In advance of a commemoration ceremony in Kilmainham Gaol, Ann Blackwell speaks to reporter David Hanly about her relative Colonel James Bartholomew Blackwell, who led the first charge on the Bastille in Paris during the French Revolution in 1789.

Born in Ennis County Clare, Blackwell was a mercenary who went to France, originally to become a priest. He gave this up to become a doctor but then took up with insurgents and various insurgencies in France. He became involved with Irish revolutionaries Wolfe Tone and James Napper Tandy. He was subsequently arrested and spent two years in Kilmainham Gaol.

Ann thinks that Colonel Blackwell may well have been,

Rather bombastic, rather difficult, rather headstrong.

Few Irish people were involved in the storming of the Bastille and she thinks James Blackwell got caught up in circumstances and was ruled by his heart rather than his head.

Blackwell married Sophie Wade and there is speculation that his Lieutenant Joachim-Napoléon Murat made a play for his wife, almost leading to a duel at dawn between the two officers. 

A long overdue commemoration ceremony for Blackwelll is to be held in the execution yard of Kilmainham Gaol where Lieutenant General Michael Joseph Costello and Justin Keating will give orations.

A ‘Morning Ireland’ report by David Hanly broadcast on 14 July 1986.

Joe O'Brien reports for RTÉ News on the commemorations at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.