Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Londonderry Air

A beautiful tune which has a beautiful lyric.

The Red Hand of Ulster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Red Hand of Ulster (in Irish: Lámh Dhearg Uladh) is a symbol used in heraldry[1] to denote the Irish province of Ulster. It is less commonly known as the Red Hand of O'Neill[2]. Its origins are said to be attributed to the mythical Irish figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg[1] (Labraid of the Red Hand), and appear in other mythical tales passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition. The symbol is strongly rooted in Irish Gaelic culture and is particularly associated with the Uí Néill clan of Ulster. In some versions, a left hand is used and/or the thumb is opened (such as Tyrone GAA's crest).

[edit] Mythical originsIt is generally accepted that this Irish Gaelic symbol originated in pagan times and was first associated with the mythical figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg or Labraid Lámderg (Labraid of the Red Hand).[1]

According to one myth, the kingdom of Ulster had at one time no rightful heir. Because of this it was agreed that a boat race should take place (possibly in Strangford Lough) and that "whosoever's hand is the first to touch the shore of Ulster, so shall he be made the king".

One potential king so desired the kingship that, upon seeing that he was losing the race, he cut off his hand and threw it to the shore — thus winning the kingship. The hand is most likely red to represent the fact that it would have been covered in blood. According to some versions of the story, the king who cut off his hand belonged to the Uí Néill clan, which apparently explains its association with them. Another variation of this story concludes that it was none other than Niall of the Nine Hostages who severed his own hand in order to win his crown from his brother, the contest was initiated by their Viking father who could not chose between his two sons.

Another story concerns two giants engaged in battle, one of whom had his hand cut off by the other, and a red imprint of the hand was left on the rocks.

[edit] UsageThe Red Hand symbol is believed to have been used by the Uí Néill clan during its Nine Years' War (1594–1603) against the spread of English control. The war cry Lámh Dhearg Abú! (Red Hand to victory!) was also associated with the Uí Néill.[3]

Gaelic-Irish clan coats of arms and insignia were first officially listed by the Ulster King of Arms, established in Dublin from 1552, and granted to those clans who had gone through the "Surrender and regrant" process.[citation needed]

Coats of arms used by those whose surnames are of Uí Néill descent – Ó Donnghile, Ó Cathain, Ó Máeilsheáchlainn and Ó Catharnaigh, to name just a few – all feature the Red Hand in some form, recalling their common descent. On the Ó Néill coat of arms featuring the Red Hand, the motto is Lámh Dhearg Éireann (Red Hand of Ireland).[4] Clan MacNeil of Barra, Scotland also use the Red Hand in the coat of arms of their chief.

After Walter de Burgh became Earl of Ulster in 1243 the de Burgh cross was combined with the Red Hand to create the modern Flag of Ulster.

Numerous other families have used the hand to denote an Ulster ancestry. The head of the Guinness family, the Earl of Iveagh, has three red hands on his arms granted as recently as 1891.[5]

The Red Hand was later included in the Northern Ireland flag and on the shields of counties Cavan, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Monaghan. It is also used by many other official and non-official organisations throughout the province of Ulster.

The Red Hand can be regarded as one of the very few cross-community symbols used in Northern Ireland. Due to its roots as a Gaelic Irish symbol, nationalist/republican groups have used (and continue to use) it often – for example the republican Irish Citizen Army, the republican National Graves Association, Belfast, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and numerous GAA clubs in Ulster. However, after the creation of Northern Ireland, loyalist groups began to use it widely – for example the Red Hand Commandos, Red Hand Defenders and Ulster Defence Association, among others.

Due to its usage by loyalist paramilitaries, those unfamiliar with Irish history have believed it to be a solely loyalist symbol.[6] In 2005 former Miss Northern Ireland, Zöe Salmon, caused controversy when she selected the Red Hand as a symbol to represent Northern Ireland in a competition for Blue Peter. David Miller, a sociology professor from Strathclyde University in Scotland, complained to the BBC, saying that "like the swastika the Red Hand has been misappropriated ... it is the symbol of the unionists".[7] Michael Copeland, an Ulster Unionist party assembly member, described the row as “political correctness gone mad”.

It is also the badge of baronets other than those of Scotland or Nova Scotia. In the flags, the red hand is a right hand; for baronets and the Irish Society, it is a left hand.

"The Red Hand of Ulster's a paradox quite,
To Baronets 'tis said to belong;
If they use the left hand, they're sure to be right,
And to use the right hand would be wrong.
For the Province, a different custom applies,
And just the reverse is the rule;
If you use the right hand you'll be right, safe and wise,
If you use the left hand you're a fool."[8]

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