The body of the venerable Irish Jacobite Patrick Sarsfield has been found in an old churchyard in the Belgian town of Huy, alongside other French officers.
Although full proof is yet to be established, what can be gathered from church burial records makes it very likely that the famed Jacobite is in fact buried here. This will be confirmed when the bodies are examined.
This is great news for Ireland as the body of one of our greatest heroes has been found and plans are being made to repatriate his remains. The significance of the return of the foremost of the Wild Geese is not just symbolic but also it brings vividly alive the dream that many of Ireland’s exiled warriors had of one day returning home once again.
Sarsfield was mortally wounded at the battle of Landen in the service of the French King Louis XIV. It is reported that as he lay dying he wished “would it were for Ireland” that he died.
Sarsfield was a strong and towering figure said to be well over 6 feet tall. He is best known for his courageous defence of Limerick, his devastating night raid on the Royal artillery caravan at Ballineety, his steadfast response to disaster at the Battle of Aughrim, and his negotiation of the Treaty of Limerick which led to the flight of the Wild Geese.
Patrick Sarsfield was a devout Catholic who fought valiantly for the good of Irish Catholics against an ever-menacing Protestant empire that sought the destruction of the Irish people. He was described by his contemporaries and even his critics as extremely courageous and good natured.
After the Battle of Aughrim and the Jacobite surrender at Galway and Sligo, Sarsfield and the remnant of the Jacobite army had their backs to the wall. For the welfare of his loyal men, Sarsfield negotiated the treaty of Limerick where he and 15,000 of his troops sailed to France and became the famed Wild Geese. Although the treaty was favourable, the terms were not honoured by the Williamites and the dreaded penal laws were imposed on Irish Catholics. Sarsfield kept his forces intact with the intention of one day returning to Ireland to renew the fight but sadly this never came to pass.
The dishonoured treaty was not forgotten by the Wild Geese and their families. Years later in 1745 at the Battle of Fontenoy in Belgium, the sons of the original Wild Geese, by the example Sarsfield set, won revenge for the dishonored treaty. When the battle seemed hopeless the French sent up their final reserve of the Irish Brigade. The Irish set upon their foes with a furious charge, breaking through withering fire and crashing through the English ranks. “Cuimnidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sasanach!”, “Remember Limerick and the treachery of the Saxons” echoed from Irishmen as they carved their way through their foes and hence decisively helped to win the battle for the French King.
Although the cause that Sarsfield fought for was ill-fated and hopeless, the sentiment was noble and self-sacrificing. His actions served to inspire the spirit of Gael from the Wild Geese to Pádraig Pearse to today. It is true that the Irish nation rallied with Sarsfield behind the walls of Limerick. Now as ever before, Catholic Ireland is under vicious attack by some of the same treacherous powers that Sarsfield fought against. Irish Catholics must stand with the steadfast resolve of Sarsfield and the Jacobites of old.
May his body find rest here in Irish soil, may his return inspire his race to shatter the foreign chains around them, and may his dream of a Gaelic Catholic Ireland be realised.