Kilcummin, The French Landing 1798 in Co. Mayo

Kilcummin is assured of its place in history because of the French Landing of 1798. On 22nd August 1798 three ships sailed into Kilcummin Bay and anchored a short distance from the shore at a place called Béal An Chnuic. The first column of 200 French soldiers came ashore here. A granite stone was erected in 1987 to commemorate their landing.

The rest of the expedition landed at Clogher near where the pier is today and local fishermen used their boats and yawls to ferry the French and their equipment ashore. They set up camp around Clogher and used tents on a green adjoining the landing area. There were also camps at the Head which is called Benwee or Kilcummin Head. Another camp was established at Baile An Champa in the townland of Carrowtrasna to give protection to the rest of the expeditionary force when it came and it was also to be used as a recruiting centre.

The French seized all local horses to pull their cannons, equipment and for use in the cavalry. They were also short of bullets and ordered the recruits to strip the lead from the roofs and gutters of the houses of the gentry. Some of them burned down Palmerstown House and Castlelacken, Summerhill and Castlereagh houses were raided and damaged. Most of the French soldiers went to Killala the day after they arrived.

On 29th August five British ships sailed into Killala Bay. They anchored off the Kilcummin coast. They captured two trading vessels the French had commandeered. On the 27th October, a month after the rebellion had been quelled, four French ships rounded Kilcummin Head and anchored in the bay as before. The British garrison at Killala became alarmed. Captain Fraser and some soldiers of the Killala garrison positioned themselves behind Kilcummin Head to engage the French if they attempted to land. The French ships sailed away as soon as they heard of the defeat at Ballinamuck.

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