Monday, 29 October 2012

Ulster identity and the Red Hand

Today the Belfast Telegraph started a count down on 'what makes us feel most proud of ourselves'.  We had ten different things in today's list and the series will continue throughout the week.
I was glad to see that one of the ten was the Red Hand of Ulster.  Here is what the article said about it:
Whatever way you look at it, the Red Hand is the symbol for virtually everyone in Northern Ireland, but the flags aren't standard issue.  Protestants show their hand on a white background while Catholics wave their hand on the yellow nine-county Ulster flag.  It's hit and myth why the Red Hand was espoused so eagerly.  You can take your pick from a number of legendary folk who apparently cut off their hand to throw it during a race to claim the crown of Ulster - a forerunner of Game of Thrones, perhaps.
The Red Hand has been adopted by Guinness, a loyalist terror group and a nutter called Luke in Give My Head Peace.
Contrary to popular belief the saying 'caught red-handed' has no connection.
The origin of the Red Hand dates back long before the importation of the myth of cutting off a hand and throwing it ashore.  That story was brought back here several centuries ago by wealthy Ulstermen who had gone on a European tour and prior to that the story was unknown in Ulster.  However the real history of the Red Hand of Ulster is for another day.
Meanwhile in its editorial the newspaper said:
Old and brand new
Brand names are important in today's world, and our list of some of Northern Ireland's favourites contained in this week's papers are among the best anywhere.
The top 50 includes iconic local brands ranging from Queen's University to the George Best Belfast City Airport and the Odyssey complex.
There are also the essentially Ulster brands such as Lough Neagh eels, linen and the symbolic Red Hand itself.
However there are some surprises, such as the Belfast sink and Genesis bread, all of which provide rich and rare food for thought as we strive to maintain our distinctive Ulster identity and taste in the world of the 21st century.
Some of the things included by the panel would be on any Ulster list, such as linen, while others would probably not be on my own list.  However this is an interesting idea and the inclusion of the Red Hand is to be welcomed.


  1. The only place in Belfast you'll get served eel is in a Japanese restaurant! And very nice it is too.

    1. At least you can see examples of the Red Hand in every part of Belfast, North, South, East and West, and the city centre.


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