverell, Governor of the Isle of Man is reported to have recovered much of the lost bullion on the first salvage expedition in 1688.

Information from OS (IF) 20 March 1972

P A Macnab 1970

External Reference (1973 - 1988)

(No accurate location cited). Although long variously identified as the San Francisco, Florencia, Florencion and Florida, this identification is questionable. The only ship such a name in the Armada was a galleon which sailed in the Levantine flotilla and is known to have returned successfully to Spain. The remains are more probably to be identified as those of the San Juan de Sicilia although this ship is not named specifically among the known ships of the Armada; it may be one of the several that are listed only as San Juan. Displayed in the National Maritime Museum exhibition of 1988 there was a swivel-gun dated 1563, recovered in 1905 from Tobermory Bay and attributed to the San Juan de Sicilia.

This ship was evidently a member of the Levant squadron of the Spanish Armada and came from Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik) in Dalmatia, where she was known as the Brod Martolosi. She was commandeered by Spanish authorities in Sicily in 1588, and like the La Trinidad Valencera (wrecked in Kinnagoe Bay, Co. Donegal, Eire), was probably a specialised grain-carrier, required for the bulk carriage of siege artillery and invasion stores. Her recorded tonnage was 800 and she was listed as carrying 26 guns with a complement of 63 marines [seamen] and 279 soldiers. As outfitted for the campaign, the ship carried 26 guns of various sizes and the senior officer embarked was Don Diego Tellez Enriquez, the ship being in the charge of Luka Ivanov Kinkovic.

The ship was heavily engaged and received damage in the English Channel engagement, before taking refuge in Tobermory Bay, in late September 1588, refuge, assistance and stores being granted by Lachlan Maclean of Duart in return for the use of a company of the embarked troops in an attempt (which proved unsuccessful) to besiege Mingary Castle (NM56SW 1) and in carrying out other local depredations.

The ship was, however, burnt and sunk (in a depth of less than 20m) before the completion of repairs following an explosion which may have resulted from sabotage by one John Smollett. The lower part of the hull may survive at a depth of about 8m below the present seabed some 80m from the present pier [presumably NM55NW 8013].

A tradition of 'sunken treasure' developed soon after the sinking and resulted in numerous attempts at recovery, all of which proved (inevitably) abortive. Bell-diving began in the 1630's and 1640's at the instigation of the Earl of Argyll and recovered several iron guns. The rights to the wreck were transferred to the Crown in 1660 in consequence of the Argylls' support of the Commonwealth, but were subsequently restored to the family. Further salvage operations (using a bell of Swedish origin) were carried out by James Mauld soon after this but raised only a further two large brass guns. After he left, Argyll himself raised a further six and an unnamed German speculator raised an anchor. Operations were also carried out by George Sinclair of Glasgow before Hans Albricht von Treilaben, the Swedish salvor of guns from the Vasa, began work in 1677. He noted that the forward part of the wreck was burnt, leaving heaped cannonballs visible around the main mast and various utensils elsewhere. The after parts of the wreck were covered by a 'heap of great timber' while cannon (one of which was recovered) were found on the seabed around.

In consequence of the Argylls' support of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685, their right to the wreck was forfeited by James II who authorised operations by Archibald Miller of Greenock, whose description of the wreck also survives and broadly corresponds with that left by von Treilaben but also records 'Dishes both great & small' of pewter or plate as well as ballast in the fore part of the ship. He stated that 'There is no deck upon her except in ye hinder part... in the fore part of the ship lie many great ballast stones and some shot amongst them'. The heap of ballast was probably concentrated forward to counter balance the downthrust of a large sterncastle. Miller also recorded the recovery of a silver bell, seven guns, three anchors, a capstan and various other pieces of ship's equipment while adding other (evidently fictitious) pieces of documentary evidence with the evident intention of securing the support of further backers.

In the event, a contract was given in 1686 to William Harrington, Richard Penclarvis, Cornelius de Gelder and Samuel Souton who recovered a further twelve bronze guns (but apparently little else) over the next three years. Right of salvage was restored to the Argyll family by William and Mary but no further operations were attempted until 1729 when Captain Jacob Rowe of London and his partner William Evans visited the wreck at the instigation of the Second Duke following their successful campaigns on the El Gran Grifon (HZ27SW 8001) and the Adelaar (NF60NW 8001). Using his diving 'engine' (essentially a horizontal copper or brass 'barrel') they accomplished a gargantuan feat of clearance, using winches and explosives to break up the structure of the ship but failing to find any treasure before leaving in 1731. The bronze gun of the French king Francis I that is held at Inveraray Castle (NN00NE 15.00) was probably recovered at this time.

Following the development of the closed ('standard') diving dress further unsuccessful attempts at the 'recovery' of treasure were carried out by Gush (in 1871), by the Glasgow Salvage Association (in 1901) and by Col K M Foss and Magaret Naylor (between 1909 and 1932). Other attempts at recovery were made by 'Buster' Crabb (in the 1950's) and in 1975 and 1982.

C L Martin 1973; K Muckelroy 1980; M J Rodriguez-Salgado 1988; C Martin and G Parker 1988; C Martin 1998; J P Delgado 1998.

Field Visit (29 April 1974)

The New Pier is at NM 507 553. No further information.

Visited by OS (D W R) 29 April 1974.

External Reference (1975)

The San Juan de Sicilia, a unit of the Squadron of Levant (commanded by Don Martin de Bertendona) is almost certainly the ship blown up in Tobermory Bay and subsequently the subject of salvage operations by Swedes in the 17th century and by 'The Pieces of Eight Company' between 1906 and 1908. She was of 800 tons, had a complement of 279 soldiers and 63 mariners, and carried 26 guns. Her ordnance stores comprised roundshot (1300 shot), powder (69 quintals), lead (19 quintals) and match (18 quintals).

C Martin 1975.

External Reference (1986 - 2000)

(No accurate location cited or implied). This vessel formed part of the total Armada fleet of 130 vessels, but was the only to reach the W coast of Scotland. Known as Brod Martolosi ('Martolosi's Boat'), she was of 800 tons [unspecified]; her captain was Luka Ivanov Kinkovic and her home port was Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). The vessel was commandeered for Spanish naval service in Sicily and some two years before the Armada; she may have formed part of the fleet sent to the Azores in autumn 1587 under the command of the Marquis of Santa Cruz.

In keeping with the crusading spirit of the operation, the vessel was renamed the Santa Maria de Gracia y san Jan Bautista; she was not the only vessel under the protection of St John the Baptist, and to distinguish her from another vessel of the same name she caws generally known as the San Juan de Sicilia. She retained her affiliation with the Levant, being assigned to the Levant squadron, one of eight squadrons that formed the armada.

The ship was one of the larger vessels in the Armada; only 22 of the 130n ships in the Armada were larger, and only about the same number were more heavily armed. On embarkation (at Lisbon), she apparently carried a crew of 62 (mainly Slavonic) seamen, under Kinkovic. Embarked forces ('tercios') comprised 135 Sicilian troops (under Miguel de Garros), 54 Flemish troops (under Antonia de Valcarel), and 90 Spanish troops (under Don Pedro Enriquez). She also carried various supernumeraries, chiefly craftsmen and personal servants.

The fleet ran into bad weather soon after sailing, forcing the San Juan and other vessels to take refuge in the Biscay port of Laredo, where a badly-damaged supply vessel was stripped of her guns, provisions and complement. The fleet set sail again on 21 July, regrouping off the Lizard after a week. The San Juan de Sicilia was apparently little involved in the channel fight, and remained undamaged in consequence. She may have remained at anchor longer than other vessels in the fireship-induced destruction off Gravelines, three of her anchors being later reported remaining on board. She was, however, in collision with the galleas San Lorenzo, which lost her rudder and ran on shore, to be subsequently looted.

The San Juan was heavily engaged in the ensuing fighting retreat (northwards), being one the ships that regrouped around the Duke of Medina Sidonia's San Martin. She was evidently heavily damaged, and suffered such casualties as to leave a red wake, but her high sides discouraged boarders. The English ships abandoned the chase when they ran out of ammunition. She evidently passed between Orkney and Shetland, falling behind the other ships and probably suffering from the stresses imposed by the high superstructures ('castles') fore and aft. By a process which has not been established, she reached the superb anchorage of Tobermory Bay, where she gained shelter and provided forces to assist Clan MacLean (based at Duart Castle) against the MacDonalds of the Isles, including laying siege to Mingary Castle (NM56SW 1). The ship was destroyed while at anchor at Tobermory, apparently by the hand of a 'Scotchman named Smollet', and at the instigation of ether Lachlan MacLean or the English. A large quantity of treasure ('30,000,000 of money') was on board at the time.

(Well-illustrated and thoroughly referenced publication by Brown and Whittaker includes summaries of personalities, and reproductions of charts and other relevant documents).

A McLeay 1986; O M Brown and J Whittaker 2000.

External Reference (1990)

(Location cited as NM 508 552 [N56 37.3 W6 3.8] on unstated evidence). The wreck is deeply buried in mud.

G Ridley 1990.

Note (18 March 2002)

No accurate location has apparently been recorded for this vessel. Tobermory Bay is not noted as such on the 2001 edition of the OS 1:50,000 map but its well-defined area is centred around NM 510 550.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 18 March 2002.

External Reference (9 September 2002)

The formal name of the ship was the Santa Maria de Gracia y San Juan Bautista. This was shortened to San Juan, but then, as there were several San Juans, the descriptor 'de Sicilia' was added for clarity. She was of course from Dubrovnik, but Sicily was where she was seized in 1586 for service on the Armada. So her name was only assigned by the Spaniards. She was probably previously called the Brod Martolosi (Martolosi's boat) after one of her merchant owners.

A mid 17th century source described her as 'a ship of Florence', and the names Florencia, Florencion and Florida are all the result of this. There was one ship belonging to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but it was not this one. She was the San Francisco, but some Spanish sources call her the Florencia - hence all the confusion. The Florencia/San Francisco returned safely to Spain. There is no doubt of the identity of the Tobermory ship.

The treasure story dates from 17th century salvors trying to raise funds by tempting investors with potential fortunes.

No accurate grid reference is available for this wrteck but it has to be somewhere in the SE corner of square NM 500 550. The site is locally said to be close to the present lifeboat mooring.

Information from Dr P Martin, 9 September 2002.

Single Beam Echosounder (23 April 2006 - 1 October 2006)

A single beam echosounder survey was undertaken as part of a on the Tobermory Galleon as part of a site asessment of the Tobermory Galleon.

Information from Wessex Archaeology, October 2006

Contract for Services in Relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973)

Diving and geophysical investigations on the Tobermory Galleon

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Historic Scotland to undertake an Undesignated Site Assessment of the site known as the Tobermory Galleon in Tobermory Bay, Mull. The work was undertaken as part of the Contract for Archaeological Services in Relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973). The assessment was carried out in advance of possible further commercial salvage work on the site.

Wessex Archaeology conducted a geophysical survey at three sites within Tobermoray Harbour on the 23rd August 2006. The survey was conducted from the S/V Xplorer. A geophysical survey was followed by diver ground-truthing of anomalies was carried out to confirm the position, extent, stability and character of any significant archaeological deposits. The survey showed that part of the wreck and debris fields from both the sinking and subsequent salvage may still exist although the precise nature, extent and position of archaeological deposits associated with the wreck, in particular any surviving coherent ship structure, remained unclear.

Throughout the survey all co-ordinates were expressed in WGS84, UTM zone 29N.

Information from Wessex Archaeology February 2012

Information also reported in Oasis (wessexar1-97952) 26 March 2013

External Reference (August 2006)

The area of this suggested wreck was visited by Wessex Archaeology in August 2006 under a contract for an Undesignated Site Assessment issued by Historic Scotland, and in advance of possible commercial salvage diving. Geophysical survey (using chirp sounder, echo-sounder and sidescan sonar) extended across much of the W part of Tobermory Bay. This was followed by diver verification of anomalies; bottom time totalled 109 minutes.

The location of the wreck remains unknown, the depth of burial is uncertain, and the previously-identified archaeological deposits have been extensively worked-over. The Poop Company Ltd is understood to have undertaken a geophysical survey and located the stern of the vessel. The location of this possible discovery remains unknown, and the survival of such a coherent structure is considered improbable, but cannot be totally discounted. Surviving structural remains are probably limited to keel- and floor-timbers, possibly with other elements of limited size.

Within the survey area, the seabed comprises largely a fine-grained sedimentary deposit (probably of silt and/or clay) overlying a coarse-grained compacted sedimentary deposit (possibly comprising sands and gravels). The underlying basement bedrock probably comprises tertiary lavas. The thickness of these deposits is variable, the compacted sediment and the bedrock lying between 1 and 11m and between 5 and 20m respectively below the seabed.

Six anomalies were identified, and found to include deep depressions, which presumably represent previous attempts at exploration or salvage. No archaeological evidence consistent with the loss of this vessel was identified, and probing failed to detect any archaeological deposit.

The locations of the following anomalies are cited:

5006: N56 37.36438 W6 3.71625 [NM 5086 5524]

(Possible structural element at 12.1m below the seabed: too deep for ground-truthing).

5007: N56 37.30636 W6 3.77163 [NM 5079 5513]

(Apparently a modern mooring).

5008: N56 37.33356 W6 3.83596 [NM 5079 5513]

(A large depression, oriented roughly NW-SE and measuring up to 18m broad by 4.25m deep; the length was not established).

(Detailed recommendations are made; the suggested histories of the ship and the investigation of the remains are summarised. Illustrations include location and site plans, sonar (sub-bottom profiler) records and representative seabed sections).

MS/2784.

Note (6 November 2006)

The history of the salvage and exploitation of the remains of this vessel is lengthy, complex and informative. Early attempts at salvage were apparently carried out using a diving bell, and aimed to recover guns and anchors, presumably for reuse. The use of such apparently primitive technology appears to have allowed the location and lifting of substantial fittings and items of equipment without undue difficulty. A total of at least four anchors and at least 27 guns (apparently including two of iron and two of exceptionally large size) were recovered.

The 7th Earl of Argyll (as Admiral of the Western Isles) claimed salvage rights in 1608, and may have attempted to exploit these. In about 1645, the 8th Earl employed James Colquhoun, who recovered 'half a dozen' iron guns.

The 9th Earl was particularly active in salvage operations. In 1665, he employed diving bell engineers James Mauld and John St Clair (or Sinclair), who recovered two 'brass cannons' and a 'great iron gun'. He also (at an unknown date) entered into a brief contract with a German salvor, who recovered an anchor. In 1675, he entered into a contract with Sinclair, van Treileban and Capt Adolpho Smith, who recovered at least six cannon (one of nearly 6cwt); the Earl was to take one-fifth of the profits. In 1683, Archibald Miller was employed. He used a diving bell to record the remains, which he described in a letter to James, Duke of York (later James II). He recovered a number of bronze guns and other items. The former comprised one 'very large' piece, two demi-culverins, two minions and two falcons. The large piece was recorded as measuring 11ft 6ins (3.51m) in length, and may have been one of those recorded as being carried in the hold for use as siege artillery. He also recovered two brass slings, three anchors, two brass sheaves of 60lb (27.3kg) weight, and the ship's rudder, capstan and silver bell.

In 1686, King James II entered intoa 14-year contract with Harrington, Penclarvis, Gelder and Souton, who worked for at lerast two summer seasons, recovering twelve brass guns and other things 'of no great value'. In July and August 1688, William Sachavarell (later Governor of the Isle of Man) used a diving bell to recover a gun, copper kettles, coins and plates. In 1691 and 1693, Goodwin Wharton orgainsised two expeditions; the first was a fiasco and the results of the second are unknown. In 1729-32, Jacob Rowe (with financial backing from John, 2nd Duke of Argyll, Alexander Mackenzie of Delvine, and Duncan Forbes of Culloden) used 'horn-shaped diving apparatus' (presumably a barrel or bell) to unknown effect. In 1740, Sir Archibald Grant and Jacob Rowe recovered 'some guns' (including that now at Inveraray); subsequent operations were constrained by the remains being covered by silt.

Later operations apparently used a varied of methods to recover portions of timberwork and smaller items of antiquarian interest, the former to made into commemorative artifacts and the latter often for their resale value. Recovery continued sporadically between 1740 and 1814, when Sir Walter Scott visited Tobermory; he later acquired part of the ship's timber. In 1752, 'some cannon, several iron balls and other things' were raised, while in 1871 the Marquis of Lorne (later the 9th Duke of Argyll) employed diver Gush, who recovered some coins and a brass 'stanchion'. In 1873, a 'Norwegian barque' brought up a Spanish gold coin with an anchor.

In 1903-4, Captain Burns of the West of Scotland Syndicate (of Glasgow businessmen) employed Gush's son, John, to operate from the steam lighter Sealight with the use of a sand pump. Further exploration was carried out after 1904 from the suction dredger, and recovered the 'Pereira plate', a swivel gun (now at Charterhouse School), and a two mortars and a pestle (now in the National Maritime Museum). Artifacts sold at auction in London on 20 July 1904 comprised parts of the ship's treasure (58 lots), parts of the ship's outfit (5 lots) and parts of the ship's armament (11 lots).

Between 1910 and 1928, Lt Col Kenneth Mackenzie Foss became obsessed by the wreck conducted several salvage attempts (which were interrupted by war) using a suction pump and mechanical grab. Despite promising a return of treasure, investors in his syndicate (the 'Pieces of Eight' or the 'Tobermory Galleon Salvage Company') saw the recovery of iron shot, musket barrels, a gold ring, candlesticks and tongs, broken pottery, buckled pewter and fragmentary crystal. These operations probably completed the demolition of the wreck.

In 1950 the navy was paid by the Duke of Argyll to locate the remains. Four years later Commander Crabbe and a naval team recovered pieces of wood and timber, lead sheeting, an iron gun and shot, pewter and a skull (all reputed to be from the wreck). In 1975-6, Commander John Grattan recovered pewter candlesticks, iron shot and lead sheathing, and in 1982 Wharton Williams Taylor of Aberdeen (a commercial salvage firm) recovered iron shot, bone, leather and potsherds.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 6 November 2006.

A McLeay 1986; O M Brown and J Whittaker 2000.

Note (19 March 2007)

The survey area examined by Wessex Archaeology is apparently centred around NM 549 508. An area measuring about 1100m from NW to SE by 500m transversely was apparently investigated.

The description of the large depression that is cited by Wessex Archaeology may suggest its equation with the water jetting that is said to been carried out by Cdr John Grattan in 1975-6.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 19 March 2007.

MS/2784 (fig. 1).

Note (19 March 2007)

The survey area examined by Wessex Archaeology is apparently centred around NM 549 508. An area measuring about 1100m from NW to SE by 500m transversely was apparently investigated.

The description of the large depression that is cited by Wessex Archaeology may suggest its equation with the water jetting that is said to been carried out by Cdr John Grattan in 1975-6.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 19 March 2007.

MS/2784 (fig. 1).

Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 1591

Name : SAN JUAN DE SICILIA (EX. BROD MARTOLOSI)

Latitude : 563700

Longitude : 60300

Registration : RAGUSA

Type : GALLEON

Loss Day : 5

Loss Month : 11

Loss Year : 1588

Comment : The Tobermory galleon ?

Named Location (Nlo) (23 March 2012)

NLO: Tobermory Bay [name centred NM 513 546]

Calve Island [name centred NM 523 546]

Tobermory [name: NM 505 552]

Sound of Mull [name centred NM 58 46].

Possibly on map sheet NM55SW.

Formerly entered as NM55NW 4 at cited location NM c. 5100 5500 [N 56 37.239 W 6 3.5664].

For Tobermory Harbour (centred NM 505 552), see NM55NW 19.00.

Note (26 March 2012)

(Location re-entered as NM c. 510 550 [N56 37.2 W6 3.6]). The location assigned to this record is essentially arbitrary.

The loss of this vessel may have occurred within the area of map sheet NM55SW.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 26 March 2012.

Note (23 March 2012)

(Location entered as NM c. 51 55 [N56 37 W6 4]). The location assigned to this record is essentially arbitrary. The loss of this vessel may have occurred within the area of map sheet NM55SE.

Tobermory Bay is not noted as such on the 2001 edition of the OS 1:50,000 map but its well-defined area is centred around NM 510 550, within the protection of Calve Island (to the E). The main (Northern) entrance to Tobermory Harbour (NM55NW 19.00) is centred around NM 514 554.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 23 March 2012.

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