UPDATED Peter Henry’s article from Trinity News corrects my errors.
Persuant to our previous photograph of the Union Jack proudly snapping from Dublin’s General Post Office, one of our dear friends & loyal readers, a former editor of Trinity College’s newspaper, sends this photo of the 1919 Victory Parade through the streets of Dublin after the end of the Great War. The red, white, and blue here flies from the top of Trinity College, and the view looks down D’Olier Street (if I recall correctly) towards O’Connell Street in the distance. The classical portico on the left marks the entrance to the Irish House of Lords.
It is worth remembering that a great deal more Irish served in the forces of the Crown than in any republican armed forces or groups. The memory of Ireland’s great sacrifice during the First World War was shamefully neglected from the 1930s until about ten or fifteen years ago. It was a pity that the famous old Irish regiments were disbanded when independence came in 1921, rather than being continued under a native Irish command. Gone the Connaught Rangers and Dublin Fusiliers, and all the great battle honours won by Irishmen from Waterloo to far off India. (Two Irish regiments still exist in the British Army, the Royal Irish and the Irish Guards). Still, in remembrance of the dead of the First World War, one can visit the War Memorial Gardens by the banks of the Liffey, beautifully designed by Lutyens and completed after independence. The cost was split between the Irish and British governments, and, in the post-war downturn, half the workers were Irish veterans of the British Army and half were veterans of the formerly rebel forces.
Ireland remained neutral during the Second World War but declared a state of emergency, which is why the time of the war is often known in Ireland as “the Emergency”. Allied and Axis soldiers who washed up or crash-landed in Ireland found themselves interned in camps, but the Irish soldiers guarding them were only armed with blank ammunition. (Allied internees were often allowed to escape). The law of the day forbade any Irish citizen from joining a foreign military, but many soldiers of the Irish Army, policemen of an Garda Siochana, and many Irish civilians left for Britain to join the Allies in the fight, and were not punished on their return. When the port of Belfast suffered a German bombardment, fire brigades from Dundalk to Dublin were sent north irrespective of the border in order to help quell the flames.
Returning to Trinity, flying the Union Jack in 1919 would not have proved controversial in the slightest (after all, it was still the official flag of the land), but the crowds gathered again on College Green in 1945 to spontaneously celebrate the news of Germany’s surrender. The flag of Ireland with those of all the Allied nations were flown from the flagpole of Trinity, but some tactless student had placed the Union Jack at the top and the Irish Tricolour at the very bottom, below even the Soviet hammer-and-sickle. The crowd noticed this and began to howl, but some more thoughtful Trinity man swiftly took the colours down and raised them again with the Tricolour to the fore. The joyful spirit resumed.
OLD TRINITY by Peter Henry
I SPOTTED this remarkable photograph in the recently-published Our War: Ireland and the Great War, edited by John Horne and published by the Royal Irish Academy. The image shows men and women watching, from the roofs of Trinity College, a victory parade on Westmoreland Street. The parade, which took place on July 19, 1919, celebrated success in the Great War.
Perhaps there was no rule against accessing roofs in 1919, or an exception may have been made for the parade. But the modern DU Calendar is unequivocal: these days, “College roofs and attic spaces are out of bounds.”
The spectacle we see in this photograph may never be repeated, but regulations are occasionally ignored. Before the renovation of rooms in Parliament Square in 2006, several attic doors were unlocked, giving easy access to the roofs. In 2005, following a day’s drinking in College Park, I was lucky enough to be able to watch the St Patrick’s weekend fi reworks sitting at the chimneys of number ten. The following year, a companion and I had a close escape from the porters when we were spotted boozing on the roof of number eight during Trinity Ball.
I would certainly not support allowing crowds of people unrestricted access to roofs. (Look at the chap sitting on the ledge of number seven – not safe!) But this picture highlights the contrast between those more relaxed days and our era of health and safety gone mad. Risk is an element of day-to-day life, but some apparatchiks’ refusal to acknowledge this leads to closed-off balconies, an excess of security, and less fun for all.
THE UNION FLAG flies above number seven in this photograph. I wonder what flag flew above Regent House that day, if any? Trinity did not abandon the flying of the union jack in 1922. The college briefly considered flying a flag of the crowned harp, which appears on the university arms and on many sports clubs’ ties. But this idea was given up in favour of flying the tricolour on one side, the union flag on the other, with the college flag in the middle.
By the mid-1930s the flying of the union flag was considered provocative rather than anachronistic and it flew, officially, for the last time, half-staff, on the passing of King George V in 1936. Dubliners did not complain, but the Deputy Ulster King of Arms wrote to the college to point out the heraldic irregularity of the gesture.
When Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, the union flag was seen again – this time as a result of student initiative. Some excited undergraduates gained access to the roof of Regent House and hoisted every flag they could get their hands on: among them the union jack, the Soviet flag, the tricolour and the stars and stripes. The union flag, for whatever reason, was above the flag of Ireland on the staff, and some members of an extremist political group, taking offence at this, burned a union flag on College Green. The students, probably for a laugh, burned an Irish fl ag above Regent House in response. Not unexpectedly, this led to anger on the streets, and it was a week before tensions in Dublin lifted.
Did Charles Haughey – a UCD student at the time – burn the union flag that day? An Irish Times obituary says so, as does Ian Wood’s Ireland During the Second World War. But McDowell and Webb do not make any mention of him.
DURING THE Students’ Union’s silly 2007 campaign to have the Irish tricolour flown over the college there was mention of flag protocol, but I have never encountered any in print. I have noticed that when a foreign dignitary visits Trinity, the flag of Ireland flies above Regent House, the flag of the visitor’s country above number seven, and the impressively-large flag of Trinity College above number four. On Commencements days, the flag of the University Senate flies above Regent House. On St Patrick’s Day, the flag of Ireland flies above Regent House. And when a fellow passes away, the flag of Trinity College flies half-staff above Regent House. But these are only observations: I do not know the specifics.
— PETER HENRY