Summoning her children to which flag?

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2017), Letters, Volume 25

Sir,—Emily Cullen’s interesting article (HI 24.6, Nov./Dec. 2016) brings three things to mind. Readers may not be aware that the green flag with the gold harp is in continuous use today. It is the ‘jack’ flown by Irish naval ships when moored or at anchor, or on special occasions under way when ‘dressed overall’.

At the height of the Repeal Movement in the early 1840s it was flown by some Irish-owned merchant vessels, and it was the object of British naval vessels on the Irish station to remove them. An incident occurred on 8 April 1844 in Cork harbour, where the steamer Mermaid, carrying the lord mayor and corporation of Waterford and a group of supporters on the way to Cork for a meeting with Daniel O’Connell, passed naval ships anchored in the harbour. The steamer was flying ‘a green flag’ as an ensign (flown at the stern and indicating the nationality of the vessel), as well as a large green flag with ‘Repeal’ written on it at the masthead. She had passed HMS Volage, the flagship of Admiral Bowles, anchored off Cove, before it was realised that she was flying the illegal ensign. The Mermaid fired guns and was cheered by a crowd ashore, which was reciprocated from the ship. However, the next day she passed outward again and the navy was ready for her. She was not flying the green flag as an ensign this time; she had the correct ‘red ensign’, but had another type of green flag at the masthead. She was boarded, and in spite of protests that this flag was the arms of the City of Waterford it was hauled down and confiscated. The flag remained in the naval stores in Haulbowline and was for several years the subject of much correspondence between the mayor’s office and the admiral at Cove for its return. I believe it was returned but would be interested to know whether it is still in existence.

In 1941 the newly formed Irish Shipping Ltd was acquiring ships wherever it could. One was a Panamanian ship purchased in the United States, and among the equipment ordered from a local chandler was an Irish flag. A green flag with a gold harp was provided, and this was the ensign the ship wore on her first arrival in Dublin on 26 December 1941 as the Irish Plane.—Yours etc.,

DAIRE BRUNICARDI

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