No. 504 NAI DFA GR 1489

Letter from Count Gerald O'Kelly de Gallagh to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Paris, 6 January 1931

I have the honour to inform you that immediately on returning from the reception at the Elysée on December 31st, I changed into civilian clothing and then called up the Hôtel du Louvre to enquire for Mr Justice O'Byrne.1

Judge O'Byrne was out at the time, so I drove down to the hotel in the hopes of seeing him. As he was still out I left a card asking him to ring me up and inviting him to lunch on the morrow.

He rang up that evening and it was arranged that I should fetch him at his hotel next morning at noon and bring him home to lunch. This I did. After lunch I drove him out to Colombes, where I was fortunate in being able to obtain admission for him to a seat in the official tribune beside me.

You are acquainted with the results of the match. You are also au courant of the arrangements I had made beforehand with Mr Rutherford in connexion with flags, national anthems, etc. I regret to have to report that most of these arrangements appear to have gone awry.

It had been agreed that, as there were three flagstaves at Colombes, the French flag should be in the middle, flanked by the Irish and the English flags. This was not done. When we arrived on the ground, all three staves were bare. When the teams appeared, however, I was amazed to see the Union Jack and the Irish Tricolour - with the former on top - run up on the same line on the centre flagstaff. I find it hard to imagine a more undesirable solution to the flag problem. I do not yet know who was responsible, but will endeavour to find out.

It had been arranged that the 'Marseillaise' was to greet the simultaneous arrival of both teams on to the field. No tune of any sort was played. The press comments were varied. One paper said it was because of Marshal Joffre's illness that the usual procedure had been departed from. Another said that it was because we had not yet been able to compose a national anthem. Yet a third paper said it was because our anthem was too little known! While a M. Octave Lausanne writing in the Liberté, became lyrical in the following terms:-


'Une clameur.

Les voilà qui déboulent du tunnel.

Dieu qu'ils sont grands, et comme les nôtres sont petits!

Sans nul doute, une illusion d'optique...

Echange de gerbes. God save the King, marseillaise.

Tirage au sort pour le toss...

Ça y est, le match va commencer. Notre coeur bat terriblement.'

The offices of the 'Liberté' must be very comfortable to inspire such free prose.

The seating arrangements were very casual. I found a seat reserved in the front row for the 'Ambassadeur d'Angleterre'. To his left was a seat for the 'Consul d'Irlande'. In the second row was a seat marked 'Comte O'Kelly de Gallagh'. The British Ambassador was not present and I took his seat. The British Vice-Consul and his wife appeared with the Embassy tickets and would have been given the seats of honour, had I not, without their knowing it, arranged it otherwise. Had they arrived before me, the position would have been very awkward.

Two French under-secretaries were present and were very courteous.

    After the match I drove home with Justice O'Byrne to tea and then sent him back to his hotel in the car, promising to send for him, next morning to show him over the new Legation premises in which he showed great interest. In the evening, I attended the banquet. It was presided over by Mr Dantou, president of the F.F.R. I was on his left, the President of the Irish R.F.U. being on his right. This was entirely wrong but was obviously not intentionally so. The meal was very cordial and was what you would expect an International Rugby dinner to be. I came home about 11.30 just as the youth of the party were beginning to wake up.

The French President, M. Dantou, was extremely cordial and invited me down to Perigueux to taste his wife's paté de foie gras! Failing that, he promised to send me a specimen of it. I confess I prefer the latter alternative. The formal toasts of 'The President' and 'H.M. King George' having been honoured - without music - several speeches of the usual type were made. I, personally, spoke in both French and English, on the lines that I suggested in my previous letter to you on the subject.

As regards music, no Irish airs that I recognised were played, though the programme provided for two or three. The nearest approach to anything Irish was 'Tipperary' which is just the reverse of what we would desire.

The conclusion I draw from these proceedings is that, whatever may be the disadvantages at home, we ought to make every effort to secure the recognition of the Irish Flag and the Irish Anthem as the suitable symbols at an Irish-French match in France. The presence of the Irish Minister at a function where these are taboo cannot be explained to any intelligent Frenchman, for the reason that it is inexplicable. In a number of the newspapers, the Irish team were alluded to as 'les britanniques' and in one paper the heading is as follows:-


'Le Match France-Irlande.

Les Anglais sont battus par 3 points a 0.'

So long as we countenance the Union Jack and concur in the suppression of the 'Soldier's Song' we have only ourselves to blame if the man in the street looks upon us as 'les Britanniques' and if certain sub-editors find it natural to call us 'Les Anglais'.

I nearly forgot to mention that the day before the match a radio company telephoned me to ask for the loan of a disc of the Irish National Anthem. He said he was acting under instructions of the Racing-Club de France - the lessees of the Colombes State - who wished the Irish National Anthem to be broadcast when the Irish team took the field. Whoever gave these instructions was obviously not au courant of the arrangements made with Rutherford but if I had had the disc I would unhesitatingly have given it - by mistake if need be - so as to allow the Racing Club to create such a desirable precedent.

Is there such a disc in existence?2

If not, could one not be made? At all events I would be very glad to receive half a dozen of them as soon as possible, for lending out.

[signed] Count G. O'Kelly de Gallagh


There is at present at sale a 'H.M.V.' Record of the National Anthem entitled 'Soldiers of Erin'. Record No. B2568, recorded by the 69th Regiment, New York. A more recent record of the Anthem has been made by the No. 1. Army Band but will not be on sale until end of January or early February.

1 John O'Byrne, Attorney General of the Irish Free State (1924-26), High Court judge (1926-40).

2 Handwritten marginal annotation: '1: Assistant Secretary, 2: Mr Conway. Please procure gramophone records of National Anthem and send 4 Paris, 2 Berlin, 2 Washington, 2 Rome and 2 London, J.V.F. 12/1/31'. 'Mr Murphy to see before filing.'

3 This note is handwritten: the initials are indecipherable.

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