To coincide with the The 215th anniversary of the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798, an on-going educational programme is underway in Ballymoney Borough.
The programme is delivered through the Ballymoney Community Cohesion Project, in partnership with Ballymoney Museum.
The Ballymoney Community Cohesion project is delivered by Ballymoney Borough Council, funded under the European Union’s PEACE III programme and managed on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.
The Society of United Irishmen crossed the religious divide and its members consisted of Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglican.
The rebellion also featured links with the French, becoming partners in arms and also in ideological stance.
Termed “In Humbert’s Footsteps...Our Journey”, the programme seeks to further understanding of shared local history, dispel myths, and also offer a platform for discussion.
Twenty one individuals from across the Borough are currently involved, with the group exploring the legacy of 1798 in North Antrim and also throughout the island of Ireland.
Exploring the legacy has offered members an opportunity to consider different perspectives of the Rebellion, challenge themselves, and enhance their understanding of events.
In July, the group was formed and provided with a historical overview of the 1798 rebellion in a local context by Keith Beattie, Ballymoney Museum Manager.
This included a coach tour of historical points of interest in the local area. In August, the group then travelled to Co. Mayo to take part in the “Humbert’s Footsteps” Festival from 15th – 18th August.
The Festival, named in recognition of General Humbert who landed in Mayo in 1798, provided an opportunity to attend a series of re-enactments, including the French landing in Kilcummin, and the battle to take Killala.
This interactive historical experience gave members a first-hand look at what life and battle was like in 1798, as well as establishing how Mayo perceive 1798, and choose to commemorate it.
While in Co. Mayo the group were made very welcome by local people, and their enthusiasm for the Festival was infectious.
“The Festival proved to be an experience that the members of our group will never forget” said Keith Beattie, Ballymoney Museum Manager.
“The story of Humbert’s landing would have sent shockwaves through Ireland back in August 1798, and the magnitude of the events were reflected in the skilful re-enactments of redcoats, rebels and Frenchmen on the streets of Castlebar and Killala.
“Our group had several opportunities to engage with historians and politicians during their trip and this allowed them to exchange views on their perceptions of the 1798 rebellion.
“As this project progresses, I feel that we are taking small but valuable step towards a time when the United Irish Rebellion can be a commemorated by both traditions in North Antrim without compromising their 21st century identity.”
Following the success of the “Humbert’s Footsteps” Festival, the group have decided to carry on their educational journey into a winter programme of events.
These events will continue to explore shared history in the local area, and across the Island of Ireland.