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Killala – the French invasion of 1798 

North Mayo will forever remember the day in August 1798, when an expedition of 1,000 French men under the leadership of General Humbert landed just north of Killala to help liberate Ireland.  

They began by freeing Killala, then Ballina, before being joined by 3,000 inexperienced, ill-equipped Irishmen who headed south armed only with pikes and pitchforks to take the town of Castlebar and liberate the region, establishing a Republic of Connaught.  

It was a quixotic, chaotic spree, but inspiring, none the less. When the British finally surrounded them, the French troops were pardoned, but 2,000 Irish men were slaughtered and two priests who had supported them were hanged.  

In Humbert’s Footsteps  is a festival which each annually celebrates and re-enacts the landing, their encounters with Irish Volunteers and the first fateful battles at Killala and Ballina each August  


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