St Patrick's blue is a name often mistakenly applied to several shades of blue associated with Ireland. The official colour of Ireland in heraldic terms is azure blue. The colour blue's association with Saint Patrick dates from the 1780s, when it was adopted as the colour of the Anglo-Irish Order of St Patrick. The term refers to a sky blue used by the Order of St Patrick, often confused in Ireland with a darker, rich blue.[1][2] There is no de jure national colour in Ireland, with the only reference to any colour(s) appearing in Article 7 of the Irish Constitution in regards to the national flag.[3] However, while green is the de facto national colour of Ireland, representing Ireland in many sporting, cultural, and business events, azure blue is still found in symbols of both the state and the island.[4]

Sash of the Order of St Patrick

History edit

Origins edit

Armorial Wijnbergen. Showing arms for the kings, including Ireland.

The first record of blue as representing authority in Ireland appears in the late 13th century French roll of arms, known as the Armorial Wijnbergen. Within the document, a shield bearing a gold harp on a Blue field with the inscription Le Roi d'Irlande ("king of Ireland") written underneath is listed[5] The Order of St Patrick was established in 1783 as the senior order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Ireland. The colour of its honours needed to differ from those of the Order of the Garter (dark blue) and the Order of the Thistle (green). Orange was considered, but the association with orangeism felt to be too sectarian, so the lighter blue was chosen.[6] Knights and officers of the order wore a "sky blue" mantle and riband, a hat lined with "blue", and a badge ringed with "blue" enamel.[7] The name St Patrick's blue was common but never officially used by the Order.[1][8] The exact shade of blue used varied over time. A sky blue tinged with green was used by Lord Iveagh in 1895 and confirmed in 1903.[1]

Original 1914 Starry Plough banner on display in National Museum, Collins Barracks, in Dublin

There has been debate over the extent to which blue was a national colour of Ireland prior to the creation of the Order, and whether it was associated with Saint Patrick himself independently of the Order. Jim Smyth characterised the Order's adoption of St Patrick's Blue and Saint Patrick's Saltire as examples of invention of tradition.[9] Shane Leslie speculated that the green-blue of St Patrick's blue might be "but a reminiscence of the woad-stain used by all colour-loving Celts".[10] Constance Markievicz believed blue was "the old colour of Ireland" and incorporated it in the regalia of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA).[11] Scientific analysis of the ICA banner, the Starry Plough, found it had originally been a rich deep poplin field of blue before being replaced with green in advance of being flown over the Imperial Hotel during the 1916 Easter Rising.[12][13] Antiquarian nationalist Francis Joseph Bigger considered St Patrick's blue a "fake colour" and Saint Patrick's Flag a "fake flag".[14] More recently, Peter Alter[15] and Christina Mahony[16] have supported the historicity of the colour, while Brian Ó Cuív questioned it.[4]

Historic arms of the Kingdom of Ireland

The Irish arms used by English monarchs since Edward IV had an azure field; originally the device was three crowns (now the arms of Munster) until Henry VIII changed it to a harp. This is still the arms of the modern Irish state, and also appears in the lower left quarter of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom.[17] In Irish mythology, Flaitheas Éireann, the sovereignty of Ireland, was sometimes represented as a woman in a blue robe.[18] Although the arms of the province of Mide has a blue field, when its device was used as the arms of Ireland, the field was sable.[18] The Irish College in Paris, completed in 1776,[19] was renovated in 2002; the paint uncovered on the chapel walls was described as "St Patrick's blue" by a visiting journalist.[20] As regards green in association with Patrick: in 1681, Thomas Dineley reported people wearing crosses of green ribbon in their hats on Saint Patrick's Day.[21]

Former use edit

At a "National Ball" during Edward, Prince of Wales' 1868 visit to Ireland, his wife Alexandra wore a dress of "St Patrick blue".[22] In 1886, a garden party given by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to showcase Irish manufacturing had an Irish-themed dress code. The Freeman's Journal criticised some of the code as difficult to comply with, but said 'Irish poplin ties of "St Patrick's Blue"—which we think looks rather green in a certain light—may [...] be had without much strain.'[23] The Guardian's report of the party stated 'the display of the new colour, "St. Patrick's Blue," was everywhere visible.'[24] The 1912 court uniform and dress code specified that the household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should wear St Patrick's blue,[25] as should Pages of Honour when the King was in Ireland.[26]

The Ireland association football team organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA) wore St Patrick's blue jerseys from 1882 until 1931, when they switched to green.[27] The IFA team is now the Northern Ireland team. The Football Association of Ireland sent an Irish Free State team to the 1924 Olympic football tournament; it wore a St Patrick's Blue change strip against Bulgaria, whose strip was Ireland's usual green.[28] In 2021, the Republic of Ireland wore a St. Patrick's Blue jersey in a friendly against Qatar for the 100th anniversary of the FAI.[29]

In the 1930s, the Army Comrades Association's Saint Patrick's blue shirts earned it the nickname of Blueshirts. It was a quasi-Fascist shirted movement which rejected green as associated with its republican opponents.[30] The saltire flag of the Blueshirts was a variant of Saint Patrick's Flag with the white background replaced with a blue background. W. T. Cosgrave described the colour as "in perfect, traditional, national accord with our history and in close association with the most revered and venerated memory of our patron Saint".[31]

The Irish Army Band's first uniform was St Patrick's blue, but this was soon changed to navy.[32] The Mounted Escort ceremonial cavalry of 1932–48 were nicknamed "Blue Hussars" from their uniforms, whose colour was sometimes described as St Patrick's blue.[33][34][35] The uniform introduced in 1970 for Aer Lingus air hostesses and ground crew[36] combined green and St Patrick's Blue, described in The Irish Times as "a sparkling new colour".[37] The 1970 uniform was replaced in 1975, after a design consultancy developed a common corporate image with a colour scheme of dark bottle green, bright green, and "a strong blue".[38]

Modern use edit

The Irish presidential standard

The coat of arms of Ireland and the standard of the president of Ireland are a gold (or) Irish harp with silver (argent) strings on a field of blue (azure).[39] The standard was introduced at the end of Douglas Hyde's term in 1945;[40] contemporary news reports describe the blue as "St. Patrick's Blue".[41] The arms were granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland on 9 November 1945.[42] Horses owned by the Irish National Stud are regarded as owned by the president and entitled to run in the presidential colours.[43] The racing colours are "Saint Patrick's blue with gold sleeves, and a St Patrick's blue cap with gold tassel".[44] One such horse is Suailce,[45] which won the 2008 Irish Cesarewich.[46] The blue in the ribbon of the service medals of the Irish Defence Forces is described as "St. Patrick’s blue".[2][47]

St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle. Home of the Order of St Patrick, now used for presidential inaugurations.

The official sporting colours of University College Dublin are "St. Patrick's Blue and Saffron", adopted in 1910.[48] The blue is commonly interpreted as 'light' or 'Dublin' blue;[48] the GAA county colours of County Dublin include light blue jerseys. In the National University of Ireland's academic dress code, "Saint Patrick's Blue" is the colour of the faculty of Science; Veterinary Medicine has a darker "Celtic Blue".[49] The academical dress of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland also features St Patrick's blue.[50] The Trinity College Dublin fencing club specifies that the azure in its colours is "St. Patrick's Blue (Pantone 295 as the Presedential [sic] Pennant)".[51]

Among Irish regiments of the British Army, a hackle of St Patrick's blue is worn in the bearskins of the Irish Guards[52] and in the caubeens of the London Irish Rifles.[53] The Guards' blue was chosen in distinction to the Royal Irish Fusiliers' green hackle.[54] St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin commemorates its historic association with the Order of Saint Patrick with St Patrick's blue on the cassocks of the choristers and under the clerical collars of the dean and the vicar.[55]

A cross-border flag for Ireland may be required where a sporting team combines athletes from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The arms of the four provinces of Ireland on a background of Saint Patrick's blue has sometimes served this purpose.[56]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Galloway, p.174
  2. ^ a b Seaby Coin & Medal Bulletin. B.A. Seaby (653–664): 41. 1973. [Describing the ribbons of] the Service Medal, and the Reserve Defence Forces Service Medal, as "St. Patrick's blue" seems strange to British collectors, to whom the description means a very pale, slightly greenish blue, but perhaps the Irish attribute a rich dark blue to their patron saint. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Article 7 of the Constitution of Ireland (1 July 1937).
  4. ^ a b Ó Cuív, Brian (1976). "The Wearing of the Green". Studia Hibernica (17–18): 106–119.
  5. ^ Morris, Ewan (2005). Our own devices: National symbols and polititcal conflict in Twentieth-Century Ireland. Irish Academic Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-7165-2663-8.
  6. ^ Galloway, Peter (1999). The most illustrious Order: The Order of St Patrick and its knights (2nd ed.). London: Unicorn. p. 172. ISBN 0-906290-23-6.
  7. ^ Order of St. Patrick (1831). Statutes and ordinances of the most illustrious Order of Saint Patrick. G.A. and J.F. Grierson. pp. 24, 29, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 67, 68, 69, 83, 104, 112, 116, 119, 120.
  8. ^ Stewart, Georgiana L. (14 August 1893). "Protest To The Queen From Irish Women Against Home Rule". The Times. No. 34029. p. 6; col E. The whole was contained in a very handsome walnut casket lined with Irish poplin of the shade known as St. Patrick's blue, which is the colour of the riband worn on the robes of the Knights of St. Patrick.
  9. ^ Smyth, Jim (July 2000). "Strum and Drang". Fortnight (387): 14–16: 15. JSTOR 25560008.
  10. ^ Leslie, Shane (1917). The Celt and the World: A Study of the Relation of Celt and Teuton in History. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 35.
  11. ^ O'Casey, Sean (1946). Drums under the windows. Macmillan. p. 338.
  12. ^ Phelan, Rachel. (2014). The Citizen Army’s ‘Starry Plough’ flag. History Ireland. Vol 22(6). Retrieved 13 April 2020
  13. ^ "Object: Plough and the Stars Flag". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  14. ^ Bigger, Francis Joseph (1927). John Smyth Crone, F. C. Bigger (ed.). In Remembrance: Articles & Sketches : Biographical, Historical, Topographical. Talbot Press. p. 65.
  15. ^ Alter, Peter (1974). "Symbols of Irish Nationalism". Studia Hibernica (14): 104–23. doi:10.3828/sh.1974.14.6. S2CID 242527504.
  16. ^ Vernon, Jennifer (15 March 2004). "St. Patrick's Day: Fact vs. Fiction". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. p. 2. Archived from the original on 7 March 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  17. ^ Morris, Ewan (2005). Our own devices: national symbols and political conflict in twentieth-century Ireland. Irish Academic Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-7165-2663-8.
  18. ^ a b Carragin, Eoin (18 April 2007). "Heraldry in Ireland". National Library of Ireland. p. 3. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Collège des Irlandais". Structurae. Nicholas Janberg. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  20. ^ Lyng, Marlene (13 October 2002). "An oasis for saints and scholars in Paris". Sunday Tribune. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  21. ^ Shirley, E. P. (1858). "Extracts from the journal of Thomas Dineley, esquire, giving some account of his visit to Ireland in the reign of Charles II". Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society. new series (1): 143–6, 170–88.; cited in "Patrick (St Patrick, Pádraig)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21562. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  22. ^ "This Evening's News: The Royal Visit to Ireland". Pall Mall Gazette. London. 24 April 1868.
  23. ^ "The Royal Visit". Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser. Dublin. 23 April 1868.
  24. ^ our own correspondent (23 May 1886). "Viceregal garden party". The Guardian. p. 3.
  25. ^ Trendell, Herbert A. P (1912). Dress worn at His Majesty's court. Vol. 1. London: Harrison & Sons. p. 161.
  26. ^ Trendell, p.9
  27. ^ Byrne, Peter (16 November 1996). "From Belfast Celtic to Shelbourne". The Irish Times. p. 2, Sport. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  28. ^ Howard, Paul (30 July 2000). "The first tango in Paris". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2009.
  29. ^ "Here's why Ireland are wearing a blue jersey against Qatar for their friendly game in Dublin". independent. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  30. ^ Cronin, Mike (1997). The Blueshirts and Irish politics. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 47. ISBN 1-85182-312-3.
  31. ^ "Public Business. - Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill, 1934—First Stage". Dáil Éireann - Volume 50. 23 February 1934. p. col.2121. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  32. ^ Kelly, Olivia (22 February 2003). "Changing of colours for the Army Band". The Irish Times. p. 2, Weekend. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  33. ^ "St. Patrick's Day parade. March-past in the rain. "Hussars" again on view". The Irish Times. 18 March 1933. p. 9. Retrieved 14 May 2009. the army's own flag of St. Patrick's blue trimmed with gold ... The same colours were worn by the little guard of horsemen who rode in advance.
  34. ^ "A colourful ceremony: French minister's credentials". The Irish Times. 15 May 1933. p. 4. Retrieved 14 May 2009. a troop of Free State cavalry clad in the attractive St. Patrick's blue and gold uniforms which were introduced for the Eucharistic Congress last June
  35. ^ McIntosh, Gillian (1999). The Force of Culture: Unionist Identities in Twentieth-century Ireland. Cork University Press. p. 42. ISBN 1-85918-205-4.
  36. ^ "New uniform for Aer Lingus staff". The Irish Times. 4 July 1970. p. 13.
  37. ^ "Women First". The Irish Times. 13 February 1970. p. 6.
  38. ^ "'Corporate image' for Aer Lingus". The Irish Times. 2 December 1974. p. 13.
  39. ^ "Arms of Ireland". Office of the Chief Herald. The National Library of Ireland. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013. (Grant Type: Registration; Register volume: G.O. MS 111G; Folio number: 20; Date: 9 November 1945)
  40. ^ "Bd. Oliver Plunkett Jubilee". Catholic Herald. 1 June 1945. p. 6. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  41. ^ "Irish fly new flag". The News and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. 29 July 1945. pp. 14–B. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  42. ^ "Grant of Arms (Registration): Arms of Ireland". Catalogue. National Library of Ireland. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013.
  43. ^ "Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechasing Rules" (PDF). The Curragh, Co. Kildare: Irish Turf Club. 12 February 2009. p. 57; §105. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2010. Horses the property of the Irish National Stud Co. Ltd. may be raced under these Rules in the name of the President of Ireland, who shall be deemed to be the lessee of such horses.
  44. ^ "4.15: At The Races Curragh Cup". Race Card: Audi Pretty Polly Stakes. Curragh Racecourse. 27 June 2009. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  45. ^ O' Reilly, Chryss Goulandris. "Chairman's Statement 2008" (PDF). Reports and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2008. Irish National Stud Co. Ltd. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2010. In addition the Irish National Stud owned Suailce. Racing in the colours of H E the President and trained by our director Dermot Weld, she was a high class winner here at home.
  46. ^ O'Hehir, Peter (24 August 2008). "Ten Acious". Irish Daily Mirror. p. 43.
  47. ^ Mc Inerney, Martin (October 2010). Medals of the Irish Defence Forces (PDF) (1st ed.). Irish Defence Forces. pp. 19, 21. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  48. ^ a b "The Colours of the University". UCD Sport. UCD. Archived from the original on 21 July 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  49. ^ "Academic dress of the National University of Ireland" (PDF). National University of Ireland. 2006. pp. 10, 20. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  50. ^ "Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland: Academic Costume". British Medical Journal. 1: 1294. 28 May 1904. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2265.1293. S2CID 220004281.
  51. ^ "Dublin University Fencing Club". Trinity College Dublin. 2005. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  52. ^ Taylor, Bryn (2006). "A brief history of the regiment". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  53. ^ "The story of the 'Caubeen'". London Irish Rifles Regimental Association. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  54. ^ MacLeod, Olaf (1986). Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out: The Last Full Dress Uniform of the British Army. Lutterworth Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-7188-2673-6.
  55. ^ Byrne, Roy H. (27 August 1993). "St Patrick's blue". The Irish Times. p. 13. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  56. ^ Morris, p.194

External links edit