Getting Girona Gold


Hello and hi. Not my usual post. I hope you like it. Yes. Yes, I do. Ok, let’s do this. Right, then…

Approximately 50 years ago, Belgian Robert Sténuit discovered pieces of eight (a Spanish dollar, equivalent to 8 reals) in the freezing, dark, seabed- off the coast of Northern Ireland. Oh you are not familiar with this story? Allow me. You are welcome, of course.

In 1588, the Girona-one of the most important ships in the Spanish Armada, sank beneath the freezing iciness of the Atlantic waves, after striking rocks at Lacada Point near Portballintrae, County Antrim. Later, this place was to become the resting place of the Girona along with its haul of gold and various artefacts.  In brief, there was a massive cache of Spanish treasure on board. In addition, all but nine of the 1,300 on board met their fate, in an unmarked, watery grave. How terribly tragic.

Fast forward and it is the anniversary of Sténuit’s discovery of the Girona gold, and the anniversary has now been commemorated in a series of events of Northern Ireland’s north coast.

Events included a wreath-laying ceremony, which took place from a Navy vessel, near Lacada Point (the rocky place that is believed to have been struck by the Girona.

Image result for Image of Lacada Point Northern Ireland                                                                                                                       Image: The Daily Mirror

In addition, a service was held at St Cuthbert Church near Dunluce Castle, where an estimated 260 Girona sailors were buried. The aforementioned events were organised by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council-which commemorated the lives lost as well as the cultural/historical impact of the Armada and its subsequent legacy.

In addition, the anniversary reflects both the gold and artefacts recovered by Stenuit-but also the anecdotes which denote those poor sailors who were sadly swallowed by the sea, while on board the Girona. The Girona set sail in May 1588 and it was a galleass ship (it was part gallery, part galleon) and was meant to be one of Spain’s principle weapons in the war against England.  But by the time the Girona sank by 1588-the ship carried more men than it was intended to and also, it had picked up surviving crew from other shipwrecks. The nine survivors of the shipwreck were later helped by local chief Sorley Boy McDonnell.

McDonnell was extremely wary of attracting unwanted attention from Crown forces, who no doubt would take interest in the Girona and its treasure. So McDonnell did the only thing a person could do in this situation. Lie. McDonnel told the Crown forces that the ship had sunk at another point on the coast-and not the real location. From that moment on, the Girona and its secrets lay in the silent deep and under water for 400 years. 400 years later a certain and determined Belgian by the name of Robert Sténuit, commenced a covert mission to uncover the lost Armada ship.



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Robert Stenuit, 2008

                                                                                                                              Image: BBC News


Robert Sténuit, brief bio

Sténuit was considered, a vanguard-the guy was a trailblazer. He sure was. In addition, Sténuit  was also a historian and he had a hunch-some might call it a historical hunch or rather a gut feeling, as to where the Girona had sunk. You see, whike looking at 19th century maps, he noticed 2 markings, which were: Spaniard rock and Port na Spaniagh. He followed through on these points and his hunches turned into reality.

Sténuit told a 2008 documentary, “the geographers came and asked people how is this place named and why. There was a very vivid memory of what had happened.” Later, in 1967, Sténuit commenced his search/dive and was accompanied by his associates, Mark Jasinski, and his wife, Annette. Within a week diving around Port na Spaniage, they had located a bronze Armada cannon, an anchor and a gold escudo. At that moment, they knew they had found the right place. Jackpot. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  But the crew maintained a pretty strict silence on their discovery-as they had no legal powers over the wreckage site, they knew, that they could potentially lose out. So, they kept quiet about their discovery-and later stashed their finds in an underwater cave and later, went to London Town to get financial backing for a more comprehensive search/dive of the seabed.

Sténhuit and his crew, returned in April 1968-and registered an interest with the receiver of wrecks-Sténuit was pretty confident that he had legal power of the site, at this point, but still, kept quiet.  Later, as told to a documentary on this subject, he said, “We told people we were filming the underwater eco-system around the Giants Causeway,”

But the crew’s decision to salvage a full cannon, actually let the Armada secret out of the bag. Sténuit remarked, “Everyone could see what we were doing. There was pandemonium, there was big posters in the street…The evening newspapers printed ‘GOLD’ like this across the front page, and everyone was there during the weekend. We were overwhelmed by tourists.” Soon after, Sténhuit’s crew were joined a couple of divers from the Belfast Sub-Aqua Club. The Belgian told the documentary: “I asked them if they were going to the site of the Girona, and none of them answered anything…I went to the skipper of an open boat who was there to take them somewhere and asked the same questions and he said ‘no, we’re going the other way, we’re going west’…then the boat went out of the harbour and went straight east to the Girona.”

Sténhuit described in the documentary, they were “not coming in an inquisitive mind but an acquisitive mind” though Alan Wilson, from the club, said they simply thought they were “diving on a wreck”. “We thought there was a big boat there,” he told the documentary, with a laugh.

In the finish, as expected, headlines were made-but for vastly different reasons after Sténhuit confronted a diver underwater in order to prevent him lifting a piece of lead from the wreck. He remarked at the time, “It made me angry, yes,” he said. “We were trying to reconstruct a puzzle and if you are missing a piece of the puzzle you cannot reconstruct it.”

By 1969, Sténhuit and his crew felt that they had pretty much exhausted their dive efforts – but this was just the beginning of the story of who owned the Girona gold.

What Spain said…

Spain later claimed that the cache from the wreck belonged to them-of course they did. But others argued that the find should remain in Northern Ireland. In the finish, a court decided that no single owner could be found-this meant that the artefacts would subsequently be sold. They were later valued at £132K and  Sténhuit agreed to a deal, for it to stay in Northern Ireland and in the Ulster Museum, where the Girona gold remains an integral part of the museum’s exhibitions.

An artefact recovered by Robert Sténuit and his crew from the Girona

An artefact recovered from the Girona


Robert Sténuit and crew members survey their findings from the Girona dive

Findings from the Ginora


                                                                                                                             Image: Mark Jesinski

NB  Sténhuit and his associate, Jesinski later returned to Portballintrae to film the 2008 documentary, and said that while the endeavour was financially worthwhile, it was also the most fulfilling of their lives. Indeed it was. The Belgian said, “I don’t like the word profit, in that context…because it’s not what we had in mind. Our time was compensated, and handsomely, in two ways. Because we had some of the best years of our lives and a little money to put butter in the spinach, as we say in France.”



*Sources used: BBC News




A Few Thoughts on James Blunt…

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Hello and hi. Nice long weekend! Yay. Here in the UK we too are having a long weekend-Bank Holiday Monday-which means: No work. Sleeping in. Pub beer garden (allegedly). Running for the ice cream truck (I don’t know why I am even running-I mean, he will stop for me-I am a repeat customer. Please tell me he will stop. Dear Lakshmi, I hope he stops).

In addition to all of the above I will be reading the broadsheets (newspapers) and listening to music as I do so.  Yup. I can multi-task…I am a girl after all. Please read that sentence again. Yes, I said it.

That being said, I plan on listening to a bit of James Blunt too. He has a new album out. I have mixed feeling about this guy-in regards to his background, education, Army career and his belated start to his singing career… et al. I have a lot of questions for James Blunt. Yes, yes I do. I mean, I try not judge people… but this guy has had a pretty privileged background (not even judging-just an observation, people) but apart from that, he is terribly funny and his humour is: typical British-self deprecatingly and howlingly funny.

Like I said, I have mixed feelings about Blunt. Some say he is ‘easy on the eyes’…am still deciding regarding that. But, in the finish-he seems like an OK guy. Yes. Yes, he does. Will blog on James Blunt later…but for now, check out his new single: Love Me Better. I like his voice in this and the raw transparency/honesty in the lyrics. I also like the 3 background singers who do a bit of Bhangra dancing-and of course, I like the girl in the video-and how she is Blunt’s perfect woman. I guess you can tell how much I liked the video- hope you like it as much as I do. Yes. Yes, I do.



It is HOT in London Town (today)

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Hello and hi. It is HOT in London Town (today) or as the locals say: ‘scorchio’-which means ‘hot’ and between you and me…this word sounds more Spanish in origin and less the Queen’s English. Oh well.

Anyway, it is a lovely, sunny, day…FINALLY. I mean, we’ve had rain for like 4 weeks straight. Truth. I mean, April showers got nothing on: March, April and May-the amount of rain we have had lately has been diabolical. It sure has. Yup.

On a sunny day, as this, people are nicer to each other-strangers smile at each other. People drink outside in Pub beer gardens and laugh loudly while smacking the table with their fists in fits of laughter . The London girls are wearing pretty sandals and skirts (but the men still wear suits.) Also, in hot weather, people on the Tube give/offer their seat up to a weary Americans. Ok, I totally made that up. No one EVER offers me their seat-I have to stand pretty much the entire journey. It is so crowded on the tube, I get to stand real close to complete strangers (and not by choice) as I inhale their heady, intoxicating mix of sweat, perfume and frustration about standing so close to a stranger. But that’s London, for you. That being said, it is HOT in London Town. In fact, it is 24C today. Erm…that is 75.2F for my American brothers and sisters. Yes. Yes, it is.

Hope you are having a good Monday. I know, I am…because it is HOT in London Town. Woot woot. Yay!



                                                                                                         Image: IES London


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Meet Jess Glynne


                                                                                                Image: Zeta Boards

Hello and hi. Sorry peeps, have been a bit busy. It’s nothing you did. It’s me, not you. Sorry. I think you get the point. Anyway, Meet Jess Glynne. You are welcome. Ok, let’s do this

Jessica Hannah “Jess” Glynne was born 20 October 1989. Baby!  Our Jess is an English singer and songwriter-signed to Atlantic Records. Jess rose to prominence as a featured artist on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” and Route 94’s “My Love.” Have you heard of these songs? Please tell me you have. No? Don’t worry, we still cool. Yup.

In 2015, Jess became the SECOND British female solo artist after Cheryl Cole/Tweedy/ Fernandez-Versini (I can’t even with this woman…uggh.)Date much, love? Just find ONE partner, already. I can’t keep up with your ever changing surnames. But, I digress…

Like I was saying, Jess became the SECOND British female artist after Cheryl to have 5 number one singles in the UK. Wow. Massive achievement. Massive respect to Jess. Jess Glynne’s debut album: I Cry When I Laugh was released in 2015 and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart. Wow. Just, wow.

Quick Bio

Jess Glynne was born in Hampstead and raised in Muswell Hill, North London into a Jewish family. While this (her being Jewish) is not important nor relevant-it is important to know that North London has a large population of Jewish persons-whose continuous contribution to British society is palpable. I have blogged on this very issue previously. Check it out, do it now. Please and thanks.  Anyway, our Jess had applied for The X Factor when she was 15 years, but dropped out of the audition process following a disagreement with the producers. Yikes. 15 is kind of young to be on the X Factor…but it sounded as though our Jess knew her own mind regarding her, style, sound-hence the disagreement with the producers. So, yeah…they fell out I guess.

Jess attended Rhodes Avenue Primary School, then attended Fortismere School where she completed her A levels in 2008. A levels? I have no idea of what that even is. My American people have grades in our school system. Grades 1-12. For real. Anyway, post A levels, Jess worked various jobs, which included working in a boutique, fitness centre/gym and a hairdresser. She did some travelling around the globe too. Later, she worked for a music management company in her late teens and then began networking with songwriters and producers. Of course, this helped her massively get her foot into the music industry. Massive respect for this London Girl and her tenacity. Woot woot.

In addition, Glynne completed a year long music course at an East London college- Access to Music-where she met her future collaborators: songwriter Jin Jin and producer Bless Beats.  Of course there is plenty more to say about our Jess, but have been brief here. This is a blog post, not a review in The Rolling Stone Magazine. No. No, it is not. If you want to know more about Glynne, educate yourself and read up on her.

I happen to like Jess Glynne a lot. She has a deep, soulful voice. Her words and lyrics ring true and speak of hope, pain, loss and love with a clarity so true, that it hurts. I guess you can tell that I am a big fan. I sure am. Anyway, I have added a video of hers here-Don’t be so hard of yourself…hope you like it as much as I do. Yup.


Life with my grandparents. Part 36

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Hello and hi. Happy Monday! My goodness, I was so busy today that I actually did 3 days worth of work, today. Please read that sentence again. Believe me, you…it is not easy being the only American in London Town- who has the sole responsibility of explaining the implications of BREXIT to the good people of England. Ok, I totally made that up. That being said, today is Monday…so, don’t forget to be AWESOME. You got this. I believe in you. Yes. Yes, I do.

Anyway, you can find the latest instalment of : Life with my grandparents here. Enjoy. Oh and Happy Monday!



The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC)


Image result for image of police from the civil nuclear constabulary                                                                                                Image: Crown Duty Management

Hello and hi. There is plenty to say about the upcoming and imminent UK and French elections. Believe you me, I got plenty to say about those topics, and I will wax lyrical about them later but now, I am all about The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC). Yes. Yes, I am. Oh you are not familiar? Allow me. You are welcome.

The CNC is a special police force responsible for providing law enforcement and security at or within 5km of ANY relevant nuclear site, as well as for nuclear materials in transit within the UK. Erm..5km? What the heck? I am American, my people deal in miles. If you know what a km is, do let me know. But, I digress.

The CNC was established on 1 April 2005, replacing the former Atomic Energy Authority  Constabulary, which was established in 1955. Brief history now over. Now for the important bit-and this is important. The CNC does NOT guard the UK’s nuclear weapons, this role is the responsibility of the British Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence Police.


The primary role of the CNC is to provide armed policing and security for nuclear sites/materials throughout the UK as well as to maintain a state of readiness against a possible attack on a licensed nuclear site (while also providing assistance to local police forces within the area.)

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The Constabulary is established in Chapter 3, sections 51-71, of the Energy Act 2004. In brief, the act sets up the Civil Nuclear Police Authority and the position of Chief Constable.

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There are 14 high security nuclear power sites in the UK-which means the CNC are quite busy. Britan’s “nuclear police” protect nuclear power stations from threats, as mentioned. But their role also includes preparing for those times when they may have to tackle potential intruders. Of course, they are also prepared for things like preventing targets against nuclear power stations or preventing theft of nuclear materials.

During 2010-11, the CNC made 12 arrests (although 2 of those people were de-arrested at the scene. Erm…what happened there? They got arrested then unarrested? Yikes. Strange policing methods going on. Not even judging….just curious.

Image result for image of UK nuclear power plant

As you can imagine, nuclear power stations around the globe are carefully guarded for obvious reasons. In addition, the level of security at nuclear power stations will change, depending on what is going on in the world, at the time. In other words, when sh*t gets real, nuclear power stations prepare themselves accordingly. For example, in 2015, France raised protections at its nuclear power facilities following the Paris attacks there in November. And Prior to that, the UK decided to increase security at British facilities, post 9/11-again, for obvious reasons. The old force, the Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary (est 1955) was replaced in 2005 by the CNC-as previously mentioned. Remember, I mentioned that earlier? Please tell me you do.

Anyway, so that is it…a brief introduction to The Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Knowledge is power, people. Yes. Yes, it is.