'Sheep Stealer' Sir George Arthur French

George Arthur French was born at Roscommon, Ireland in 1841. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1860. 

In 1871, at the request of the Canadian government, he was sent to Canada as a military inspector, eventually becoming head of the School of Gunnery at Kingston, Ontario.

He was appointed to organize the North-West Mounted Police on its creation in 1873, and the next year he led the force on its famous march to the foothills of the Rockies. French resigned in 1876 and returned to duty in the British Army, eventually attaining the rank of major-general. The organizational skills developed in Canada were used to establish local defense forces in India and Australia. In September 1883 he was appointed Commandant of the Queensland Local Forces with the local rank of colonel, and arrived in the colony on January 4, 1884. Colonel French married Janet Clarke in 1862, daughter of the late Robert Long Innes, formerly of the 37th Regiment. Colonel French retired in 1891, and returned to England.

When French retired in 1902 he received a knighthood and for the next 19 years much of his time was spent guarding the crown jewels in London, where he died in 1921. 

Genealogy research: Father John French born in Mornington Park, Dublin, Ireland and his mother was Isabella Hamilton. Exploring backward, we find  the French family had been major landowners: in 1839 Baron de Freyne (Arthur French) of Coolavin in county  Sligo and county Roscommon. The 1st Baron had no heirs and the barony went to brother John. Also found in a few family trees, a wife Catherine Costello. With a little work on the part of French family members all of this can be connected with today’s resources. In the 1870s Lord de Freyne owned 25,436 acres in county Roscommon, 4,052 acres in county Sligo and 328 acres in county Galway.

In researching the area of Coolavin, Rory MacDermot has published some great historical facts on his website and mentions one clan of MacCostelloe.

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Tags: Ancestry, Australia, Canada, Genealogy, Roscommon

Comment by Geraldine Callaghan on May 17, 2015 at 7:29pm
I was born in Co.Roscommon, grew up in a village outside of Strokestown. There is a hotel there called "The Percy French" perhaps a descendant! Thanks for this posting.

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