Derry’s 187-year link to Spanish tourist destination

Málaga may be a popular holiday destination for Derry people, but the city’s links with the area go back over 180 years.

Friday, 2nd August 2019, 1:41 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd August 2019, 2:41 pm

Derry man, Robert Boyd, became something of a local hero in Málaga for his leading role in an uprising against King Ferdinand VII in 1831.

Boyd, who was just 26 at the time, was executed and was the second person to be buried in the first Protestant graveyard in Spain 1830’s.

Prior to this, only Catholics could be buried in consecrated ground in Spain. In Málaga, non-Catholic’s were treated as heretics and buried upright in the sand at night.

Boyd’s grave has become one of the most famous in Málaga in the ‘English Cemetery’ or the ‘Cementerio Inglés de Málaga’ which was opened in December 1831.

Boyd was born into a wealthy Protestant family in Derry in 1805.

He served as a lieutenant in the Bengal Army of the East India Company and was active in the Greek War of Independence of 1821-32.

Boyd returned to London in 1929 and met General José María Torrijos, who was raising money for a rebellion against King Ferdinand.

He quit his role as a Lieutenant in the Bengal Army and used money he inherited following the death of his father to provide generous financial backing to the revolutionaries.

In 1831 Boyd bought a ship and set sail for Málaga with Torrijos and some 60 followers. They were forced ashore by Spanish ships near Málaga and hid in hills but were soon rounded up by troops.

Most were incarcerated in Málaga’s Convento del Carmen, under orders to be executed.

Boyd wrote a last letter to his brother William, conveying love to his mother and family, stating he would ‘die like a gentleman and a soldier’.

He said: “I am to be shot in about an hour. At this moment I think only of the affliction that this news will bring upon my dear, very dear, brothers and sisters.”

Boyd was marched to the beach with 48 of his fellow prisoners on December 11, 1831 and executed by a firing squad.

His grave in the English Cemetery is marked by a gothic obelisk, with the inscription: “To the memory of Robert Boyd, Esq, of Londonderry, Ireland. The friend and fellow-martyr of Torrijo who fell at Málaga, in the sacred cause of liberty.”

In Málaga’s central Plaza de la Merced, he is commemorated on a monument among the “49 victims, who for their love of patriotic liberty, where sacrificed in this city”.

A more recent plaque in the cemetery declares: “Robert Boyd, héroe romántico” and there is a street named after the Derry man ‘Calle Robert Boyd’.

Closer to home there is a memorial to Boyd in the porch of St Augustine’s Church.