Review: Older Than Ireland

Older Than Ireland


"Eldest, that's what I am..."

“Eldest, that’s what I am…”

Alex Fegan, until then a complete unknown, made a bit of a stir a few years ago with The Irish Pub, a look at a very particular part of the Irish experience, an effort for which he was, quite correctly, well praised. Not content with that, he has again employed his style of documentary filmmaking – I suppose I would dub it a recordation documentary, as opposed to an exploratory or investigative one – this time in the service of Ireland’s oldest citizens, those whose lifetimes exceed that of the modern day state, whose experiences run the gambit of, childhood, war, love, family and growing old.

There isn’t all that much too really say here. Fegan’s interview are charming and delightful, mournful and full of joy, all in equal measure. The men and women he has managed to get on camera are a diverse bunch, some clearly coming to the end of their lives, and others still doing farming work as if they were much younger people. There are twinkles in the eye as past romances are remembered, and tears when many sorrows get brought up. For people whose lives have extended so long, a wide gambit of emotions is to be expected in any recounting, and Older Than Ireland has that in spades.

Those seeking the secrets behind such long life will probably be disappointed, as the diverse range of people Fegan has put into his final cut is so varied that it essentially precludes such an understanding. One of the first interviewees lights up a cigarette as she talks, another decries healthy eating, and there are no grand similarities between the subjects. There are more women than men, and that’s about it. They are an open-minded, tolerant bunch (a more cynical side of me suspects Fegan has been careful about who actually got the final nod for inclusion) who decry modern youths obsession with technology and physical isolation, and the growing insulation of Irish communities, while recounting the happy times of their own youths, outside of the frequently brutal school system.

I said there was no grand similarities, but that isn’t quite true. They do all have this incredible Irishness to all of them, from the woman who refers to President Higgins as “yer man” to the all too casual conversation about bodily ills in the middle of a newsagents that two other share later on. “Irishness” is not something that can be easily defined, beyond the observation of the simple wit, warmth and friendliness evident in every moment of the concise and proper 81 minute running time.

The chronological nature of Fegan’s approach is nicely implemented, the simple piano invokes thoughts of Pixar (most obviously Up of course) and the simple steady camerawork is all that is required. One can find much to fascinate just in the backgrounds of the places these people are being interviewed: warm, inviting fireplaces, breezy rural gardens, prim and proper Dublin suburban homes, minimalist nursing home bedsides: a visual record of where the elderly end up in Ireland, with paintings, pictures of crucifixes on the walls behind them. Fegan remains silent, and lets his subjects do the talking for him.

And talk they do: some very affecting stories are littered throughout Older Than Ireland, from fathers lost while young to the passing of spouses, hurts that never really heal. There are certainly members of this documentary’s cast that feel that they have, perhaps, lived enough. But there is also great joy to be gained from sections of the film too, and one cannot help but be inspired by the sights of centenarians living active lives, and to hell with anyone who might dare to think they shouldn’t.

I suppose if I was to level any criticism at the film, it is that it offers very little challenge to the viewer. If you had asked me what I thought I was going to be getting with Older Than Ireland before I went in to see it, I would have said a sometimes funny, sometimes sad but altogether Irish series of interviews with the most elderly citizens of the state, and that is exactly what I got. The experience was thus enjoyable, but not exactly very stimulating. There is no grander point behind Older Than Ireland, as Fegan jumps from topic to topic at remarkable speed.

What the centenarians think of modern Ireland in comparison to the past, the political evolution of the country, the status of the old today and fears for what may come soon, the film lands on each topic for only a few minutes before it is speeding on to discussions of first kisses and lost loves. How does the daughter of a British army officer compare to the relative of republican fighters? How does the bedridden contrast with the man arguing over his right to still drive a car? This is not some fleeting and unimportant group if people: there are, apparently, over 3’000 of them at time of writing, and to see more exploration of these views would have been fascinating to me. But, then again, I suppose Fegan can only record what these people want to talk about, and who I am to tell a 100 year old what they should and should not consider important for a modern audience?

So, Older Than Ireland is a good documentary, just one that is unlikely to resonate for very long, or outside of this country. The impressions, recollections and commentary of the 100+ club are to be treasured, and Older Than Ireland is as good a repository as I have seen. Bubbling over with genuine heart and emotional moments that tug endearingly at the heartstrings, Fegan’s latest – and hopefully not last – is one that I recommend.

May they keep getting older.

May they keep getting older.

(All images are copyright of Snackbox Films).

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Firefly: Mal And His Ship In “Out Of Gas”

“Out Of Gas”, an episode that I typically find ranked as one of Firefly’s finest, is a story that is intrinsically about the connection between one Malcolm Reynolds and the Firefly class vessel that he has the good fortune to own. Sure, the episode spends a lot of time linking Mal to the individual crew-members that make up Serenity’s personnel, treating them like the different organs that make a body work (or the different parts that make an engine turn, if I wanted to make a more appropriate analogy). But right at the heart, when Mal is left all alone on his ship to await death or salvation, we see “Out Of Gas” as a story that ties a captain and his ship so closely together, that at moments they are basically an extension of each other.

There is so much to like about “Out Of Gas” that I have to be careful I don’t turn this into a diatribe about the episodes qualities, but there is one specific aspect of it that I do want to mention. It is a piece of visual entertainment that first got me thinking about the power of lighting and hue from a cinematography standpoint. Joss Whedon’s excellent directors commentary on the DVD is well worth listening to, as he guides the viewer through the timelines and the colour schemes that mark them out: a nostalgic grainy orange and green saturation for the flashbacks, a cold and deathly blue for the present, and a mixture of the two for the near past, the colour scheme working amazing to mark out those first two timelines, and providing the right indications of where we are at any particular moment in the third.

The warm glow of orange lamps at dinner turn to fiery death and then to gradual blue, as the crew turn from happy revellers into people shivering in the cold, waiting for the oxygen to run out. Further throughout the episode colour and associated movement helps to inform us about the ship and its perils: the blue toned sterility of the medbay, the eerie emptiness of the drab cargo hold, the crew quarters enveloped in shadowy darkness, the blinking lights, like a life support machine, in the cockpit, the terrible stillness in the engine room and the, late on, completely colourless ship as it lays dead. And it is that terrible sight, of the previously full of life Serenity motionless in space, its interior silent and its crew scattered, that makes “Out Of Gas” such a terrifying glimpse into catastrophe.

The connecting thread between every flashback to the far past, to every short skip to the near past, and to the pitfalls of the present, no matter what the colour being used, is Mal. I think that he is present in all but a very small number of short scenes, and every flashback and time switch is seen through his eyes, in his location and in the things that are happening to him. He shares in that warm heating glow at the dinner scene. The blinding green of far off days are his tinted memories that come to mind at this most testing moment. The blue of the ship is his growing cold. The purple haze that starts to overcome everything is his delirium as the gunshot wound weakens and disables him.

And in that haze, and the accompanying skips back to the near present and to further back in his life, the transformation occurs. Mal becomes more than he is, and Serenity becomes more than a ship. The ships’ wounds become Mal’s wounds, almost literally speaking: Mal’s efforts to fix the ship mirror his own feeble efforts to fix himself, having to do both tasks alone, each entity dependent on the other for any chance of survival.

You can call it what Inara does, a quaint but crazy decision to “go down with the ship” in the best tradition of legendary sea captains. You can call it sheer desperation, Mal wanting to maximise the crews chances of an unlikely rescue. But I see it in much more intangible terms, calling back to the previous pronouncements on the nature of Serenity and the battle that it was named after: after you’ve been through Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there. Mal, and his entire identity as a man living free, not under the heel of anybody, is bound up with his ship. They’re one and the same, a sentiment magnified by the final shots of “Out Of Gas”, when a smiling Mal decides that this dinky little Firefly is the ship for him, and subsequently spends a great deal of time and effort filling it with the people he wants to fill it with. He’s the brain of this machine, and its triumphs are his triumphs, its failures are his failures and its freedom is his freedom. Of course Mal will go down with the ship, of course he will choose to face his end, if he has to, within this structure of metal. There is no other option for him. He’s linked to this vessel, through an immediate attachment formed when they both saw each other, through the experiences he has had flying her and crewing her, and through his past connection to the terrible place that it is named in honour of. When Serenity is out of gas, Mal is too.

And it can be extended to Zoe as well. Serenity’s injury becomes her injury: as the ship lays dying, so does its first mate. Like Mal, she went through Serenity Valley and came out the other side too, though she does not appear to have been as damaged as Mal. Regardless though, she too lives in Serenity, unable to completely get away from the battle. She too comes to identify with the ship, its hurts and its grief’s. We might look forward to her last words in the film, as she refers to the ship and to her own grief over Wash:

She’s tore up plenty. But she’ll fly true.

Like Mal, Zoe briefly becomes one with the ship. When Mal fixes the ship is when Zoe, miraculously, recovers consciousness on the shuttle and orders a return, bringing the crew, the component parts, back together for a victorious reunion, Wash giving his blood to Mal to fix him up, after Mal gave his blood to fix the ship. When Mal asks, in his drug induced state, “You all gonna be here when I get back?” it might as well be Serenity asking. Later, in “Objects In Space”, the connection between ship and its crew members will form a major plot point.

It’s more subtle than my clumsy words can really make clear, but “Out Of Gas” wants the viewer to know that the people of Serenity, especially its captain and first mate, are more than just crew. The ship is just some floating derelict without them. They are a scattered and isolated group of people without it. And none more so than Mal, a person more attached to Serenity than anyone, who intends to stay true to the salesman’s pitch: “…treat her proper, she’ll be with ya for the rest of your life.”

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Review: The Last Patrol

The Last Patrol


"I hear that train a comin..."

“I hear that train a comin…”

I read Sebastian Junger’s War a few years ago, and followed that with the documentary Restrepo. They are fascinating insights into the minds and lives of frontline American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and Junger is to be commended for the manner in which he went about getting his accounts, living with the soldiers and getting as close to them and the danger that they faced, as he could. Journalists covering war have it tough, and people in Junger’s position have often become casualties themselves. This documentary, which first aired on American television last year but has only just become available here via streaming options, is Junger reacting to the things that he has seen and done. Was it a worthwhile addition to his canon of works, or was it, as I feared it might turn out to be, a self-indulgent pity party without purpose or direction?

Following the death of college Tim Hetherington in Libya, war journalist/author Sebastian Junger vows to never travel to another war zone again. Seeking closure over Hetherington’s death and other things, he proposes a series of hikes throughout the north-eastern United States, taking with him cameraman Guillermo Cervera, who was present at Hetherington’s death, and two Afghanistan veterans, Brendan O’Byrne and Dave Roels. The group traverse Amtrak train lines, having a running discussion on war, masculinity and the state of modern day America.

The Last Patrol opens with Junger recounting a famous George Washington quote, on his first experience of combat: “I have heard the bullets whistle, and believe me, there is something charming in the sound.” The words are a quaint way of quantifying something that soldiers in many different days and ages have affirmed: that it is when the bullets start flying and the danger to life becomes real, that the greatest thrill is to be found. The Last Patrol, at times, becomes an effort to understand why this is the case, but does rapidly branch off into other areas as well.

Indeed, the entire premise of Junger’s hikes, beyond even the grandiose title that he gives them, seems like an attempt to capture the feeling of combat in peaceful America, as much as it is possible. Junger and his group walk along the Amtrak tracks – an illegal act, with the rail lines patrolled by “Amtrak police” who have apparent legions of armed men, jeeps and even a helicopter to scope out intruders – and in the process must hide from the bad guys trying to spot them, sleep out in the wild and generally act as if they are behind enemy lines. No bullets are being fired and no one is getting hurt, but there is something distinctly war like about the sense that the participants in this “last patrol” are trying to create for themselves. Indeed, the way that the group and the camera seek to slightly demonise the Amtrak security – whose presence is, somewhat ironically considering the make-up of this group, supposed to be an effort to combat potential security risks and terrorist attacks on American transport – is more than a little off-putting. But then again, so is the veritable arsenal of gear that Amtrak has at its disposal, with the moment that the group are buzzed by the aforementioned helicopter one of the most jarring.

The direction of the documentary, with multiple posited questions it is seeking to offer answers on, could be viewed as both a strength and a weakness depending. There is something disjointed and aimless about much of what unfolds, but there is also something undoubtedly charming about the comradery on display, between soldiers and journalist veterans of combat zones.

Everyone involved in The Last Patrol has lost someone or something, and all of them have a storey to tell: but they also have a very easy and relatable bond, not quite a “band of brothers” vibe, a sentiment as trite as it is overused, but more modern and accessible: anyone familiar with Evan Wright’s Generation Kill and its subsequent adaptation will note the similarities immediately. These men can argue and these men can be lowbrow humorous as the need arises, and The Last Patrol is to be commended for the reality that it manages to depict: nobody here is putting on a character for the camera, and the easy going sense created by Junger allows for some decent whole hearted discussion to come about.

There is the predictable kind of thing, like an early talk on the moment when the individuals present were most scared, tales of ambush and IED’s. But The Last Patrol is not, at these moments, just a bland war remembrance: that talk rapidly turns into a debate about orders and when it is OK not to follow them. You have Brendan, the slightly more scarred veteran who refuses to contemplate a situation where he would follow an order to take his men into an area where some of them would die unnecessarily, and you have Dave, the somewhat more relaxed individual, who presses the case for the sacrosanct status of command structure.

The two disagree, and the exchange becomes a bit heated, but what is more fascinating is what this tells us about the two men: namely, that Brendan has been burned a bit more by war, a reality that becomes clear with his panic attack-esque reaction to the sight of a dog being run over on the road next to them, an alarmingly affecting moment.

This group of men play at soldier, while discussing the reality.

This group of men play at soldier, while discussing the reality.

Why they all joined up, or choose a profession that would involve them being shot at, is a natural discussion topic also. The answers will be nothing too special to anyone even tentatively connected or interested in the military lifestyle, or in its past. Some, like Dave, joined the army in the early nineties for the opportunities it gave for a better life or an education, not quite comprehending the difference between a peacetime and a wartime force. Some, like Brendan, join as an escape from a life they dislike, because of various personal problems or parental disputes. Some, like Junger, head to warzones because they see it as the ultimate proving ground for their own capacity to succeed or endure, as a test of their masculinity without quite understanding just what that means.

In nearly every instance, things come back to fathers, whether it is Brendan’s abusive one, Junger’s recently deceased one, or Guillermo’s arms-dealing one. The group are talking about a very masculine-associated activity of humanity, while doing another very masculine associated activity: inevitably talk turns to what that means, and there is something fascinating in how, so many times, this last patrol see themselves and their actions as a consequence of their fathers, or as a reflection back on them.

Out in the forests and train tracks of America, they are almost like boys playing soldier, still living in the shadows of their progenitors. What makes a man a man? All of these men, having heard the “charming” sound of bullets being fired in their direction, are too experienced to fall back on idealistic talk of protecting a nation and shooting the bad guys. Instead, there is a general consensus that being a man is simply about being a good, righteous person: it has more in common with being a good woman than it does with the action hero stereotype that many find comfort in.

The other side of the coin is the places that the group travel through. Predominantly Africa-American neighbourhoods of run-down Baltimore suburbs turn to predominantly WASP-ish neighbourhoods in more affluent areas, and everywhere Junger and his band find hurt: poor communities seeing the local infrastructure falling apart, pastors whose flocks are diminishing, economies that struggle. No one seems satisfied with America or with the direction it is going in. The group are reduced to “playing the vet card” to find passage over a river, and more than one stranger they get on camera expresses a belief that America is divided and getting more divided as time goes on.

Whether it is liberal or conservative, black or white, the sense of disconnect between all of these areas – in particular, a visit to two churches, one mostly black in congregation, one mostly white, was noteworthy in the differences it presented – is palpable. What Junger’s point was in including these things is left to the viewer’s interpretation. I think he wants us to ponder on the societies that we ask men and women to protect with the force of arms, and why they seem so rent in places.

But in the end this is all just temporary turns away from the problems of the central group. One abandons the walk to go back to Afghanistan for another tour, with some rather chilling words – “We’ll all go back someday” – in his wake. Another’s problems with substance abuse and an inability to settle back into civilian life threaten to overwhelm him whenever he isn’t playing soldier out on the railroad tracks. Another seeks a less group sized catharsis with an open dialogue with his father. In the end, the patrol is a temporary release from the pressures of “normal” life, for a group of men who have become so used to the abnormal. Even Junger struggles to find the motivation to go on as time goes on, and the intense weather, snowfall cold and dehydration causing hot depending on the season, doesn’t help matters too much.

That Junger’s final point, in relation to the first question and the euphoria experienced by soldiers in the heat of battle, is a cliché “It’s good to be alive”, will be disappointing to some, but it is a bare naked truth that should be acknowledged more often. Every war memoir of any worth talks about this, of being in “the suck” and having that rush of adrenaline that only comes when your life has a very real chance of ending at any moment. That’s an addiction as well as a consequence: it’s what keeps some coming back for more time and again, and it’s what keeps some up at night long after the experience had ended. The old maxim remains as true as ever: “They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm”.

So, was The Last Patrol directionless, without a clear purpose or raison d’etre? I suppose the answer is yes. But, where another documentary would flounder under the same conditions, The Last Patrol manages to thrive. The discussions that take place within are interesting, and the insight into the minds of combat veterans, be they soldiers or journalists, are well worth having a look at. Those with more extensive experience of these kind of documentaries may find the end product a little predictable, but others will surely find a method of understanding the difficulties that those returning from combat are bound to have in civilian society, and if The Last Patrol does nothing else, it at least makes this point well. The feared pity party never truly materialises, and instead Junger’s work is an emotionally satisfying one. As a 90 minute Netflix offering, it fits right in with his other documentaries and books on the same topic. Recommended.

A really intriguing documentary.

A really intriguing documentary.

(All images are copyright of HBO).

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Ireland’s Wars: The Royal Irish Regiment

There were/are a large amount of “Irish” regiments within the British Armed Forces. Just check out this Wikipedia Category page, that only lists the defunct ones. The matter is complicated by the frequent creation and then extinction of these units, by the birth of a new one from the merging of two others, or two different entities having the same name. Suffice to say that a better mind than mine should be consulted for a full and authoritative history of the Irish regiments in British service. For the purposes of this series, I will be picking and choosing the regiments of the British military that I will focus on selectively. Today, the main focus will be one of the first and maybe the most famous, at least in the 18th century: the Royal Irish Regiment. Through the first half of the 1700’s, this unit served in a variety of wars and campaigns, and its history showcases some of the most interesting and some of the most mundane sides of regiment service.

It was not the first “named” Irish regiment to be raised for service by the British. Indeed, Irish men had been serving British and English monarchs and their Irish administrations for centuries already, either directly or under proxy leaders. In terms of the time period we are discussing, an “Irish Regiment” had been raised by the Viscount Clare in 1674, but this had been subsumed into the British military during the War of the Two Kings, coming to be associated with the Northumberland region, while Clare lead those loyal to him into service in the French Irish Brigade. The War of the Two Kings saw the genesis of other Irish named regiments, like the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars (originally Henry Conyngham’s Dragoons), or the 5th Royal Irish Lancers (originally James Wynne’s Dragoons). The famous “Enniskilliners” who had provided such a pivotal a role in the Ulster fighting in and around the time of the Siege of Londonderry, also became named units, like the unit of horse that became the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons or the infantry that became the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot. They fought in many campaigns of the War of the Two Kings, including the Battles of the Boyne and Aughrim, before seeing their status as a regiment maintained, going on to fight in the numerous continental conflicts of the 18th century, as well as the Jacobite rebellions in Britain. They were Protestant regiments through and through, with Catholics not permitted to enlist in the British Army for some time to come. For all that came after, these regiments would find their recruiting heartlands in the Protestant communities of Ireland.

But the Royal Irish Regiment was a little different. Its genesis was reckoned by some to go back to the days of Cromwell, when his New Model Army was aided by “Independent Companies” of Irish musketeers and pikemen, though this might be a bit of a stretch. When Charles II’s restoration came about, the new King reorganised part of the existing Irish military situation: by 1684 one of the existing regiments of infantry had been given to Arthur Forbes, the Earl of Granard. It was this unit that would eventually become the Royal Irish Regiment.

In the preamble to the War of the Two Kings, Granard’s regiment was subject to the same purging of Protestant officers and make-up that other regiments were, with the Colonel himself resigning in the face of Richard Talbot’s proscriptions: still, the regiment was able to maintain a greater Protestant character than many of their contemporary units. When the Glorious Revolution came, the regiment found itself in England, as part of James II’s army: its leadership promptly switched sides when it became clear that William of Orange was in the ascendant, its Catholic numbers dismissed soon after. Allegedly, the Protestant rump of roughly 200 soldiers were nearly assaulted by a crowd of angry English who were in fear of Irish soldiers running amok in the countryside, but were saved when they demonstrated their Church of England allegiance with the aid of a local clergyman.

The regiment, now under the command of Edward Brabazon, the Earl of Meath, was part of the Duke of Schomburg’s military force that attempted to end the Jacobite threat in Ireland in 1689. The regiment suffered alongside many others in the unfolding disaster that was that campaign, mostly from the ravages of disease, but was able to rest and refit effectively in the aftermath, swelling its numbers with local volunteers.

Meath’s Regiment took part in the Battle of the Boyne and the victorious march on Dublin, and was then present at the repulse outside Limerick later in 1690, helping to storm and capture an outpost of the defences; they later took part in the great assault William ordered to be made against the walls, which was defeated by the defenders: Meath lost a hundred soldiers in the process, out of a regiment that may have had less than 700 total.

Meath’s unit spent the winter on the Connacht frontier, raiding and counter-raiding, before taking its place with Ginkel’s army when the weather cleared. At Athlone and then Aughrim it fared better than many others, losing only a small number killed, but aiding in two of the most significant Williamite victories of the conflict. Present at the fall of Galway and then Limerick, Meath’s Regiment, now the 18th Regiment of Foot officially, was the only such regiment originally constituted in the reign of Charles II that did not take the Treaty of Limerick’s offer and go into the service of France.

While other units of the war were disbanded, their men sent home, William saw further use for the 18th, which remained part of his armed forces marked for conflict with France in the Low Countries, its troop make-up apparently committed to further fighting under the Williamite regime. In the following months, the regiment served a variety of roles: garrison duty in the south-east of Ireland, costal defence of Britain during a period when a French invasion was expected, raids on the shores of the Low Countries and Marine duty on-board Allied fleets, helping to protect merchant vessels from French attack. After Allied losses at the Battle of Landen – the place where Patrick Sarsfield died – the 18th was sent to the continent proper.

Support work and covering duty for sieges followed, and it was not until 1695 that the Regiment got a chance to really make a name for itself, at the vital siege of Namur. The town itself had surrendered, but its castle fortress held out. The 18th, having been used as part of a covering force to deflect French attentions from the siege and to protect coastal towns vital for supply, took its place in the siege works in August, and formed part of a large multi-national storming party that aimed to secure a breach and bring the fighting to an end.

The initial assault was a failure, but the 18th got the furthest of anyone, reaching the pinnacle of the breach and planting their colours before a strong enemy counter-attack forced them back. Their action was personally observed by William: he thereafter honoured the unit with the title “the Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland”, which was permitted to carry his own symbols. The regiment lost many men, and Namur would be secured by other troops, but they had gained a great deal of respect and notice from the higher-ups of the British military.

Several years of unexceptional service followed, and then the “Royal Irish Regiment” or RIR, were sent back to Ireland on garrison duty, having obtained enough glory that their disbandment was not thought of, though it was reduced in number. Of course, war was never far away, and when it broke out again between Britain and France in 1701, the regiment was rapidly called back into active service.

The resulting conflict – the War of the Spanish Succession – was one where the regiment deployed consistently over many years, taking part in most major campaigns, especially a very large amount of sieges throughout Flanders, France and the Holy Roman Empire. Whether it was directly in trenches or as part of covering forces protecting supply lines, the RIR engaged in a huge number of besieging efforts, of various different sizes, so many that the names and dates start to blur. Kayserswerth, Nijmegen, Venloo, Ruremonde, Liege, Huy, Limburg, Rayn, Ingoldstadt, Landau, Huy again, Menin, Aeth, Lisle, Tournay, Mons, Douay, Berthune, Aire, Arleux and Bouchain are just some of the places that the RIR visited and took part in military operations around between 1701 and 1714, surely gaining a degree of speciality in siege work in the process. Taking constant losses from such consistent engagement, the regiment must have suffered terribly over time, and that’s before you get into the actual battles that it also fought in.

Those locations are essentially a greatest hits of the conflict. As part of a larger campaign to save Vienna from French attacks, in 1704, the regiment assaulted French positions on the eastern bank of the Danube during the Battle of Schellenberg, eventually forcing the enemy to retreat on the second attempt, after they gained the assistance of German allies. Later that same year the regiment found itself at Blenheim, site of the Duke of Marlborough’s most famous triumph. As part of the left wing, under Churchill’s direct command, the regiment aided in the total roll-up of the French enemy, suffering over 150 casualties in the process. Irish troops served in the French army too, but they avoided each other that day.

Almost the same result occurred two years later, at the Battle of Ramillies, only this time the RIR was posted on the right, and were part of the final decisive push that gave victory to the Allies. At Oudenaarde in 1708, that titanic clash that sucked in over 150’000 soldiers, the regiment formed part of the Allied vanguard, helping to annihilate a Swiss force allied with France, before withstanding and then driving back a French cavalry attack. At both Oudenaarde and the subsequent victory during the Siege of Lille, Irish troops served on both sides again, but it was not until the following year that they would engage the other.

That was at the Battle of Malplaquet. As previously discussed, the RIR and the French Irish Brigade came into direct contact with each other, near Sart Wood. Rolling British fire, with better muskets and lighter balls, won the day, as the French Irish, firing in bulk and at a slower rate, were forced to retreat, one RIR account referring to them as “brother harpers” as both regiments had the Irish harp as part of their flag. Perhaps the best remembered and noted military encounter of its history, it was to be the last major combat that the regiment partook in for over 50 years.

With the peace of 1714 the regiment was gradually withdrawn, but was still on the continent when the Jacobite ’15 broke out. It was rapidly transferred back to England, but never saw any combat during the unsuccessful rebellion. It was a bad time for the regiment, as it suffered some headaches during the transition from over a decade of warfare to peacetime: one attempted mutiny of troops, blamed on some poor leadership of the regiment, resulted in a round of executions.

After several years of being in readiness, the regiment was shipped to Minorca to form the garrison for that island, which had been transferred to British control at the end of hostilities, a role it would have as its primary duty for several decades. The garrison was meant to act as a bulwark between Spain and Austrian controlled lands in Italy, and saw little to no action. Notwithstanding a brief reinforcement given to the garrison at Gibraltar during one of the many sieges of the Rock in 1727, the time passed without any major incident. What primary sources exist for this period note the newly poor quality of recruits being sent into the regiment, reflecting its somewhat diminished status.

The regiment missed the early years of the War of the Austrian Succession, between the final section of their Minorcan deployment and a spell back in England. Following Fontenoy and the losses incurred there, the RIR was rapidly mobilised to the continent, there to take part in the defence of Ostend. The defence was a failure, the town surrendered by its Austrian governor, but the RIR was permitted to march back to Allied lines as part of the terms, one of its only true defeats during this period.

Later that year, the ’45 broke out, and the RIR was one of many regiments rapidly transported back to Britain to counter the forces of Charles Edward Stuart. But, as with the ’15, the RIR was put into position too late, arriving in Leith just after the Battle of Culloden essentially ended the fighting. They would spend the next few years garrisoned in Scotland, helping to maintain the control that the government had won there, constructing some of the military roads that were crucial to negating the natural advantages of the Highlands. Its numbers had been badly reduced by this time, due to the lack of recruits from home and the propensity of some to desertion, a sad reflection on a unit that had fought so hard at the beginning of the century.

The regiment never got the chance to go back to the larger war before it ended in 1748, and spent most of the next two decades between garrison postings in Ireland, Scotland and England, missing out on any serious campaigns during the Seven Years War. The Royal Irish Regiment’s history up to this point is fairly typical of many regiments in British service during this period. The regiment attained great recognition and honour in its first few conflicts, and its active service through the War of the Spanish Succession was an obvious credit. But, for whatever reason or reasons, in the aftermath of this war its status as an active regiment of foot faded away. Decades of garrison duty softened it up and led to a dearth of quality officers or decent rank and file.

It was in 1767 that the regiment was ordered on the long voyage over the Atlantic Ocean, to become part of the British military garrison of the American colonies, which was not seen as a very plum posting for any regiment seeking new battle honours. It was still there eight years later, in 1775.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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Firefly: Making Sense Of Things In “Jaynestown”

At the conclusion of his unlikely odyssey through the adulation of Canton’s “mudder” community, Jayne Cobb is left standing in Serenity’s cargo bay, wistfully staring at nothing and pondering “It don’t make no sense…” Not even Malcolm Reynolds’ comforting words, usually reserved for other members of the crew, can really ease his turmoil (As an aside, I’ve always appreciated that moment, with Mal recognising, ahead of any other member of the crew, the kind of internal crisis Jayne must be going through, and wanting, as a Captain, to try and help him through it).

“Jaynestown” is an episode, in its main plot and three sub-plots, which revolves around characters making sense of things that don’t seem to make any sense at all. The man they call Jayne and his heroic reputation with the mudders, Simon’s continued keeping of refined airs out in the rim, Fess facing up to what really makes a man a man and River’s interactions with Book and his “broken” faith, they all deal with things that characters aren’t able to approach easily.

Jayne of course, is the furthest thing from a hero on the ship. He’s crude, he’s quick to choose violence as an option, he treat women appallingly, he values material possessions over people and he openly tells Mal that he might betray him if the offer was ever right: a reality that will lead to Jayne’s most unheroic moment later in the shows run in “Ariel”, which is also foreshadowed with the story of his, ahem, falling out with Stitch in this episode. And, most importantly, he is completely satisfied with this, seeing nothing wrong in his attitude or life.

And then he has to confront that statue of him in a place where he expected to only find enemies. Staring that nonsensical vision in the face, and then having to deal with the open hero worship of the mudders, is at first an uncomfortable experience for Jayne. But then, in typical fashion, he learns to embrace it, in a familiar quest for his own self-gratification, through free alcohol, loose women, and the chance for his fame to cover over the nefarious dealings of the ship’s crew, an aspect of the plot that is basically just a sideshow.

But things can’t continue in that vein forever, as the situation in Canton eventually forms into a mirror that Jayne has to peer into, comparing who he really is with the man that Canton thinks he is. The first person gets a rude wakeup call thanks to the intervention of Stitch, a reminder that Jayne is really no hero. Disgusted with this reality being foisted back upon him, and unable to deal with the hero worship any longer, Jayne snaps and violently rejects his heroic persona, incapable of making any sense of how he was turned into such a figure in the first place. Mal’s logical declaration that it has basically nothing to do with Jayne at all rings true, but Jayne doesn’t have the intelligence or the empathy to really understand that the mudders need a hero more than Jayne deserves to be one: in other words, Jayne is the hero they need, not the hero they deserve.

Much of the episode’s humour comes from Simon and Kaylee’s interaction, the first firm signs of their road to romantic entanglement after a few hints here and there in “Serenity” and “Safe”. The episode is almost bookended by quiet moments between the two in the ship, with the topic of discussion being Simon’s continued air of civility, even in a part of the ‘verse where it no longer really fits. Kaylee can’t quite make sense of that, and it’s easy to understand why: she views Simon as an attractive, intelligent guy, but the kind of manners and clothes he puts on are so far outside of her experience with men that they seem almost comical, like a satire. The episode engineers a situation where Simon gets out of that role, through the medium of alcohol, and slurred words between the two at Jayne’s piss-up are some of the most adorable in the shows run: your heart has to be cold indeed to not melt at Jewel Statie’s wonderfully inflected “Hamsters is nice”.

But Simon is still that core gentlemen, even when it results in him insulting Kaylee, again, though this time I think I’m not only in considering her reaction to be a little over the top. But Kaylee almost seems more annoyed at Simon getting himself beat up by Stitch, asking, in a scolding tone, “You couldn’t have hit him back?” (again, a little unfair, Simon smashed him with a bottle). Kaylee, echoing one of Mal’s lines in the pilot, knows Simon “ain’t weak”, but is confounded about his “being proper”. But the explanation, and Kaylee’s understanding of it, is also sweet: while Kaylee might not quite grasp it, Simon’s civility and refinement are his identity, and letting go of them is beyond him, anymore than Kaylee could stop being the most cheerful person in the universe. He only knows one way to treat women and in order to make sense of that, Kaylee has to consider things from his point of view, and accept that Simon’s politeness, even distance, is actually a compliment to her.

Inara’s visit to the Higgins household is a bit of an abnormal one within the episode, her own refinement’s at the whim of the sociopathic magistrate of the moon, who views his son’s virginity as mortifying, making him “not yet a man”. Watching this episode for the first time, I figured Fess would turn out to be a closet homosexual or something like that, but writer Ben Edlund was confident enough to have his virginity be more of a choice, a “state of being” as Inara puts it.

Fess loses his virginity to Inara, but is somewhat disappointed to find that he feels no different, neither more a man nor less of a one. It’s for Inara to explain that her purpose wasn’t to make him one, anymore than the act of intercourse increases masculinity. “A man is just a boy old enough to ask that question”. In order to prove his manhood – his authority, his capability, his confidence and ability to think for himself and act accordingly – Fess will have to stand up to his bullying father and be his own person, making sense of what it really takes to “be a man”. And that doesn’t really include sex as a prerequisite. It does include standing up for others and doing the right thing, which Fess does by allowing Serenity to leave the moon.

Lastly, there is River and Book back on the ship. Poor River hasn’t gotten all that much to do in the show thus far, bar her jaunt into the hills in “Safe”, and has often been relegated to the ship while the other crewmembers have their adventures. But here at least the exercise is not a wasted one. River, the extremely intelligent but fractured girl, finds herself drawn to “fix” the Bible of Shepherd Book, unable to tolerate the many glaring errors in logic and plot holes that the book contains. Book is aghast and not just the property destruction: as he explains to River, the book isn’t meant to be an ironclad account of fact, but a guide to faith, something that fixes people as opposed to the other way round (one might well wonder if there isn’t a certain jab also being made at the nitpickers of sci-fi plotholes)..

River can’t quite get a handle on that, the idea making little sense to her, and the truly terrifying vision of Book’s out of control hair is enough to send her over the edge.  On a  larger level, River having to confront the idea of something that cannot be “fixed” but that you should still have faith in, might be seen as a veiled reference to her herself, and the things that, while mentally broken, she will be able to accomplish in the future.

With Mal, Zoe and Wash taking a backseat in terms of driving plot, “Jaynestown” finds plenty for the rest of the cast to do, in four branching plot threads that show the crew (and one other) confronting things that make little sense and trying to make sense of them. Sometimes the answers are unwelcome, sometimes they are. Sometimes they are an epiphany, and sometimes they muddy already muddied water. But the act of getting to the answers helped grow characters and relationships in Firefly, as we reach the halfway point of the season.

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Review: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending


If one image could sum up this film, this is it.

If one image could sum up this film, this is it.

It’s September now, so that can only mean one thing: big studio releases for the year are becoming available to rent and stream in numbers! Here’s one that I turned away from during its theatrical run because of some – well, a lot of – bad press, mostly in relation to a story out of control and acting that was, ahem, poor. But the Wachowski siblings are a big deal for a reason, even if they have never really been able to garner the same kind of critical acclaim or notice that The Matrix did. Is Jupiter Ascending an unfairly maligned sci-fi offering, like Fantastic Four? Or is it just as mediocre and poor as so many critics said it was?

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) lives an unexceptional life in Chicago, cleaning houses for a living and dreaming of something better. But she does have a higher destiny, unknowingly being the genetic “reoccurance” of an intergalactic matriarch. Threatened by alien attackers, her life is saved by genetically engineered soldier Caine (Channing Tatum), after which she is quickly drawn into a warped family dispute between some of the most powerful individuals in the universe.

I should point out of course that the basic plot summary above is only skimming the surface of a very complicated beast. Weird characters, plot twists and various alien worlds abound, all wrapped around a plot consisting of economic wrangling over human genes, or something. There are lots of strange looking planets, ships, flying dinosaurs, and a Dune-like aura in the cutthroat politics of the universe top families.

And therein lays the problem for the Wachowskis. I think they had a very grand vision for Jupiter Ascending. And I think that maybe it was too grand, for the capital they had to work with and the time and energy they could put into the project (after all, they also had a Netflix TV show out this year, Sense8).

Jupiter Ascending is a film that is trying to appear far more epic and amazing than it really is. Right from a very ham-fisted prologue (James D’Arcy just can’t get “The sky is full of miracles!” out with any kind of seriousness), to the introduction of the “Abrasax” siblings (“Could it be that success does not agree with you?” “Could it be that failure agrees with you?” – actual dialogue in a $176 million film), you suddenly get that very sinking feeling with Jupiter Ascending, a film hogtied by its very unspectacular script and even worse performances, and from star names very much capable of better.

If you can get past those two gigantic problems, and the recurring theme of “capitalism is bad”, shoved down the audiences throats with such abandon that one suspects Paul Murphy was involved in the film in some capacity, you might start to find some things to enjoy. Sure, Jupiter Jones’ story of finding out that she is exceptional having lived a very unexceptional life is the kind of tale that has been told millions of times, but it’s relatively rare that a woman has actually been the focal point.

And while the Wachowskis have a terrible tendency to bombard the audience with vital exposition or universe building very quickly (they did it so much better in The Matrix, didn’t they?), you can find yourself getting lost in this sci-fi wonderland, with its cool weaponry, alien designs and spiffy CGI spaceships. There is a certain uniqueness (in terms of what we’ve seen from the genre recently anyway) to the design of everything – call it Gothic or Baroque or whatever – that makes one think of a slightly less dark Warhammer 40K kind of setting, and if Jupiter Ascending is going to be getting props for anything, it is its visuals and action scenes, which are entertaining and cool looking for the most part, though a certain level of repetition does abound by the time we get into the last act.

But every good thing also has a negative. Some of the action scenes, like that ship dogfight through the streets of Chicago or the more confusing assault on Titus’ vessel later on go on for a bit too long, and an otherwise enjoyable score gets drowned out by some odd audio mixing choices. And for all the kudos that Jupiter Ascending should be getting for featuring a central female protagonist, I was surprised, and a little disappointed, with how little agency Jupiter actually gets in her own story.

Time and again she is thrust into the role of an audience surrogate question asker, with Caine the real hero with agency and direction, flying in on his anti-gravity boots to save her at least five times in the course of the film. Only by the end does Jupiter get to take some matters into her own hands, and even then there is a sense of her just being a witness to the much bigger stories and characters that surround her.

But if I had to name a single killing aspect of Jupiter Ascending, it would be the strange pacing of the film. When we had hit a point where I thought we had entered a third act, I thought it was a bit soon, and was stunned to see that half the film remained. And through a dose of repetitive sequences, boring character interactions, and a bizarre Gilliam-esque (the famous director is even part of the it) comic escapade through galactic bureaucracy (a sequence that killed the momentum of the film stone dead for me) the second half just drags and drags, with my notes for the film including the phrase “Man, this just keeps on going, doesn’t it?”.

Amid all of the whacky characters and crazy costumes, the film has a very basic plot.

Amid all of the whacky characters and crazy costumes, the film has a very basic plot.

The Wachowskis clearly loved the universe they had come up with, maybe a bit too much, as their exploration of both it and its key side-characters – the Abrasax siblings, the space police, etc – meant that there was less and less time for Jupiter’s heroic journey and a very tacked on romantic angle with Caine. There are a lot of films recently within that “nerd/geek” banner that are starting to do away with the previously obligatory romantic sub-plot, and I feel like the Wachowskis, who have done very well with romantic plotlines if we are being honest with ourselves, would do better if they just left such things alone.

Watching Jupiter meet all of these seemingly impressive people, who continually come out with bad dialogue, delivered poorly, reminded rather of the FilmCow animation featuring the unimpressive reality of Greek deities. Kunis, a much better actress than you might think, delivers an OK performance, but she’s lost at the centre of this whirling hurricane of strange creatures and odd characters, which began to take on a bit of a George Miller look to them at times (think “Rictus Erectus” was bad? There is a character in Jupiter Ascending named “Chicanery Night”). Channing Tatum, having wowed me and others earlier this year in Foxcatcher, is left with a dull monotone action hero role here, without a shirt for a very long period of time (though I suppose that balanced out a garish bra/panties shot earlier).

And then there are the others. It’s always weird to see an actor recently praised to the hilt, to the extent of winning an Oscar, suddenly turn and give a performance so awful you can’t even bring yourself to laugh. But that’s what Eddie Redmayne does here, as primary antagonist Balem, who sounds, for some unexplained reason, like he has throat cancer, except when HE GETS SHOUTY SHOUTY for a few seconds at a time. Douglas Booth’s dumbass playboy and Tuppence Middleton’s slightly creepy sister (“Feel my skin” she nonchalantly asks Jupiter at one point) complete the Abrasax trifecta, and the likes of Sean Bean (playing, I kid you not, a half man, half bee), Maria Doyle Kennedy (reliving her Tudors days with an atrocious foreign accent) and Nikki Amuka-Bird just can’t get a word in edgewise. I recently caught Tim Pigott-Smith giving a very moving recitation of the last book of The Illiad with the Almeida Theatre, but here he is buried under so much prosthetic and bad wordplay that any trace of his actual talent is lost to the ages.

So Jupiter Ascending muddles its way into a confusing and unsatisfying ending. Having established a galaxy-spanning narrative based around the promise of the individual over the steamroller of the collective, Jupiter Ascending suddenly seems to back track and, in the same vein as Wreck-It Ralph’s horrible closing message, essentially seems to insist that we should all just be happy with our lot. Know your place pleb, even if you have anti-grav boots and are part of an intergalactic monarchy (and don’t worry too much about the gigantic genocide taking place everywhere else). Everything about the conclusion seems rushed, like the production team just wanted to tie a bow on things rapidly and move on.

There is a scene a bit into Jupiter Ascending, highlights in the Filmspotting review, which showcases one of the films central problems. As Balem looks out over an expansive sci-fi landscape, a processing factory hidden inside the Eye of Jupiter, while within a fabulously ornate viewing platform, one of the (very cool looking) winged lizard people approaches him with an issue. The issue? “There’s a problem in the clinic”. And with that one horribly out of place line put into the mouth of a nine foot tall flying dinosaur, any hint of majesty and sci-fi wonder that the scene had is cast away.

I just don’t think the Wachowskis had a firm grasp on what they wanted to accomplish here. Jupiter Ascending feels like several films worth of plot mashed into 127 minutes, yet still manages to be extremely slow and dull in large sections, especially a second half that has lots going on, just none of it any good. I half think the ideas behind Jupiter Ascending would have worked a lot better if they had been a serialised TV show rather than a film, since that medium would have allowed for more patient story-telling.

So, there is ambition here. There is uniqueness. There are good ideas, and a sci-fi universe that is the kind of place I wouldn’t mind seeing other stories in. But the downsides are many: the script, which is shockingly bad at points, many of the performances, whether it is the fault of the cast or the directors, and that truly awful pacing problem. Jupiter Ascending is the kind of film that I really want to be better than it is, but is just isn’t. It’s overwrought, lacks depth in the right places and feels more like an advertisement for the universe than a film worthy of plaudits. Not recommended.

A good universe, that did not produce a good story.

A good universe, that did not produce a good story.

(All images are copyright of Warner Bros. Pictures).

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Ireland’s Wars: The French At Carrickfergus

In 1759, the latest in a series of wars between France and Britain was raging on. The Seven Years War would come to a conclusion by 1763, with the Irish Brigade heavily engaged in various theatres around the globe, but most of its central focus remained on that cross-channel rivalry, that so defined much of the 1700’s in terms of Europe’s military history.

The great dream of France was always to launch a successful invasion of Britain. The possibility was tantalising: Britain was never really renowned for its ground forces, much of which would have been engaged in Europe, as it was for its navy, so if a sizable enough French army could be landed there, it is easy to imagine a French military victory. But that navy was the problem, Britain’s ships provising a near ceaseless guard on its coasts, and on any possible landing sites. In conjunction with the weather, which throughout history was never very favourable when it came to launching invasions from one direction or the other, it gave Britain the kind of defence that frequently made France beg off from its planned invasions. As we have seen, the French preferred to let someone else do the fighting for them, and were perfectly willing to finance and outfit other expeditions, with promises of future support if things worked out. But they never did work out, and the last successful French military landing on English soil had been way back in 1216.

In 1759, the new foreign minister of France, Etienne Francois, the Duc de Choiseul, began to formulate the latest French design on the British Isles. He envisioned a swift powerful blow to Britain that would knock her out of the war, end British subsidies to French enemies’ on the continent, like Prussia, and avenge French reversals at British hands throughout the world. Unlike others, who felt that the only way that such an invasion could succeed would be if the British Navy was dealt with first, Choiseul instead envisioned a rapid crossing of the channel in a larger fleet of flat-bottomed transport boats, which would proceed from the coast of France to southern England whenever the conditions were optimal, unload their troops – the plans were initially for over 100’000 – and be finished before the Royal Navy could intervene in force. There was significant opposition to the plan from elements within the French government, but enough support that its planned execution became a major part of French military efforts in 1759. Further landings were planned to take place in Ireland and Scotland, with the Irish Brigade and Royal Scots to be heavily involved.

Naturally, Choiseul wanted to involve the Jacobite movement. As in the Fifteen and the ’45, the belief was held that an invasion headed, at least nominally, by the likes of Charles Edward Stuart would have a good chance of getting the local population onside and expediting the entire campaign, with France left with a favourable royal administration to deal with in the aftermath. But this was not to be, not in any firm capacity. A meeting between Choiseul and Charles was a disaster, the Jacobite pretender allegedly turning up late and drunk, already in the throes of the alcoholism that would define much of his final years. Charles was surly and uncooperative in the face of the French plans, insisting that any role he played had to be of an invasion of England, rejecting the suggestion that he instead lead a force in Ireland, demanding reparations from the French government and complaining bitterly of his treatment during the ’45. Charles was cast off as a liability by the French afterwards, the Jacobite star falling rapidly, though Choiseul and the French military were still happy to recruit Jacobites into their ranks. When the Dutch Republic, neutral at the time, inquired as to French aims in their planned invasion, they were told they had no intention of restoring Charles Stuart to the British throne.

In the end, it mattered very little. The French Brest Fleet, designated as a potential cover for the overall invasion plan, was badly mauled at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in November of 1759, and many transport ships were destroyed in British raids, London well aware of French plans. With French government and military heads uneasy about attempting a crossing without any support, despite Choiseul’s insistence on the contrary, the invasion was cancelled. Initially just postponed, the stretching of French military resources, especially in terms of ships, essentially meant that it would never taker place.

However, the French would be able to get to the British Isles, just in a much smaller fashion than expected. Francois Thurot, a famous French privateer who had preyed on over 60 British ships in 1659, was able to break out of a British blockade of Dunkirk late that year, with a small fleet of six ships, two of which had to turn back relatively quickly due to damage sustained. They carried some of the planned invasion force in their holds. Thurot, with some Irish among his crew, was determined to savage something of French naval honour, and determined on a coastal raid of Ulster, initially aiming for Lough Foyle and Londonderry. When bad weather, lack of provisions and a suppressed mutiny afflicted his small fleet, Thurot instead looked further east. He discounted Belfast as a target after some thought, but there were nearby places of interest.

On the 21st of February 1760, Thurot was able to land 600 troops near Carrickfergus, roughly 10 kilometres north-east of Belfast. The town and its fortifications, including an old castle, was defended by only a small force of 200 or so men under a Colonel Jennings. The subsequent clash, aggrandisingly named the “Battle of Carrickfergus”, essentially consisted of the French pushing the local forces out of the village of Kilroot and blockading them in the castle, which was surrendered after a threat to fire Carrickfergus. 19 French were killed in the attack, another 30 wounded. British casualties are unknown.

Thurot and his men would only stay a few days, stripping the castle of anything valuable they could carry and demanding additional supplies be sent from Belfast, a place Thurot still had vague ambitions of attacking and capturing, hoping to get a sizable ransom in exchange for not destroying it. The response of local authorities was swift: the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin sent a force of dragoons northward, fearing that the raid was a feint meant to aid a landing further south, while a sizable force of local militia were raised and armed. With Royal Navy ships closing in, Thurot was obliged to abandon Carrickfergus just a few days after landing.

One week after his initial landing, Thurot’s luck ran out. At the Battle of Bishop’s Court, off the coast of County Down, his fleet was attacked by a superior British force, with every ship sunk or captured, Thurot himself killed by a gunshot to the chest. He died a national hero in France, his deeds, daring and escapades seen in stark contrast to the general military incompetence and defeats that were occurring everywhere else during the war. That aside, Thurot’s raid had little practical effect on the war or on Ireland, his time in Antrim not leaving much of a measurable footprint.

In the end, the much vaunted and highly sought after French plans to invade Britain came to nothing. When the war did end, it was to France’s disadvantage, and to the disadvantage of the Irish serviceman in her ranks, whose dream of overthrowing the ruling British monarchy and attaining a measure of freedom for their homeland being further away than ever.

They were not the only Irish in arms of course. Next time, with Irish involvement in the American Revolution soon to be discussed, it would be apropos to take a look at those Irish regiments in British service during the 18th century.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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