Saturday, 24 January 2015

Development & History of Irish flags Pt10: Union Jacks & Green Harp Jacks

Irish Defence Forces ship flying Irish Naval Jack
 and UK courtesy flag in Londonderry 2014 
This post looks in brief at the national flags of Ireland used in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Following the rising of 1798, the parliaments of Ireland and Great Britain were united. The Kingdom of Ireland, ceased to exist and the island was now part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  Officially the national flag of Ireland was like the rest of the UK the Union Flag (or Union Jack) now with a St Patrick's Saltire representing the Irish part of the Union. However for many the spirit of the rebellion was still fresh in their mind, and the green flag with a gold harp, the flag used by the rebels, was used as a defacto Irish flag. This "Irish Jack" continued to be used by some Irish people as their flag at home and abroad, and only ceased to be the prime flag after the Easter Rising of 1916. The first picture of this post is of the LÉ Róisin docked in Londonderry last year. I took this picture when the ship along with HMS Severn visited the city as part of its annual maritime festival. This picture is particularly interesting as the Róisin is flying the two flags this post is about. The green harp flag, which is the Naval Jack of the Irish Defence Forces, and the Union Jack, which is in the role of a courtesy flag as Derry is a Northern Ireland city (although according to Queen's Regulations, the white ensign is the correct courtesy flag for a warship visiting the UK). A rather rare occasion when both flags were seen alongside each other.

The Union Jack

Original Union Flag of James I
combining the English & Scottish banners 
The Union Flag was the official flag of all of Ireland from 1801 to 1922, however its use on the island pre-date the Act of Union of 1801. The pre-1800 Union Flag replaced the St George Cross as the flag flown over military forts and garrisons in 1707, when England and Scotland united. Although there are suggestions it might have been used in that capacity earlier. One of the depictions of Irish forts by the military engineer Thomas Phillip in 1685, shows the fort flying the Union Jack, despite the ensigns of ships in the bay showing a St George Cross in the canton. The information board about the flag at Enniskillen castle also states the the St George's Cross was the national banner until 1606. However it also says that St George's Cross was the flag used in 1688, when the Inniskilling regiments were raised. 
The original Union Flag combines the Cross of St George with that of St Andrew and was introduced in 1606  by King James I/VI to be used on Scottish and English (and by extension Irish) ships, following the union of the crowns. However it was a maritime flag and rarely used on land. It is probably the maritime use of the flag that the information board is mistaken about.
Protectorate Jack 1658-1660, with Irish harp in centre
The absence of Irish representation was noted after the victory of Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads in the War of the Three Kingdoms. As noted in Part 5 the arms of the "Commonwealth" established by Cromwell's parliament, was two shields beside each other, one bearing St George's Cross, the other the Irish harp. This was reproduced in the flag used by "the Admiral, Vice-Admiral, and Rere-Admiral" The Jack of the Commonwealth was also the cross of St George impaled with the gold harp on a blue field. This "cross and harp jack" was used untill 1658, when it was replaced by the "Protectorate Jack." This flag was a Union Jack defaced with the arms of Ireland, it was used from 1658 until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The fact that the harp is placed in such a prominent position, and its preferred use over St Patrick's Cross is interesting. It is sometimes said by critics that this flag is proof that St Patrick's Cross was a later invention, however if one looks at flags of the period, the harp appears in many of the flags of the "Commonwealth" and so it seems natural that is continued in the Protectorate Jack. Likewise the Irish Confederates fought under a red saltire, that often appeared in the Canton of their flags, so any symbol that resembles that would have been tainted in the eyes of the Roundheads. It should also be noted that the original Union Jack continued to be used by Royalist exiles, and a defaced flag would probably be easier to distinguish from this, than one with a red saltire. After the interregnum period of the British Isles ended in 1660, the Kingdom of Ireland continued as before, and this flag being seen as republican ceased to be used.
As already mentioned in part 8 the Union Jack was used by Irish regiments both regulars and militia, throughout the 18th Century. 
The Union Flag of 1801, with the addition
 of St Patrick's Saltire, the current UK flag
Following the Irish Act of Union the flag got its last modification to give it, its' current form, as mentioned in Part 7 the St Patrick's Saltire was added to the union of crosses. It was officially hoisted up the pole, on top of the Bedford Tower of Dublin Castle at noon on 1st January 1801, while cannons in Phoenix Park fired a 21 gun salute. 
It should be noted that while Irishmen and women took the green flag with them all over the world, they also helped take the Union Jack to all corners of the world. A good example is when British sovereignty was re-established on the Falkland Islands in 1833, it was an Irishman, William Dickson who was appointed as the permanent British representative. Dickson who was of Irish origin came to the islands from Argentina, and was provided with a flag and flag pole, and given the duty of flying the British flag from the flag pole, whenever a ship was in harbour. 
George IV entering Dublin
Back in Ireland the Union Jack was used officially and unofficially both by the government, police, military and loyal citizens and private businesses. When the King (George IV) visited Ireland 1821 towns and cities all over the island displayed Union Flags, blue bunting, and interpretations of Royal Banners. The 19th Century was a time degenerate heraldry, and a rather unique flag is depicted welcoming the King in a painting by William Turner. In it's canton is a Union Flag, below which a figure of Hibernia, with the Royal arms in the fly.Unlike his later visit to Scotland where he wore a kilt, the King did not ware traditional Irish dress but military uniform, although he did ware the bonnet with a sprig of shamrock, robes and regalia of the Order of St Patrick.
Standard of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1801-1921
Flag of the Governor of Northern Ireland 1922-73
The flag of the King's representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was a Union Jack defaced with gold harp on a blue shield. A rather interesting similarity to the Protectorate Jack. However this flag was in line with representatives of the sovereign like governors. When the Irish Free State was established as a British Dominion in 1921, it was unique among the other Dominions, as the King's representative didn't fly the Union Flag but a tricolour. The Free State was at this time a republic in all but name. The monarch's representative in Northern Ireland however, did continue the practice of using a defaced Union Flag, however this was defaced with the NI coat of arms, rather than a harp. The shield was on a yellow background, often mistaken for orange. But this was just so it would stand out rather than symbolise Protestantism. Unlike the variant on Wikipedia and Chinese made reproductions where the background is mistakenly white, which is common for other Governor's flags.Like the Ulster Banner this flag ceased to be official when the NI Parliament was dissolved in 1973.  
The ordinary Union Jack continued to be used as the national flag in Ulster, as Northern Ireland remained a constitutional part of the United Kingdom after 1921, and remains so to this day. The Union Jack like most flags in NI is often seen and used as a party emblem, or Unionist symbol as well as the national flag. It is often among the "unauthorised" flags used to "mark territory" by being flown from street furniture. The Union Jack in the Northern Ireland context has been in the media glare recently, due to the Protests of 2013 and 2014. This was as a result of Belfast City Council restricting the number of days it flies the flag, on public buildings including city hall. Many people responded to this with mass protests, not just in Belfast but all over the province. It was seen as the "last straw" in what many saw was the slowly but steady, one small step at a time attempt to eradicate their culture, identity and any symbol of NI being part of the UK, It should be said however that while the demonstrations that turned violent were broadcast all over the world, the majority although perhaps disruptive were peaceful.
Union Flag Protest in Derry 2013
However it should be noted that a designated days pattern is common throughout the United Kingdom. It is common in the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, and by English councils, it has even been the practice of the NI Assembly since its establishment, and the policy of the British government's Northern Ireland Office and NI court houses.  However the timing of the decision 2012, the centenary of the Ulster Covenant and the fact that since it was signed, the flag flew every day, the symbolism of this stopping on the Covenants centenary could only be interpreted as a hostile act. 
 Community relations haven't been the same since 2012. The fact that some councils in NI fly the flag daily, others on designated days and some don't use it at all, is a sad reflection on the lack of constructive, progressive and open flag strategy in N.Ireland.
 The most recent controversy is that the flag will not appear on NI driving license but will appear on those of England, Scotland and Wales.
The Union Jack is the only official national flag of Northern Ireland
For more on the national flag of the United Kingdom click here.

The "Irish Jack"

Jack of the Irish Defence Forces' Naval Service
It is perhaps appropriate that the earliest known use of the flag, now used as the navy jack of the Irish Republic, was also on a ship of war. While the harp can be traced at least to the fifteenth century its first known use on a green flag is not until 1642. Owen Roe O'Neil is reported to have flown it at the masthead of his frigate the St Francis. O'Neil was a soldier in the Spanish army and grandson of the exiled and rebellious clan chief Hugh O'Neil. Upon hearing of the rising of 1641, he loaded his ship with arms and other instruments of war and set sail for Ireland to join the Kilkenny Confederacy. After landing his cargo in County Donegal the St Francis seat sail to Dunkirk in France with tradable goods, presumably to trade for more weapons. While she lay off Dunkirk she reportedly flew in her maintop "the Irish harp in a green field, in a flag." Although the colour of the harp is not given, it was presumably gold/yellow. The exact form of the harp is unknown, it could have been plain pillared, maid pillared, or even beast head pillared. It should be noted that this flag was not widely used by the Confederates, despite it being popularly portrayed as the Confederacy's flag. The cross potent and red saltire were far more popular in 1642.
After 1642 this flag seems to have practically disappeared. Although many of the Volunteer flags some of them green, featured harps as their central badges, it is possibly these flags that inspired those of the United Irishmen rather than a continuation of 1641.
Following the Act of Union the green flags of all sorts were used by the followers of O'Connell seeking repeal of the Union, none more so than the green harp flag, but flags with political slogans were also popular. One flag at one of the "monster meetings" of 1843 featured the national device below which was the word "Independence." The harp was sometimes accompanied by an "antique" crown. Its important to note that many nationalist only wanted Ireland to regain its status as an independent kingdom, with its own parliament rather than an separate republic. This is reflected by the crown, many more radical flags dropped the crown and this became standard as time went on.
An Irish flag captured in South Africa in 1900
As France was again plunged into revolution in 1848, this once again reignited the revolutionary fever in Ireland. A green Irish flag was presented to the new French government in Paris by a delegation of Irishmen living there. This event was noted by the British diplomatic service, and the British Ambassador to France asked for a "friendly explanation" of the incident saying That he "knew no such thing as an Irish flag, and if it was offered to place it by the side of the French colours, it could only be a rebel flag." The French Minister of Foreign affairs reassured the ambassador that France didn't recognize "any national flag in Ireland but that of the United Kingdom." Tensions were high between Britain and France, and no doubt the French were unwilling to provoke the UK.
Another flag that appeared in England at the same time was a green flag. This was borne by the Irish of London at a demonstration in 1848. It was a green flag with a red boarder. Above a harp was the inscription "Irish Confederation" and below it "Let every man have his own country." The club was part of the "Young Ireland" movement. This was one of many political harp flags borne at political meetings throughout the 1840s. When the Dublin Young Ireland movement attempted an uprising, they were led to their rendezvous by a flag and fife and drums. This uprising was little more than a skirmish with the police, and failed to capture the imagination of the Irish people as such very few flags apart from the ones mentioned are known to be associated with it. It should also be noted that the Irish Police the soon to be Royal Irish Constabulary wore green, this was recognised by the Young Ireland leader, Meager who when addressing a rally a few days before this uprising said he was glad to see many of his brother Irishmen listening to him wearing green, he was of course talking about the officers of the Irish Constabulary.  Although the green uniforms were based on those of the British Army's Rifle regiments this note suggests that many Irishmen saw the police uniform colour as significant. Unfortunately the police of the Republic of Ireland An Garda Síochána (literally translating to Guardians of the Peace) decided to adopt a blue uniform rather than continue the green uniforms of their predecessors. This tradition was carried on by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and green continues to be worn by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Irish American greeting card
It was also used by the militant Fenian Brotherhood although it was only one of a variety of flags they used.
Irish flag, according to the
Library Atlas of Modern Geography 1892
The green harp flag was taken by emigrating Irish to all corners of the world, especially British colonies and the United States, where it appeared on many Irish-American greetings cards. It became accepted as ancient flag of Ireland without question, although as is evident in this series that is not the case. None the less the green flag was immortalised in ballad and poem, with lyrics like  "When her kings with standards of green unfurled, led the red branch knights through danger" (Let Erin Remember, T Moore 1779-1852), and as such it was accepted as the Unofficial flag of Ireland. It even appeared in flag charts, atlases and encyclopedias. It is through this acceptance that it gradually lost its radical appeal. It became the de facto flag of Ireland and not the flag of radical nationalism.
 However it was still not without its controversies.
In 1885 during the early days of the Home Rule debates, an effort was made to reignite the radicalism of the green harp flag. There was an appending visit to ireland by the Prince of Wales. The the Lord Mayor of Dublin who was a nationalist, said that the moment the Prince arrived on the island, he would take down the flag of Dublin, which had by custom flown over the Mayors residence when he was in residence. This insult offended the students of Trinity College who one night raided the Lord Mayor's garden and stole the flag! The Dublin flag was a heraldic banner of the city's coat of arms, three burning castles on a blue field.
Flag of the City of Dublin
The nationalists responded by ordering a new flag. This was a green harp flag, but in the canton it had the Dublin City banner! Not only did this offend the unionists and establishment but also the nationalists! Many were offended by the arms of a city in the canton of "the national banner" The nationalist advocate P.J.Tynan said "Dublin Municipal Council changed the city flag to the national colours, degrading the immortal green of the nation to the mere emblem of a municipality." Despite all these criticisms the flag survived and is still the city flag of Dublin.
In 1906 during the Athens Olympics, Irishman Peter O'Conner, won silver in the long jump. He successfully objected to the raising of the Union Flag in his honour, and a green harp flag provided by some of his supporters was raised instead.

The 16th (Irish) Division of the 1st World War petitioned to have an official divisional flag. This was a green harp flag with 16th(Irish) Division. This was declined on the grounds that flags were borne by battalions (regimental colours) and not divisions, however green harp flags were used by Irish troops in the Great War. There is a photograph of John Redmond presenting Irish Volunteers with one before they depart for the front. There is also a report of the Connaught Rangers marching behind one in Gallipoli. The story says that they had a green harp flag flying and the pipes and drums playing Killaloe, much to the delight of nearby French troops. A detachment of Foot Guards even presented arms mistaking the flag for a regimental colour!
 The acceptance of the green harp flag as the national emblem is demonstrated here, infact had the Easter Rising not happened it could well have been the modern flag of Ireland. The green harp flag was even used in recruitment posters for the army:

The last one is interesting as it places the Irish flag alongside other national flags including Britains which suggests Ireland is a separate entity to Great Britain, which seems odd for a British Army poster.
The green harp flag has even been the basis of the flags of Irish regiments. The flag of the Ulster Defence Regiment for example is a green harp flag with a central red stripe.
Flag of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1970-92
Today though apart from its use as a Naval Jack, the green harp flag is primarily associated as the provincial flag of Leinster. a harp on green field can be traced as the Leinster arms as far back as 1651. You might note from Part 2 that arms used as national devices in the past are now provincial emblems, the best example being the three crowns of Munster. Could this be the case with the arms of Leinster, could they just be a corrupted version of the arms of Ireland? Could the confusion of the Leinster flag and "national" green harp flag be traced to the Confederation of Kilkenny (Kilkenny is in Leinster)? Could it be that the flag flown from O'Neil's ship was a token to Leinster, the capital province of the confederacy, rather than Ireland?  If so then the fact that the green harp flag became accepted as the national device would be one of the great ironies of history. It should be noted that although both versions of the Irish harp are heraldically speaking the same, the Leinster flag has by custom adopted the plain pillared harp only.
The flag of Leinster
The green harp flag has even had limited acceptance among Ulster Unionists. one good example is the arms attributed to the 36th (Ulster) Division of the 1st World War, features two emblems in its chief. One is a Union Jack symbolising Britain but the other is a harp on a green field symbolising Ireland.
It should be noted that these are attributed arms, there is no evidence of the 36th Division using them as divisional insignia (although they did appear to use a red hand on white shield), and were probably adopted after the war, for use by those who identified with the division and possibly veterans. It seems appropriate that I end the post here as I started it with the two emblems side by side. 

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