His name doesn’t sound Irish when you read it in the Spanish naval documents, but Guillermo Herries (a Portuguese translation of his name) was really William Harris of Galway. It’s no surprise that Irish children never heard of “Guillermo” even though he was a member of Columbus’ First Voyage with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria…
As historians have theorized based on their evidence, William Harris first met Columbus at St Nicholas’ Church in Galway in 1477. Some say he discussed strange, unknown plant seeds and other objects washing up along the shoreline in Ireland possibly from some far off land, while others think Harris boasted to Columbus that he had actually sailed to those lands to the west. Columbus was also emboldened by stories he heard of the 6th century monk, St. Brendan and his voyage to the New World.
It’s not too difficult to believe that Harris might have reached America before 1492, since it’s been proven that Leif Erickson had also been there hundreds of years earlier in a failed attempt at setting up a colony in the northern regions.
“Guillermo Herries” is one of 38 people listed as being left by Columbus in Haiti to form
the first European settlement in the New World. In the end, after a short time, the native population slaughtered them all.
Still, we must honor both the Italians, Portuguese and even the Irishman that took part in opening up the New World to European culture…
Happy Saint Patrick's Day a tutti!