Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 493 NAI DFA GR 1489

Letter from Seán Murphy (for Joseph P. Walshe) to Count Gerald O'Kelly de Gallagh (Paris)
(1489/458) (Copy)

Dublin, 16 December 1930

I am directed by the Minister to refer to your minute of the 7th ultimo No. 52/D/30,1 relative to the question of your participation in the functions connected with the Franco-Irish International Rugby Football Match to be held in Paris on New Year's Day next.

If you are invited to be present at the Football Match and also to attend the Banquet on that evening, the Minister considers that in all the circumstances your attendance would be most desirable.

Irish Rugby football has never been partitioned, and the team which will go to France will represent all Ireland as in pre-Treaty times. Any person born in Ireland or whose parents were born in Ireland is eligible for inclusion therein. This year's team consists of twelve men from the Irish Free State and three from Northern Ireland, two of these three being members of British military forces. This year's team is in fact more strongly representative of the Irish Free State than any other team of previous years. It so happens that Belfast is very poor in Rugby football material. Some two years ago, when the Irish team was playing an English team at Belfast, some difficulty arose over the question of flags. It had been the practice in Belfast to fly only the Union Jack, but two years ago the captain of the Irish team (Mr. Crawford of Dublin) made representations to the effect that the Saorstát flag should also be flown. Owing to the fact that the Irish Rugby Football Union is governed by a Council nominated by football interests in the four Provinces, it was not possible to secure this, but the difficulty was got over by withdrawing both flags, with the result that the only flag on the field was the flag of the Irish Rugby Football Union. The same practice holds in Lansdowne Road. The only flag which is flown for an English team playing here is the flag of the Rugby Football Union. Furthermore, when an English team is playing in Dublin it is received on the field by an air 'Hearts of Oak'; the Irish team is received by 'St. Patrick's Day'. When, however, the Governor-General arrives the Garda Band plays the Free State National Anthem, but the Saorstát flag is not flown. When an English team is playing in Belfast, the same procedure follows, i.e. 'Hearts of Oak' is played for the English team and 'St. Patrick's Day' or some other Irish air for the Irish team. If the Governor of Northern Ireland attends the Match, he is received by 'God Save the King'. This procedure will give you sufficient background in approaching the matter.

There is very little record here of what has happened in Paris in previous years on the occasion of similar Franco-Irish football matches, but nevertheless it has been ascertained that some two years ago the Irish team was received on the field with an Irish air ('The Last Rose of Summer'). This was secured by Mr. Dempsey2 after approaching Mr. Rutherford, who is the managing force of Rugby football in France, and who is an Englishman of a somewhat complacent type. At the banquet following the match on that occasion an effort was made to have the Irish Free State National Anthem played, but this effort was not successful, and the compromise was to have 'The Last Rose of Summer' played as an Irish air. The playing of this air was received in silence, but later in the proceedings, and apparently because the British Ambassador was at the banquet also, 'God Save the King' was played, and this was received with great acclamation. Some members of the Irish team went so far as to sing it. At the banquet in previous years, it is understood that the Irish Free State Representative had no difficulty in securing the seat of honour on the right of the President, which meant that the British Ambassador or the Representative of the British Embassy took second place.

The Minister would be glad if you would therefore approach Mr. Rutherford as the executive officer in charge of the contest with the request that the team should be received on the field by the playing of an Irish air, following precedent in previous years in Paris and following precedent at both Dublin and Belfast. It is not thought that you will have much difficulty in securing this. At the banquet, if an Anthem must be played at all you should suggest to Mr. Rutherford that, in view of the composition of the team which is practically Irish Free State, the more appropriate National Anthem would be 'The Soldier's Song'. Doubtless he will demur to this, and will probably try to have 'God Save the King' as the only Anthem. Your reply to this would be to have no Anthem at all played, and that if 'God Save the King' is to be played for the British Ambassador obviously 'The Soldier's Song' should be played in view of your presence. The Minister is very anxious to avoid any appearance of trouble in this matter, and you will in conversation with Mr. Rutherford act with this in view. A very good compromise would be to have no Anthem at all played, either at the banquet or on the field. Of course, this does not refer to the 'Marseillaise', which will be played no doubt both on the field and at the banquet. You will have seen the names of the players published in the Irish Press on the 15th, and you will no doubt keep very closely in touch with Mr. Rutherford, taking as prominent a part as possible in the reception of the team, and in this way emphasise the Irish character of the Match.

Please wire immediately if you require band scores of an Irish air for supplying to the band. Appropriate Irish airs would be 'St. Patrick's Day', 'The Last Rose of Summer' or 'Let Erin Remember'. Band scores can be supplied by return on receipt of a wire. I am to enquire also whether you have a complete band score of 'The Soldier's Song'. If not, please wire, and the band score used by the No. 1 Army Band will be sent to you.

For your information, the colours of the Irish team will be green jerseys and white togs, and the favours used by supporters will be green and white tabs.

The Minister does not consider that useful action could be taken here on the lines you suggest. The line of least resistance will be on the spot, but you will probably find that the team will be accompanied by some prominent Free State citizens who may help you in this matter, namely, Dr. Frank McMenamin, Dr. Meade and Surgeon Barniville. It is expected that the team will be accompanied by Mr. H.J. Millar, Governor of the Bank of Ireland, but it is doubtful whether he would be particularly sympathetic to your viewpoint. Rugby Football interests both in the Free State and in Northern Ireland are very anxious to avoid anything in the nature of partition, and so far matters here have worked very smoothly, and the Minister is anxious that matters should be smoothed out as much as possible at Paris.

I shall be glad of a report in due course.3

[initialled] S.M.
[stamped] (Signed) Seán Murphy

1 See No. 473.

2 Vaughan Dempsey, Irish representative in Paris, 1923-29.

3 See No. 504.