Up the Banner!

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Well I still can’t believe that me a Dub born and reared am living in the Banner County. I haven’t quite taken to shouting the rallying Up The Banner cry yet, but I certainly feel like Clare is home now and I am lucky to have pitched up here.

I decided to research the origins of why exactly Clare is called the Banner County and found some information on the website of Clare County Library.

The custom of carrying banners goes back a long way in County Clare. There is little doubt but that the Dal gCais carried banners at the battle of Clontarf in 1014 or that the Clare Dragoons carried banners at Fontenoy in 1745 and in the many battles fought by the Clare Regiments on the continent during the eighteenth century. However, the name ‘the banner county’ would appear to be of far more recent origin. In the last century as population of the county became more politicized the custom of carrying banners to political meetings became widespread. Thus many banners welcomed Daniel O’Connell at the Clare election of 1828 and the freeholders of the county marched behind banners to the Ennis courthouse to cast their votes for O’Connell on that occasion.

In Ennis most trade guilds had their own banners: bakers, butchers, brogue makers, coopers, nailers, dyers, masons, harness makers, cartwrights, stone cutters etc. all competed to produce the most handsome of banners. At the inaugeration of the O’Connell monument in Ennis in 1865 thirteen different guilds carried banners, each representing the attributes of their particular trade. That this represented a long tradition in the town is not in doubt since, on that occasion, the brogue makers’ guild carried a flag that had first been unfurled in 1726.

Politicians like Parnell and de Valera were greeted by hosts of banners. It is easy to see then in the political excitement of the times how the county acquired the name ‘the banner county’. The reason the name stuck with Clare, I would suggest, was that custom of greeting politicians with banners, particularly at election time, survived longer in Clare than in other counties. The Parnellite and de Valera eras coincided with the rise of the GAA and the name soon transferred to the county’s hurling and football teams.

Can anyone else shed any light on the origins of why Clare is known as the Banner County? I would love to hear if you do.

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7 responses »

  1. ah lovely Clare…spent a great holiday in the region last summer – weather was awful but the people were great – and the craic was mighty!

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