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Portumna, Co. Galway

The Lally Wild Geese

War-battered dogs are we, Fighters in every clime; Fillers of trench and of grave, Mockers bemocked by time. War-dogs hungry and grey, Gnawing a naked bone, Fighters in every clime--Every cause but our own
--Emily Lawless, "With the Wild Geese"

Historians have estimated that up to two million Irishmen left Ireland to join the armies of foreign countries in the hundred years after 1691, with half a million dying for France alone during this period. They were under sentence of death never to return. All of them forfeited everything - their homes, their families, their lands and estates. They had a dream of assembling a big army in France, and returning to conquer Ireland for James II, for Catholicism and for freedom. The battle of Le Hoque, the death of James II, and the Treaty of Ryswick turned their dream into a nightmare. Here is the story of a man from Galway and his French born son, which epitomizes the whole saga of the Wild Geese.

The Lally's in Ireland Area Map

The O'Mullallys or Lallys originally occupied the vast fertile plains from the Slieve Aughty Mountains in the south of Galway to the Mayo border in the north, but eventually settled in the parish of Tuam, and in Tullenadaly built a castle, the ruins of which only remains today. The Lally's were ardent Jacobites, and their lands were attainted after the defeat at Aughrim. James Lally sat as a representative of Tuam in King James's Parliament in 1689. The last of the Lallys died here in 1838.

James and Gerard Lally were the sons of Thomas Lally of Tullenadaly, Tuam Co. Galway. Their mother was the Hon. Jane Dillon, sister of the seventh Viscount Dillon. James, the eldest of five brothers, was outlawed, and went to France in 1690 with his cousin, the Honourable Colonel Arthur Dillon; in whose regiment, as Colonel-Commandant, he was killed at Montmelian in 1691.

After the defeat of the Jacobites, Gerard followed Sarsfield to France. He married a French lady, Marie Anne de Bressac, and was father of Thomas Arthur Lally ( 1702 -1766 ) Baron de Tolendal, and Count de Lally, whose name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, along with those of France's greatest soldiers.

Gerard Lally was most devoted to the House of Stuart, and awarded a Baronetcy in acknowledgement. Sir Gerard Lally became Colonel-Commandant in the Dillon Regiment. His promotion in the ranks was stalled several times, but on the connections of his son with high-ranking French families, he was brevetted a Brigadier on February 26th 1734, with the promise of being made, on the next promotion, a Marechal de Camp, retrospective to 1719. He was badly wounded at Etlingen, and was saved from certain death by his son, who threw himself between the enemy and his father. Both father and son were engaged together in many battles with the Dillon Regiment in Flanders, Germany etc, with the sieges of Philipsburgh and Clausen in 1735, being their last together.

Gerard went walking early in the morning by the riverbank and heard a bell ringing - he thought at first that it was the bell of the Angelus from the Church of St. Barnard, but it was faint and did not stop. He began to realize that it was the Tullenadaly funeral bell tolling – something he had dismissed as an Irish legend. In Irish folklore it was said in bygone days that when someone died in a parish the banshee could be heard crying. The banshee cried and our heroes died in the vValley of Knockanure. Gerard died in 1737.Lally

A remarkable Irish soldier whose name is on France's great memorial - The Arc de Triomphe

Thomas Arthur Lally was born in January 1702 at Romans in Dauphine. From an early age he was groomed to be a soldier, and for a military career with the Irish Brigade.

When he was seven years old, his father brought home to him a Captain's uniform of Dillon's Regiment and a reformed Captain's Commission dated January 1st 1709. The boy's mother ridiculed it as fancy dress, but he was delighted to parade in it and vowed to follow his father into the army. In September 1709 he was at the Siege of Girona, where he tried to hide his fear and discomfort at the sight of the dead - his father is pleased with him. He was in the trenches at Barcelona in 1714, and then he returned to college. He studied the art of warfare, the classics, languages and the history of other nations. He was gifted with a good memory, good understanding of situations, and an overall great strength of mind and body.

The Regent Duke of Orleans would have made him a Colonel in 1720, but his father was not in favour. He continued to study all aspects of warfare, and the role of each individual officer. He was appointed Captain of a company in Dillon's Regiment on 15-2-1728, and on 26-1-1732 it's Aid-Major. He served at the reduction of Kehl in 1733, and at Etlingen in 1734. He was next at the siege of Philipsburgh, and at Clausen in 1735.

There followed a long peace between France and England, during which time he occupied himself with various projects. In 1737 he travelled over to England, Scotland and Ireland to ascertain the level of support for a landing by James III, and to map out the infrastructure of each. He next travelled to Russia, with the aim of setting up a party there in favour of the Stuarts. He was escorted there by Peter Lacy from Co.Limerick, who was a veteran in that countries army.

Thomas Arthur Lally was created Major of the Regiment of Dillon in November 1741, and served with this Regiment at the defense of Flanders in 1742. Because of his heroic deeds here, he was made Aid-Major to Marshal de Noailles for the campaign of 1743 and 1744 where he was engaged at Dettingen, Menin, Ypres, Furnes and Alsace.


On October 1st 1744 he was commissioned as Colonel of the new Irish Regiment of Infantry, which was to bear his name. This Regiment was created by a reorganization of the Irish Regiments, and it was composed of 445 men plus officers. The reorganization was completed by April 1745, and was known as the Regiment of Lally. He applied himself diligently to training and disciplining his soldiers for the battle that was to come. Fontenoy is situated 80 kms due west of Brussels. The Battle of Fontenoy was fought on May 11th 1745, during the War of the Austrian Succession. The French Army was commanded by Marshal de Saxe with about 52,000 troops, including the Irish Brigade. The Allied army was composed of English, Dutch, Hanoverian, and Austrian troops, under the Duke of Cumberland. It was similar in size to the French. The French army was accompanied by Louis XIV, the Dauphine and the Duke of Richelieu. The whole of the Irish Brigade or the infantry Regiments of Clare, Dillon, Bulkeley, Roth, Berwick and Lally, and the cavalry Regiment of Fitz-James was present. Lally inspected the battlefield on the evening before, and discovered a way or pass, falsely considered impenetrable, and which would allow the Allies easy access to the French lines. This point was secured with three redoubts and sixteen cannons, to which, without doubt, the success of the battle was due. The battle commenced at 5 o'clock in the morning with the Allies gaining the upper hand, and pushing for victory. Lally noticed that at one point the Allies were employing cannon and musketry, against musketry alone. He suggested to Richelieu that the four cannon held in reserve should be employed to break the Allied line and prepare a way for an advance by the Irish Brigade.

Remember Limerick was their war cry. Lally's suggestion for a second time contributed to the victory. The battle was over in ten minutes, and all contemporary writers - except Voltaire, agree that the success of this battle was due to the Irish Brigade. The learned historian Michelet states that this battle was lost without remedy if the Irishman Lally had not proposed to break the enemies lines with four pieces of cannon. On going into action Lally made a speech to his troops to march against the enemies of France without firing until you have the points of your bayonets upon their bellies. Louis XIV and his cortege, rode through the ranks of the Irish Brigade bestowing honours and praises. The Dauphin ran forward to Lally who was slightly wounded in the battle. The King ordered Lally to stand in front of his troops, and nominated him Brigadier on the field. The war between France and England dragged on for another three years, and terminated with the Peace of Aix la Chapelle in 1748. The Irish Post Office produced a special stamp in 1995 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of this famous battle.

The Battle of Fontenoy was the highpoint of the Irish Brigade and it began to decline in popularity before it was disbanded in 1791. Irish recruiting for the Brigade and the French army decreased while there was an increase in recruiting for the British army. The failure of James III and Bonny Prince Charles to regain the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland contributed further to its decline. At the Battle of Culloden 1746 the English under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland easily defeated an army led by Bonny Prince Charles composed of Scots Highlanders French and Irish. Prince Charles returned to France and Lally was engaged in supporting the Stuart cause but there was little support now for it. Lally was also engaged in administration, recruiting for his own Regiment and preparing plans for various military campaigns.

India Lally Tollendall

Over the centuries European countries had established colonies in far away places. France and England had established colonies in East India with the HQ of the French being based at Pondicherry and the HQ of the English at Madras about 200 miles further North.

The French East India Company depended for its existence on a royal grant from France to pay for its lavish expenditure, the cost of war there against England and several other matters. It was recommended that troops should be sent out to India to maintain the French position there and that the officer in charge should have a well established reputation. Lally ! was recalled from his command on the coast of France to begin preparations for the voyage to India and was initially granted 3,000 men, 3 million in cash and 3 warships but this was reduced by 1/3 with a promise of the remainder being sent within 12 months. The expedition set sail from Breast and Fort L'Orient in May 1757. Lallys instructions were to reform the abuses without number, the extravagant expenditure and the vast disorder, which swallowed up all the revenue.

The problems in India had been a source of vast fortunes to a great number of individuals and officials. In the months preceding his departure for India he was created a Lieutenant - General of the Army in India, Commissioner for the King, Syndig of the Company and Commander in Chief of all French establishments in the East India.He was also granted the Honours of a Commander of the Order of St. Louis and Grand Cross of that order.

Due to much delays and sickness the expedition did not arrive in India until 28th April, 1758. On approaching Pondicherry the ship was saluted by five discharges of cannon balls, which pierced the ship and damaged the rigging. On landing ashore he inquired about the state of the Company affairs and was informed that the Company was in dire financial stress. That evening he attacked Cuddalore and next proceeded to besiege Fort St David, which surrendered 17 days later. He next conquered Devicotah and then returned to Pondicherry.

He next discovered that the Rajah of Tanjore owed the Company 5.6 million rupees and he decided to enforce its collection. Tanjore was about 150 miles from Pondicherry, and was assisted by the English. He was not successful and was forced to withdraw as provisions were running low in his camp. News was being received of attacks by the English on many of the French towns. A party was sent out to assassinate Lally and almost succeeded. It was reported that the French fleet was deserting. They tried to persuade the Admiral to change his mind, but the entire fleet set sail on a cruise for Mauritius. The army at this stage suffered greatly from hunger, thirst and fatigue. Supplies were running low and the men were badly paid and clothed. Lally called for more discipline and efficiency but only made himself enemies.

Five secondary forts were easily captured by Lally and an agreement was made "with the Governor of Arcot that this town with its troops should be taken into the French Company. The next intention of Lally was to capture Madras, which had as its security Fort St.George and was heavily fortified by the English troops. Lally pleaded with de Bussy (in charge of French troops) to support him with these campaigns but de Bussy had other ideas. The army then besieged Madras in December 1758 and easily overran the town but the troops became engaged in looting, intoxication and ransacking houses.

Despite bombardment of Fort St. George over nine weeks, Lally and the French troops were obliged to withdraw on February 16th 1759. Six English vessels arrived for the relief of Madras with 600 regular troops and supplies. The siege was raised on February 17th by Lally and he had to leave behind artillery and ammunition. The retreat of the army from Madras produced at Pondicherry great demonstrations of rejoicing and celebrations.

At this stage, after retiring from Madras, Lally found himself deteriorating and was obliged to return to Pondicherry in March. His troops were also in great distress. In April the English appeared before the town of Wandewash. However, no engagement took place.

Some of the troops mutinied and declared that they would not return until they were paid. They were many months in arrears. On September the 2nd the dŐ Ache fleet returned from Mauritius and engaged the English fleet in battle. However the Admiral d'Ache declared he was sailing away for the Islands and despite massive protests from the people of Pondicherry, he sailed away on 30th September never to return.

The English at this time were beginning to receive extra troops and were under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Eyre Coote, famous as Major for his services in Bengal. Before his arrival the English decided to attack Wandewash the HQ and principal post of the French between Madras and Pondicherry. The fort was well defended by 1100 men under the command of an Irish Brigade Officer MacGeoghegan. The attack began on September 30th, and after fierce fighting of about five hours duration the English were defeated and withdrew. The victory was celebrated with great joy at Pondicherry. In the middle of October the French Army mutinied because pay was 10 months in arrears, they were starving and badly in need for clothing. They were dissatisfied with several other matters. The regiments Lorrain, Lally and the Battalion of India, quit their quarters declaring that the arrears of pay should be cleared in six days or they would join the English. The money was collected from various sources and the troops returned to duty. Lieutenant Colonel Eyre Coote was a son of a Clergyman from County Limerick. He decided to attack Wandewash immediately and other forts in the area including Arcot. Wandewash surrendered to Coote.

Lally then decided at the end of 1759 to make an attempt to recapture Wandewash. On January 9th 1760 the siege took place but he was forced to withdraw from the battle and return to Pondicherry. Lally asked the Governor and Council of Pondicherry for money but none was forthcoming but he managed to get some money from various sources.

From January to May 1760, Coote and his Army captured all the major forts and towns belonging to the French and at the end of May his army was camped a short distance from Pondicherry and was supported by the English fleet. The French on the other hand had no fleet and were short of many essential supplies. Many battles and skirmishes took place up to Sept. 4th but the writing was on the wall for the French. Lally himself was threatened with assassination and poisoning. The Battle continued into November with the besieged in Pondicherry getting more desperate. On the 27th November the soldiers and citizens were put on special reduced rations.

Lally, on December 8th mounted another attack with the extra artillery and the firing continued between the two armies for the month of December. The year 1760 ended and 1761 commenced with terrible storms, which caused great damage to both the English and the French and many people died. At this time the Governor, the Council of War and Lally were considering surrender, and on January 15th 1761 terms of surrender were forwarded to Coote. On January 16th 1761 the English took possession of the main gates of the city and on the 17th the English Flag was hoisted in the city. Lally was made prisoner and departed Pondicherry for Madras on the January 18th with an escort of English Hussars to protect him from the mob, which sought his assassination.

Trial and Execution

Lally's apartments were raided in Pondicherry and all his personal possessions were pillaged. Pondicherry was destroyed by the English. Lally departed from Madras on March 10th 1761 and arrived in London on September 23rd 1761. He was advised not to return to France. On October 5th 1761 he arrived in France, and on reaching Paris presented himself to the Government and asked what charges were being made against him, but for 12 months he received promises of justice from the government but silence was imposed upon him. The people of Pondicherry made hostile petitions against him and these were presented on August 3rd 1762. He requested to be tried by a military court but was instead tried by a civilian court and was allowed no council for his defence.

He was committed to the Bastille on November 1st 1762 and gave himself up on the 5th. In July 1763 more charges were brought forward and in January 1764 a judicial inquiry was implemented. Lally never once anticipated the possibility of any other sentence other than an honourable acquittal but in May 1766 the sentence was as follows.

Thomas Arthur Lally should be decapitated as duly attainted and convicted of having betrayed the interest of the King and the Company of India and of abuses of authority vexations and exactions upon the subjects of the King and strangers resident in Pondicherry. On the night of the 4th of May he was removed from the Bastille to a prison called the Conciergerie and the date of execution was fixed for May 9th 1766. Many appeals for mercy were received by the King. The sentence was supposed to be carried out at night and that he was to leave the prison in his own carriage with his confessor but his enemies brought forward the execution by 6 hours and he was brought to the place of execution - Place de Greve - in an old cart. On the way he was subjected to many insults and at 5pm he was executed.

Lally Tollendal, Trophime Gerard Marquis de ( 1751 - 1830 ), was born at Paris on March 5, 1751. He was the legitimized son of Thomas Arthur Lally, and only discovered the secret of his birth on the day of his father's execution.

On the following day Trophime Gerard Lally, usually known as Marquis de Lally Tollendal, was brought from the Jesuit College in Paris to the chateau of his cousin Countess Mary Dillon. He at once set about rehabilitating his fathers memory and with the help of Voltaire and other powerful people succeeded in reversing the judgment of the Parliament of Paris. Early in 1789 he was elected to the States General as deputy of the noblesse of Paris where he showed himself to be a royalist as well as a passionate reformer. He was regarded at this time as the greatest orator in France. A street - the Rue Lally Tollendal in the Polish quarter in Paris - is named in his honour. Lally Monument

The Lally Monument

The Lally monument is situated one and a half miles from Tuam, and about 100 yards from the Claremorris road. It is exactly half way between Tuam and Tullenadaly, where stood the castle of the Lallys, of which the foundations now only remain. This monument is the only thing now left to remind us of this famous family. It bears the following inscription. IHS pray for the soul of James Lally and his family 1673.

Bibliography :
The Irish Brigades in the Service of France, J.C. O'Callaghan
The Wild Geese, M. Hennessy. La Cavale Irlandaise, Edouard Axelrad

Copyright Sean Ryan 2002

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