A battle scene for the six part television drama, 'The Year of the French' is filmed near Castlebar, County Mayo.
On location in Mayo, scenes are being filmed for the retreat of British forces the became known as The Battle of Castlebar during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The battle took place on 27 August 1798 and lasted just six hours. It was the first real test for the hastily assembled Irish soldiers backed by the French army. The scene is being recreated for the drama series 'The Year of the French'.
An army of seven or perhaps eight hundred raggedly dressed, hard pressed peasant farmers backboned by about seven hundred of the about one thousand of the French regulars who had landed at Killala.
While they would be no match for the British regiments in the field, tactically they outwitted the English commanders taking them by surprise in their march on Castlebar led by the French leader General Humbert and his Chief Aide de Camp Colonel Teeling.
The manoeuvre which had given the French and Irish the key element of surprise was a forced march across the bogs of Mayo.
The English had expected the Irish and French forces to come marching up the Foxford Road but General Humbert pushed his army along a goat path in preparation for attack.
Humbert was hell bent on glory and ordered his troops down the hill into a murderous hail of canon fire. Astonishingly for men with no experience of battle, they pressed on even under volley after volley of grapeshot. The English eventually retreated and the battle became immortalised as 'The Races of Castlebar'.
As filming continued, the general verdict on the hillside was that
The 1981 version of the Races of Castlebar was quite magnificent.
As the production continues, all of those involved in the filming agree that it is likely to be an outstanding success.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 25 August 1981. The reporter is Jim Fahy.
Adapted from a novel by Thomas Flanagan, and directed by Michael Garvey, 'The Year of the French' is an RTÉ co-production with the French television station FR 3 in association with Britain’s Channel 4, featuring Irish, French and English actors. The first episode was broadcast on RTÉ television on 18 November 1982.