Mock battles take place in the streets of Castlebar

Organisers delighted with ‘In Humbert’s Footsteps’, which drew thousands of participants

Mayo’s largest Gathering celebration, “In Humbert’s Footsteps”, ended yesterday with a re-enactment in Castlebar.

Members of Le Garde Chauvin historical re-enactment group from France and Irish re-enactors staged mock battles to recall what is known as the Races of Castlebar.

The Races was one of the few Irish victories in the bitter year of 1798 when French forces under Gen Humbert and Irish rebels caused the British garrison to flee.

Some 10,000 people participated over the weekend with events taking place in Kilcummin, Killala, Lahardane and Castlebar. Huge crowds turned out yesterday as the French and Irish were cheered through the streets of the town.


The weekend also featured a symbolic landing in Kilcummin on Saturday, where Gen Humbert and his army landed in 1798. The Irish Navy was also in attendance.

Local pikemen
Some 20 people from France took part on Saturday along with 50 local pikemen while the others were drawn from Ireland and Britain.

"It was beyond our wildest expectations," said Una Morris, one of the organisers. "The streets were packed with people. The re-enactments happened in the exact streets where the real battles were fought, not in neighbouring fields which is usually the case."

Actor Bryan Murray also turned up to talk about the television series The Year of the French and read from Bishop Stock's diary, an account of the events in Killala in 1798.

Separately, the third annual Mayo walk of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain – "In the Footsteps of Irish Emigrants" – took place on Saturday from Mulranny to Newport in Co Mayo via the Great Western Greenway.

It was organised by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, an organisation based in London which has worked with Irish emigrants since the 1950s.

While the issues facing Irish people in Britain have changed, there remains a great demand for the chaplaincy’s services.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times