I give you “The Gallant Old West” boys
Where rallied our bravest and best
When Ireland was broken and bleeding
Hurrah for the Men of the West!
Traditional Irish song (translation: Ireland Forever)
Centuries ago, Castlebar was the scene of one of the great battles in the history of Ireland, when on the 22nd of August, 1798, more than 1,000 French soldiers arrived at Killala Bay in support of the Irish Revolution. As the French moved from Kilcummin to Killala, Ballina and eventually Crossmolina, they were joined by Irish peasants and rebels, and their force swelled to more than 2,500. Finally ready for Castlebar, on 27th August 1798, the cobbled together force was led by General Humbert for death-or-glory, and overcame more than 7,000 English and Scottish troops to take Castlebar. The battle was brutish, but with strategy, muscle and conviction, the English were defeated.
The French and Irish troops strode through western and central Ireland for nearly a month, and eventually made their way to Ballinamuck before being turned away. Our story is on one Captain Ferdy O’Donnell, a courageous, sensitive leader who was led by the Irish rebels in Killala and maintained order in the city for the duration of the French presence in the country. When the English overcame the French and Irish troops with finality, they re-took Killala, and much of County Mayo, with ferocity and relentless violence. O’Donnell had led with charm, wit and conviction, and he fought like hell, like so many in those days and since. The melancholic scars remain, as does the pride. We’re proud that our lineage extends back to such an extraordinary man.