Louisburgh, 1798 Connection

1798 was the Year of the French, Bliain na bhFrancach in Irish.

About two thousand French soldiers landed in Kilcummin, Co. Mayo and met up with more than five thousand local Irish volunteers. They had several battles and were victorious, routing the British in Castlebar – the battle is known as the Castlebar Races. The victors set up the Connaught Republic, as a French client state under the presidency of John Moore, who has been recognized as President of the first Irish Republic. The Republic lasted for a few weeks before and after the French/Irish defeat at Ballinamuck.

Less than a thousand French soldiers were imprisoned and repatriated to France in a prisoner exchange. So many were stranded in Ireland and were sheltered by Irish families in villages in Mayo. Some of whom settled in the Killeen area. Many of these soldiers were the children of soldiers who had been previously repatriated to France from Louisburgh ón Ile St Jean (now Cape Breton Island in Canada) in 1758, as part of the the second wave of the Acadian expulsions of all French from eastern Canada.

These stranded Frenchmen in the Killeen area were probably responsible for naming the new town “Louisburgh” after their family home in America. Louisburgh is the only town in Europe named after a settlement in North America.

Anecdotally, there are reports of French speakers living in Louisburgh up to the 20th century. Among them, was my maternal great grandmother Anne O’Grady, who spoke both French and Irish. She married William Dunne of Carrowkennedy and their daughter, Ann Dunne was my maternal grandmother, marrying Dominick McGreal of Owenwee, settling there where my father was born.

“I cannot tell how the truth may be; I say the tale as it was said to me” – Sir Walter Scott

Rory McGreal


Athabasca University

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