More than 1000 celebrate Bastille Day in Limerick by honouring Wild Geese heritage at King John’s Castle

Enjoying the Bastille Day celebrations at King John's Castle

MORE than 1000 people enjoyed warm sunshine in the grounds of King John’s Castle as Limerick celebrated Bastille Day and commemorated its historic ‘Wild Geese’ links with France at a FREE family event set to become an annual occasion in Limerick.

Organised by Limerick City and County Council and the Honorary Consul of France in the Mid-West, in association with Shannon Heritage and Alliance Française Limerick, the Limerick celebration on Sunday 14th July featured free family entertainment, a free tour of the castle, displays in the courtyard, musical performances and a historical talk on ‘The Flight of the Wild Geese’.

Members of the public, the Defence Forces, Elected Members, visitors to Limerick and a large gathering from the French community enjoyed the event which is now set to be marked on an annual basis in Limerick according to Mayor of the city and county, Cllr Michael Sheahan.

“One of my priorities when I was elected Mayor was to honour the diaspora who have left Limerick’s shores and what a wonderful celebratory event we had last Sunday honouring our shared heritage.  I’m delighted that, together with the new Honorary Consul of France in Limerick, a special celebration around the Sunday of Bastille Day will now take place every year to remember our ‘Wild Geese’ and their contribution. It’s great that we will continue to collaborate, grow and celebrate this connection.“

Loïc Guyon, the new Honorary Consul of France  said yesterday’s event symbolised “an annual celebration of the long-lasting friendship between our two nations.”

“The Flight of the Wild Geese, back in 1691, has brought our two countries closer than ever before, with so many Irish men and women settling in France and, for many of them, integrating into French society in very successful ways,” he said. “It was a wonderful celebration and the fact that the Limerick Wild Geese Festival will be scheduled every year on Sunday of or immediately preceding Bastille Day, France’s national day, is highly symbolic in this regard. This year’s event was a small-scale version of what we are hoping to organise from 2020 onwards and I’m already looking forward to our celebration on 12th July 2020 and what should be a very special and enjoyable experience for all”.

On a beautiful Limerick day, children enjoyed free medieval displays in the courtyard and face painting followed by a parade of En Garde, dressed as 18th century soldiers of theLégion irlandaise, members of the French Foreign Legion Association of Ireland and members of the Irish Defence Forces as well as Limerick’s Boherbuoy Band.

Both the Irish and French national flags were raised with performances of both national anthems.

A talk by Cornelius O’Sullivan, President of En Garde, on the history of the Flight of the Wild Geese and its long-lasting impact on the shared history of France and Ireland was followed by a gun salute by En Garde members.

The term ‘Wild Geese’ had been used to describe those Irish serving in European armies since the 16th century. The historical episode known as the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’ refers to the 12,000 Irish Jacobite soldiers, commanded by Patrick Sarsfield, who left Ireland for France as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 ending the Williamite War in Ireland.  The Wild Geese formed King James’s army in exile but by 1692 were incorporated into the French Army.