A MEMORIAL to fallen 1798 French soldiers at Frenchill near Castlebar, which lies largely forgotten and neglected, is due to be restored to its former glory, a member of the Castlebar District Municipal Authority has pledged.
Councillor Al McDonnell said it is hoped in this commemorative year of 1916 that the pyramid-like, now overgrown memorial would be cleaned up, parking facilities provided and proper access provided.
It is 118 years ago this month that a commemoration was held at Frenchill in memory of a party of French cavalry, travelling under a flag of truce, who were killed by English forces following the Races of Castlebar.
Two local men, James Daly, proprietor and editor of The Connaught Telegraph, and Patrick Nally, erected the monument to their memory in 1876.
The monument bears the inscription: ‘In grateful remembrance of the gallant French soldiers who died fighting for the freedom of Ireland on August 27, 1798. They shall be remembered forever’.
On January 9, 1898, a commemoration, which was presided over by James Daly, was held at Frenchill. It was attended by Maud Gonne Mac Bride and addressed by James Rooney, who gave an address in the Irish language. James Rooney was regarded as the ‘Thomas Davis’ of the 1890s and was much in demand at patriotic gatherings.
However, in recent years the memorial has become completely overgrown with ivy and briars. A roadside sign is barely visible and there is no proper access to the site.
Councillor McDonnell said: “The council are certainly willing to facilitate an improvement in it. I had a number of council officials out there and we walked the area last year.
“A few things would want to be improved. Parking facilities would be one and a proper hardcore access would need to be provided as well. Physically cleaning the monument would be the easiest.”
The Mayo Enterprise Office, he said, has expressed an interest in assisting under the heading of culture and heritage.
Councillor McDonnell continued: “It is a year of commemorations. It is the 800th anniversary of the founding of Ballintubber Abbey. We have plans to commence work on the walled garden in Moorehall, the home of John Moore when he was elected president of Connaught during the 1798 Rebellion. There is a very strict connection between Frenchill and Moorehall. All three locations are in the same parish.
“Under the broader umbrella of commemoration it is important to include Frenchill.”