In Humbert’s Footsteps - 1798The hilltops with glory were glowing,Twas the eve of a bright harvest dayWhen the ships we’d been wearily waitingSailed into Killala’s broad bay.(The Men of the West)In August, 1798, or ‘The Year of the French,’ as this momentous year is oftencalled, French General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert commanding a smallexpeditionary force landed at the ancient anchorage of Kilcummin in thehistoric county of Mayo. The French arrived in three ships and came at theinvitation of a movement known as the United Irishmen. Irish volunteersflocked to join the French ranks and very soon General Humbert’s newly-formed ‘Franco-Irish Army’ had marched on and taken the old Episcopal Cityof Killala in an engagement now referred to as “The First Battle of Killala.”From Killala, Humbert’s men proceeded via Ballina to the village ofLahardane, now titled “Ireland’s Titanic Village,” and from there, by amountainous route through the celebrated ‘Windy Gap’ they arrived at thecounty town of Castlebar. In a battle since known as “The Races of Castlebar,”Humbert’s small force soundly defeated a much larger British Army and tookCastlebar after which John Moore was appointed First President of theRepublic of Connaught. The majority of the British troops fled the town,some galloping with breakneck speed as far as Athlone, county Westmeath.The speed with which the British fled the field gave rise to the vernacular title“The Races of Castlebar.”It was near the end of August in the year of ‘98When Killala saw the Frenchmen under Humbert at the gate.It was only four days after amid laughter near and far,When the panic-stricken British ran the Race of Castlebar.(Races of Castlebar)
Mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses and used by William Butler Yeats asthe historical backdrop to his play Caitlín ní Houlihan,this “short fatiguingcampaign,” as Lord Cornwallis, the British commander-in-chief described it,was played out over four counties, occupied for a month the attention of aBritish Army 100,000 strong, and ended in September with Humbert’ssurrender at Ballinamuck, in county Longford, and the re-taking of Killala.“Had Humbert’s expedition not taken place at a period when the attention ofEurope was riveted by Bonaparte and his schemes of Oriental conquest, theepisode would doubtless have figured in history side by side with the Bridgeof Aricola, the Passage of the St. Bernhard, the Charge of the Light Brigade,and other traditions.”(Valerian Gribayédoff)In Humbert’s Footsteps -2013“The Gathering”Erin’s sons, be not faint-hearted,Welcome, sing then Ca IraFrom Killala they are marchingTo the tune of Viva La(Rouse Hibernians)In August, 2013, in a dramatic military and naval re-enactment of themomentous events of 1798, a modern-day French General Jean JosephAmable Humbert will lead ashore a troop of specially invited militaryre-enactors, from La Rochelle, at Kilcummin in County Mayo: just as thereal General Humbert did over two hundred years ago. From Kilcummin, theFrench, ably supported by local volunteers or “Pikemen,” will proceed “InHumbert’s Footsteps” as a Franco-Irish army to Killala. Once in Killala, justas it happened in 1798, a battle to take the town will occur. The battle,incorporating, upwards of one hundred French, British, and Irish re-enactorswill be colourfully and noisily played out, with muskets, cannon-guns, pikes,drums and flags on the historic streets of Killala, as the “redcoats” attemptto hold the town against the blue-clad French and their “frieze-coated” rebelIrish allies. From Killala, the Franco-Irish will travel to Lahardane for adedication ceremony, before again advancing “In Humbert’s Footsteps”, bythe ‘Windy Gap’ and on to Castlebar, where a dramatic and equally colourfuland noisy re-enactment of the battle known as “The Races of Castlebar” willtake place on the streets of the town, followed by an official ceremony at thegrave of John Moore, First President of Connaught, on the town’s Mall.
And now we may laugh, dance and sing,And drive the world before us;Since ould Ireland’s our own again:Then let us strike up this bould chorus.Erin go bragh, go bragh,Hurroo for ould Ireland for ever!(Connaught in 1798, A Historical Tale)In Humbert’s Footsteps - Re-Enactment Events August 2013Killala: Friday, August 16 - Living History Event.French Re-enactors will set up a typical 18th century French military camp inKillala town. Complete with all the accoutrements used by General Humbert’ssoldiers in 1798, including tents, cooking-fires and weapons; this is a once in alifetime opportunity for the public to experience what life was like for a Frenchsoldier of Humbert’s Army in 1798. All are welcome.Kilcummin: Saturday, August 17 - Symbolic Re-Enactment ofFrench Landing.Symbolic re-enactment of the French military landing at Kilcummin in 1798. Thearrival and coming ashore of the French will be accompanied by the presence ofvessels from the Irish, French, and British navies.Killala: Saturday, August 17 -The Battle of Killala.Make sure to be in Killala for the dramatic re-enactment of the ‘First Battle ofKillala.’ Watch enthralled as heavily armed redcoats, blue-clad French soldiers,fierce Irish “pikemen” and assorted cavalry, march and gallop their way through thesmoke and noise of cannons, muskets, swords and pikes, as the battle to take Killalais fought on the streets of this historic town. The landing of Humbert’s French forcein 1798 was communicated throughout the country in the form of a password, thepassword was in Irish and read: ‘Tá do Charaid ag Chill Alaidh’ which translates as‘Your Friends are at Killala.’ Despite time and tide that historic sentiment still ringstrue, so why not meet up with old friends and make some new ones in Killala,August 2013, at the Gathering that is ‘In Humbert’s Footsteps.’Lahardane: Sunday, August 18 - Symbolic Dedication Ceremony.Following in Humbert’s footsteps, on their way to Castlebar, the French Re-enactorswill stop in Lahardane for a symbolic visit and formal dedication ceremony to all themen and women of ‘98.
Castlebar: Sunday, August 18- “The Races of Castlebar.”In August 1798, General Humbert and his Franco-Irish Army arrived at Castlebarhaving come from Lahardane by the ‘Windy Gap.’ In the battle which followed, thebattle now remembered in song and story as “The Races of Castlebar,” Humbert’ssmall, largely un-trained force, defeated a much larger and much better equippedBritish Army under the command of General Lake. The main theatres of action wereStaball Hill, the subsequent ‘Defence of the Bridge,’ the engagement on Main Street,and at Christ Church. Despite the British flight from Castlebar, one of the FrenchOfficers, Captain Jean-Louis Jobit later reported that the town proved to be “a toughnut to crack for a little army like ours.” Mark this event in your diary, then walk withfriends, family, and loved ones, “In Humbert’s Footsteps” as you experience theamazing re-enactment of the historical events of 1798. Come along and see theredcoats being chased down Staball Hill, watch the cannon guns boom and bellowfrom the bridge, be a witness to the action on Main Street and the decisiveengagement at Christ Church. Then, join with the dignitaries at a dedication andremembrance ceremony for those from all sides who participated in the Rebellion of1798.PlusFirst public screening of the mini-TV series The Year of the French-Also meet someof the cast members; enjoy wonderful commemorative banquets in both Killala andCastlebar; International Poetry, Prose, Short-story and Music Competitions;Concerts; International Football Tournaments; Twinnings; Live radio and T.V.Broadcasts and much, much more! Make sure to follow “In Humbert’s Footsteps,”August, 2013- Looking forward to seeing you all in county Mayo.Beatha agus Sláinte-Life and HealthFor more information check out:www.humbertsfootsteps.com andwww.facebook.com/InHumbertsFootsteps