(A personal view of the visit of the Libertad, the Argentine Navy training vessel, to Galway on June 16 th
2007 by Maureen Langan-Egan, Senior Vice-President Muintir Mhaigh Eo, Galway)
On board the Argentinian tall ship the Fragata Libertad on a courtesy visit to Galway at the joint
invitation of the Admiral Brown Society of Foxford and Muintir Mhaigh Eo, Galway, Commandant Pablo
Marcelo Vignoles spoke of how the sea unites rather than separates countries. This visit, to
commemorate the 150 th anniversary of the death of Admiral Brown, best known as the founder of the
Argentinian Navy, marked the ongoing historical and cultural links between Ireland and Argentina.
Vision was a keynote of Brown’s life, the visit to Ireland marked the vision of the inimitable J.J. O’Hara of
the Admiral Brown Society and that of Séamus Murray, the indefatigable Chairperson of Muintir Mhaigh
Eo along with his Association members (some of whom had visited Argentina some months previously)
who brought this vision to fruition. The superb organisation which underpinned every aspect of this visit
Ní neart go cur le chéile. (Unity is strength). Argentina, through Admiral Brown and others, had
provided help for Ireland during difficult times. This kindness is being returned on an ongoing
basis. A ‘help-needing school’ in Los Laureles on an island in the Parana River, whose pupils are
singularly disadvantaged, received generators and other electrical equipment supplied by ABS.
This equipment was installed by the electricians of the Irish Navy ship the L.E.Eithne, when on a
courtesy visit to Argentina some months ago. Such assistance would surely be dear to the heart
of Admiral Brown, who himself was the product of a harsh youth. In the words of O’Hara:
‘If Brown could defeat two Empires, we surely could give these children hope’.
Such hope was further fostered in the gift of a much needed microscope provided by school
children in Foxford.
Those who attended the ceremonial launch in the Galway Bay Hotel will long remember the
standing ovation given to Captain Kevin Walsh of the pilot boat, referred to as a ‘magician’ for
his skill in mooring the Libertad. Who, present, will ever forget the openness of the ship’s crew,
the willingness to share information and the genuine welcome extended to all visitors (the
Argentinian equivalent of Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh) who were enthralled with the mystique of the
The sounds and colour of the visit will long remain in the memory. Those privileged to hear
them will never forget the Argentinian musicians, some from remote Patagonia, who delighted
listeners as they played on the ship’s prow and in the Skeffington Arms.
It is, indeed, fitting that they now form the River Plate Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
Their dancers were simply superb.
The dark blue of the seamen’s uniforms provided a strong contrast with the green blazers of
the Mayo Committee and the red and green of many of the signs extending Fáilte to visitors.
The Mayo crystal bowls presented to leading dignitaries were greatly admired. Paintings. which
represented aspects of life in each country where the Libertad had called, provided colourful
insights into other cultures.
As an active committee member of Muintir Mhaigh Eo, I felt a quiet pride in Mayo at its best,
magnificent Mayo as represented by Admiral Brown and by the efforts of all involved in the
festivities to commemorate him. In the words of Rafterí, an file, which are the motto of our
organisation ‘Nár stopfaimid coíche’.
© Maureen Egan