THE hunt for the 16th-century Irish chieftan Red Hugh has hit a literal wall in Spain as archaeologists want to burrow through a Santander branch.
Historians were optimistic over the past Spring that they might finally find the remains of the elusive warrior.
But the 20 skeletons they have so far uncovered all pre-date the renowned Red Hugh O’Donnell.
In order to extend the site of their excavation, archaeologists would have to go past the pavement of the street and through the walls and foundations of the nearby bank.
“We believe that the main part of the chapel, and hence the part where Red Hugh would most likely have been buried, lies under the bank,” city hall culture director, Juan Manuel Guimerans, told reporters.
“We are in talks with representatives of Santander Bank to see if we can reach an agreement to continue the excavation,” he said.
Red Hugh was previously believed to be buried in the chapel grounds of a Franciscan convent. But when the monastery was leveled in 1836, the convent and the bones of Red Hugh were not there.
His skeleton is distinctive, as he lost two of his toes to frostbite when fleeing captivity at the hands of the English army.
As a fellow Catholic, Spain’s King Phillip III supported Red Hugh’s fight against the English until much of his armada were killed in the gruesome battle of Kinsale.
A persuasive negotiator, Red Hugh ventured to Spain after the siege to plead with the king to continue his support and send further soldiers to Ireland.
But the mission proved fatal and before help could be granted, Red Hugh mysteriously died a few miles from the city.
Some said an infection killed the 29-year-old warrior, others claimed he was poisoned by a British spy.
Nearly two centuries later, his remains are still missing from his burial site and the race is on to solve the mystery of his demise.