By Nicky Rossiter

We know that the familiar face of Zorro with the black clothes, rapier and mask is a fictional character but what we seldom realise is that like many heroes of fiction he may have a real-life inspiration. Not only is that true but that inspiration might just stem from County Wexford.

According to the book ‘The Irish Zorro’ by Gerard Ronan, the story begins with Richard Lamport who had helped pilot Spanish forces into Kinsale in support of Hugh O’Neill’s rebellion in the early 1600s. Richard was from Wexford and may have honed those seafaring skills sailing from the then busy port. A devout Catholic he had witnessed the persecution of his fellow religionists and neighbours under Elizabeth l where their beliefs equated to treason.
His cousin Peter Lombard had promised a ‘crusade indulgence’ to those taking part in the rebellion against the queen when he was Primate of Ireland. This appears similar to the Pope urging the knights on to crusades six centuries earlier.

Unfortunately the rebellion failed and Richard ended up transporting defeated Irish rebels to the continent where many joined the Spanish forces. After this he returned to Wexford and was fortunate that his arrival corresponded with a boom in herring fishing.

He was soon back in business as a merchant. He married Allison, the daughter of Lord Sutton, so we must assume that he had become quite wealthy from the herring trade or maybe something less reputable. Ronan tells us that Sutton with his ship ‘Le Handymade de Villa Wexford’ was actively involved in smuggling and that Richard may have become acquainted with his future father-in-law through this trade.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own