But to get into the Invalides, one had to be very “lucky” indeed, for one needed to have been seriously wounded or crippled and yet have survived the brutal medical treatment of the time. Depending on pressure on space, one also needed to have a minimum length of service in the French army.
Facilities and food in the Invalides were considered top notch. The staircase leading to soldiers’ quarters on the upper floors were even designed with small steps to facilitate residents with reduced mobility. And yet while many Irishmen were refused admission, others who had gained admission quit soon after, either because they were unable to cope with being confined to barracks, because they had families to go to, because they were not considered ill enough to stay on in the Invalides, because they were enticed by a payoff to give up their place to somebody else who needed it more or who had better connections, or because they were expelled.
The four other Irishmen mentioned in the Reddan report were Reddan’s pal, Bernard Reilly, Daniel Rian (Ryan), Denis Hogan and ‘Jean Michel’ (who is actually described as Scottish in the Reilly report). These four are described in the Reilly report as being “so addicted to wine that they knew nobody in this state, and they had the habit of shutting themselves inside their rooms where they fought with each other like beasts.” The authorities decided that a lottery should be organised to determine which one of the foursome should be expelled. Bernard Reilly chose the short straw, and thus was expelled on the same day in 1717 as his drinking companion, Philip Reddan.
The short biographies of all those who applied for admission to the Invalides provides insight into the kind of campaigns in which the Irish became embroiled in the service of France. We learn, for example, that a certain Denis Shaughnessy (admitted to the Invalides at age 60) had been captured by Algerian pirates and put into slavery before being ransomed by Louis XIV. Simon Kelly from Galway was admitted at age 85 after having clocked up 60 years certified service (including a period of enslavement in Crete). He was admitted at the end of May 1697, but gave up his place four and a half months later and was given 15 livres to see him on his way. William Swan from Co. Tyrone was admitted in 1786, aged 38, having had his right leg amputated after being struck by a British bullet in Tobago in the Caribbean.
Dominique Morphy (sic.)
Received into the Hotel on 14 April 1746
Dominique Morphy, Irish, aged 22, native of Clonemalos (Clonemacnoise), County Roscommon in Ireland, Soldier in the Irish regiment of Roth, company lieutenant colonel, where he served for 5 years, has a left arm that was crippled from a shot at the battle of Fontenoy, and is a Catholic.
Received into the Hotel on 30 September 1723
Mathieu Ryan Irish, aged 33, native of Dublin in Ireland, Soldier of Sire de Glasco, Dillon’s Irish Regiment, where he served 17 years..has his left calf and both arms crippled, having broken them as a result of a fall while he was on duty on a bastion at Sarrelouis, having Fallen into a boat that was moored in the water, which put him out of combat, tailor by trade and is Catholic.
- Sept. 5, 1724. Mathieu Ryan, Irish, having deserted the Hotel on July 25 last, bringing with him only the standard uniform he had been issued, the governor decided to allow him respite to return to the Hotel by September, which he did not do. This is why he has been struck from the register of the Hotel as a déserter on this day, Sept. 5, 1724.
Luc Keffe (Luke Keefe?)
Received into the Hotel on January 10, 1710
Luc Keffe Irish, aged 74, Native of Corck in Irlande. Soldier of Sire David Barry, Regiment of O’Brien (previously Clare), where he served for eight years, and before that for 12 years in the régiments of the King and of Aumont, as indicated in his certificates. His poor bearing and his weak eyesight and the wounds to his left arm that he received from a halberd during the battle of Ramillies mean he is unfit for service, and is a Catholic
- February 25, 1720. He is deceased
"Guests of France: a description of the Invalides with an account of the Irish in that institution"
Eoghan Ó hAnnracháin in Franco-irish Military Connections, 1590-1945
ed. Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac & David Murphy (2009)