Longford put on a memorable show to ensure that the Year of the French was remembered in the Year of the Gathering.
The weekend saw a number of events to mark the 215th anniversary of the United Irishmen 1798 Rebellion against the British Crown, including the Battles of Granard and Ballinamuck.
The first county-wide commemoration of 1798 commenced on Friday at Granard Community Centre where Mayor Henry Jolly of Gaffney South Carolina and author and historian Thomas Pakenham addressed the large crowd.
Mayor of Granard Cllr Maura Kilbride-Harkin and Mayor of Longford County Council Larry Bannon welcomed the guests.
Earlier visitors witnessed the firing of a replica of one of the four cannons that General Humbert’s men brought to Ireland. Eamonn Creamure produced a replica of the 18th Century artillery piece and oversaw the ceremonial firing of the cannon.
County Heritage Officer Máiréad Ní Chonghaile revealed the weekend had been ten months in planning. She thanked the contribution of Longford Historical Society and County Archivist Martin Morris.
On Saturday afternoon Ballinamuck hosted a commemorative event on one of the pivotal battles in Irish history.
Paddy Howe of Ballinamuck Community Enterprise introduced First Secretary of the French Embassy Marianne Ziss and historian Stephen Dunford who performed the unveiling of an information board that augments the existing tourist information available in the historic centre.
Ms Ziss hails from a town near Essert, the home of General Humbert and the twin town of Ballinamuck She said she was honoured to represent France at the ceremony.
Stephen Dunford spoke of the significance of the doomed rebellion of 1798 and its impact on Irish history.
Inclement weather prevented a tour of the battlefield from going ahead. However Glynn McKenna gave an engaging presentation on details of the final battle in the Year of the French.
The 1798 Rebellion was a crucial episode in Irish history. It was organised by the United Irishmen, a secret society dedicated to winning Irish freedom. A key part of the society’s strategy was securing help from France, which was at war with Britain.
On August 22, 1798, a French force of 1,019 men, commanded by General Humbert, landed near Killala. They were joined by Irishmen and after victories in Mayo, they moved eastwards. The combined Franco-Irish force was defeated by a much larger British army at the Battle of Ballinamuck on September 8, 1798. On September 5 the Battle of Granard had taken place in which local United Irishmen were defeated by the British.
Last weekend highlighted events of the period and raised awareness of its importance both locally and nationally.