Remembering General Humbert: Ballina 2023 and partners present ‘Year of the French’ celebrations from August 18-22
Collaboration between Ballina 2023, the French Embassy in Ireland, Ballina Municipal District and In Humbert’s Footsteps to welcome French visitors with series of events marking 200 years since the death of General Humbert
A living history village, vivid re-enactment of the Humbert Landing, a series of exhibitions, musical performances, and a screening of RTÉ’s iconic drama, ‘The Year of the French’ from the eponymous book by Thomas Flanagan are just some of the events taking place as part of Ballina 2023’s ‘Year of the French’ festival taking place August 18 to Tuesday, August 2022.
Visitors from La Rochelle and Ballina’s twin town of Athis Mons will join locals to celebrate the festival, which forms part The ‘Year of the French’, of a year-long international initiative led by The French Embassy in Ireland marking the 225th anniversary of the French landing in Kilcummin on August 22, 1798.
2023 also marks the 200th anniversary of General Humbert’s death in 1823, 30 years of twinning with Athis-Mons and a celebration of the long-lasting friendship between Ireland and France.
The Year of the French Festival in Ballina will be delivered in partnership with the French Embassy in Ireland, Mayo County Council (Ballina Municipal District), In Humbert’s Footsteps and the Jackie Clarke Collection.
Catherine Gagneux, French Honorary Consul for Connacht and Donegal said: “The 225th anniversary of the landing of General Humbert and his troops, despite being short lived, is above all a commemoration of the fight of united men and women to create a democracy for all. It is a significant event in Irish history and in Franco-Irish relations that has cemented a lasting friendship between France and Ireland.”
An exhibition about the French Landing, launched by the Ambassador of France to Ireland, Vincent Guérend on July 5 will run in the Jackie Clarke Collection until August 22. On Friday, August 18, a plaque to rename French Lane will be unveiled to permanently mark this important site beside the Old Military Barracks, followed by a delegation tour delivered by In Humbert’s Footsteps in French and English. This will be followed by a welcome reception in Ballina Municipal District Civic Art Gallery and a screening of a short film by local producer Topher Neville, will compete for an award in this year’s DiviPassion Film Festival in Athis-Mons.
Saturday, August 19 will see the visiting delegation undertake a morning excursion to Killala, Kilcummin, Downpatrick Head and Céide Fields. Saturday afternoon will see the French, British and United Irishmen set up camp in the town’s old market area, the actual site of their respective camps in 1798 for the public to get a sense of what the scene might have been like 225 years ago. A play by local playwright, Tommy Cooke will be staged in the Walled Heritage Garden of the Jackie Clarke Collection at 3pm.
On Saturday evening, a compilation screening of ‘The Year of the French’ will take place in Ballina Arts Centre at 8pm. The six-part drama, first screened in 1982 was an RTÉ co-production with the French television station FR 3 in association with Britain’s Channel 4, featuring Irish, French and English actors and many local extras. The full episodes will be screened at public venues in Ballina and Killala over the course of the weekend.
On Sunday, August 20, the Deputy Ambassador to France in Ireland Marianne Barkan Cowdy will lay a wreath at a morning event at the Humbert Memorial Monument, joined by members of the French Navy. From 1.30pm, Pearse St will be the scene of one of the largest Napoleonic battle re-enactments ever staged in Ireland, when the blue-clad French, the British red-coats and the Irish Rebel Pikemen do battle for the town amidst the crack and smoke of muskets, the boom of cannon, and the clash of bayonet, sword and pike.
The original re-enactment took place ten years ago in 2013 as part of The Gathering, under the stewardship of the late Steve Dunford, and subsequently won a national award.
Later that evening, a Year of the French Seminar will take place, focusing on the legacy of the events of 1798, with Sylvie Kleiman-Lafon (Asst Professor in English Literature at the University of Paris VIII), Ruan O’Donnell (Head of the History Department at University of Limerick and official historian of the Robert Emmet Association), and Paddy Cullivan, historical entertainer, writer and performer of ‘The Ten Dark Secrets of 1798’.
That morning, Ballina Athletic Club will also host their annual Wild Atlantic 10-Miler road race, the route of which takes in a portion of the Old French Road upon which General Humbert and his troops approached Ballina.
The Year of the French Festival will be preceded by Grainne Uaile Sub Aqua Club’s International Dive Rally in Kilcummin from August 11 to 13, which will also welcome French divers from La Rochelle.