Ballinamuck (Irish: Béal Átha na Muc, meaning "mouth of the pig's ford") is a village in north County Longford. It is located 20 kilometres from Longford Town. It is made up of 23 townlands and is in the parish of Killoe. Ballinamuck is twinned with the French town of Essert.
Ballinamuck is one of the most historic towns in north Longford because of the great battle that was fought there in 1798 between the combined Irish and French forces under General Humbert and General Blake and the English under Lord Cornwallis. The little town and its battle became famous in recent years because of the success of Thomas Flanagan's historic novel "The Year of the French" and subsequent film.
By far the biggest event in the history of Drumlish/Ballinamuck was the Battle of Ballinamuck, fought on 8 September 1798 over an area where the village now stands. A small French army had landed at Killala Bay, Co. Mayo, just over two weeks earlier, and was joined by local Irish volunteers. After fighting its way eastward, and having been joined by more Irish rebels on its way through Cos Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim, it was met at Ballinamuck by vastly superior British forces. Its leader, General Humbert, had under his command 800 French regular soldiers and about 1000 Irish volunteers, who were armed with pikes and would have had minimal military training. His opposite number, the British general Lake, had perhaps 20 times that number of regular English, Scottish and Hessian soldiers, including cavalry, as well as militia men, who came from other Irish counties and would not have been a match for trained soldiers, having been used during the restless summer of 1798 as auxiliaries and support, useful mainly for harassment and terrorising unarmed country people.
The military battle lasted half an hour. The French, down to 600 men after 200 of their number had been captured earlier by British cavalry, surrendered, were taken in custody and properly treated. The Irish, under their own officers, fought while they could but did not have the option of surrendering. Many of them were killed on the spot, on Shanmullagh hill, or fleeing, Some, including their commander General Blake from Co Mayo, were captured and hanged. A century and a half later, remains discovered in Cattan bog in Co Leitrim, a few miles away, were believed to be those of a Croppy who had escaped the battlefield but had died there from his injuries.
The battle has brought fame to Ballinamuck and has been commemorated many times on its anniversaries. Ceremonies have been attended by Presidents Sean T O’Kelly and Mary McAleese. There are fine local memorials like the Pikeman statue dating from 1928 and the commemorative stone with its trilingual inscription from 1948. The village has been twinned with Essert de Belfort in Alsace, close to where General Humbert was born.
This was the last battle fought between regular armies, not only in Ireland but in Scotland, Wales and England, a fact that should make it of interest to people who have an interest in battlefields, wherever they may be, and like to visit them.
Things to Do
Edenmore Bog Walk
Edenmore Bog Walk is a looped trail of about 5km around part of the the North Longford boglands, it is located 3km from Ballinamuck village. The walk has been developed by the Ballinamuck Community Enterprise Group, with the support of Fáilte Ireland. This trail is a unique setting for a self guided tour of pristine bogland habitat, introducing the walker to the biodiversity of bogland plants and animals as well as many other features of interest along the route.
The centre of Edenmore Bog is in relatively pristine condition, and supports two rare mosses that are only found on high quality raised bog. The edges of the bog support a range of woodland, grassland and wetland habitats, which add to the diversity of flora and fauna in the area. Peat provides an important source of fuel for the local community, many of whom have turbary (turf-cutting) rights for small sections around the edges. Turbary rights are assigned to families or to houses, and this is a traditional practice that has been in place for centuries.
1798 Visitors Centre
The Ballinamuck Battlefield 1798 Visitors Centre in the village of Ballinamuck is located in the middle of the site of the battle fought on 8th September 1798. It was the last pitched battle on Irish soil and was one of the final episodes in the 1798 Rebellion. The Visitors Centre has an interesting exhibition on the battle and is open by request.
Kilmahon Graveyard, Kilmahon, in the parish of Drumlish & Ballinamuck County Longford, currently open, the date of the oldest inscription is 1841, it features flat and standing memorials.