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Search to identify and repatriate remains of Patrick Sarsfield moves step closer

Dr Loïc Guyon (standing, centre) pictured at a special public lecture at MIC on 9 February 2023.

The search for the remains of Patrick Sarsfield, the Earl of Lucan, has moved a step forward with the announcement that Sarsfield's burial site has been identified and that an archaeological excavation of the site will be commencing soon. The announcement was made by Dr Loïc Guyon, Head of the Department of French Studies at MIC and Honorary Consul of France to the MidWest Region at a talk to celebrate 30 years of the Bachelor of Arts programme at MIC on Thursday 9 February.

The Sarsfield Homecoming Project was officially launched by Dr Guyon in November 2020 with the objective of trying to locate, identify and repatriate to Ireland the remains of Irish national hero Patrick Sarsfield. Following the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, Sarsfield left Ireland, along with thousands of Irish jacobite soldiers known as the Wild Geese, and died in the service of France in 1693. The project has generated significant public and media interest since its launch and regular updates posted on social media by Dr Guyon have attracted thousands of followers from Ireland and beyond. The project is sponsored by Limerick-based American company Carelon Global Solutions.

During his one-hour long presentation, Dr Guyon explained how he debunked some myths surrounding Sarsfield’s death and how he came to verify and corroborate the fact that the Earl of Lucan was buried in Huy (Belgium) where the church of Saint-Martin d’Outre-Meuse used to sit. He also explained how he was able to determine the precise location of Sarsfield’s grave and announced that he will be working with Limerick-based company Aegis Archaeology Limited to conduct an archaeological excavation of the site, possibly as early as this summer or by the summer of 2024 depending on how quickly the administrative authorisation to carry out the excavation can be obtained from the Minister for Heritage of the Walloon government.

Aegis Archaeology Director Frank Coyne said: “Aegis Archaeology has over 20 years of experience and expertise in conducting archaeological excavations both in Ireland and abroad and we are delighted and honoured to be asked to participate in such a momentous and historic project”.

Depending on how fast the administrative authorisation to dig the site will be obtained, Dr Guyon also announced that a fundraising campaign involving a mix of crowdfunding and corporate sponsorship will be launched in the coming months with the objective of raising the estimated €90,000 needed to conduct the excavation.

Among the other revelations made during the talk, Dr Guyon announced the forthcoming publication in the next issue of the North Munster Antiquarian Journal of a long article summarizing the findings of his research. He also showed the packed audience of over 150 people the results of his study of the parish registers of Saint-Martin’s Church and revealed that a total of 24 people were buried inside the church over a period of 106 years, but out of those 24 people Dr Guyon was able to determine that only 10 were men of the same age group as Patrick Sarsfield and that they were all buried individually, which should facilitate the work of the archaeologists.

Commenting on the project, Dr Guyon said “While the first aim of the Sarsfield Homecoming Project is to find and repatriate the remains of Patrick Sarsfield (and, as shown tonight, I am confident that we can succeed in doing so), a secondary aim has always been to bring Sarsfield and the whole historical episode of the Flight of the Wild Geese back into the spotlight and educate, in particular the younger generations, about that important part of Limerick’s history, Ireland’s history, and the history of the ties between France and Ireland. With the support of Carelon, the project’s sponsor, and of a number of local partners, I have been delighted to work over the past two years with many local community groups and schools to develop awareness of that aspect of Limerick’s historical identity, notably through the annual Limerick Bastille Day Wild Geese Festival and through the creation, in partnership with the Limerick Civic Trust and the Limerick Museum, of the Wild Geese Museum (located in the old St Munchin’s Church of England, on King’s Island).”

You can follow the latest developments on the Sarsfield Homecoming Project by search for the hashtag #SarsfieldHomecoming on all of the major social media platforms.

The Faculty of Arts at MIC is holding a number of public lectures this spring to celebrate 30 years of the Bachelor of Arts programme at the College. Three talks remain in the series, including:

Thursday 23 February - Elizabeth Shaw: An unknown Irish writer behind an East German children's classic, Dr Sabine Egger
Thursday 9 March - Guth an Chainteora Dúchais Aonteangaigh i gCóngar is i gCéin: Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún (1777-1857), Tony Ó Floinn
Thursday 23 March - Shakespeare: Man or Myth?, Professor William Leahy

You can find out more about the series and register your FREE place at any of the talks by clicking here.