Ireland: Our Patrick Sarsfield

The name Patrick Sarsfield is intrinsically linked with the City of Limerick, his defence of Limerick during the Sieges of 1690, 1691 and the subsequent Treaty of Limerick. On his mother’s side, he descends from the O’Moores. His grandfather, Rory O’Moore, leads the Irish rebellion in 1641, an attack that brings about the brutal invasion by Oliver Cromwell.

It is largely through Patrick Sarsfield that Limerick is defended so well. He destroys King William’s siege train in 1690, the most brilliant exploit of the whole war.

In the second siege of Limerick he leads the defenders, but finding prolonged resistance impossible, assents to the Treaty of Limerick.

A French fleet arrives with reinforcements and many urge Patrick Sarsfield to tear up the Treaty and fight on. Having given his word of honour he keeps it. Believing they had negotiated a treaty that guaranteed the rights of their people, as many as twenty thousand Irish soldiers sail with Patrick Sarsfield to France.

As usual, the rulers do not honour the treaty; they tear it up and replace it with the Penal Laws. Irish Catholics are stripped of their land, persecuted for their religion and denied every right of citizenship. On this note of dishonour and betrayal begins the saga of ‘The Wild Geese’, thousands of young men leaving Ireland and joining the armies of France and Spain.

Patrick Sarsfield joins the army of France, leading the Irish Brigade. At Landen in 1693, he receives his death wound. There is a tradition that as he lies mortally wounded he puts his hand to his wound, and seeing it covered with blood, he laments that the blood is not shed for Ireland…

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