Thursday, 19th October 2017
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Michael Garland, bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

A flag worth flying, but few know from where!

Last weekend, Waterford City hosted the annual 1848

Tricolour Celebration - a weekend event which commemorates the first ever raising of the Irish Flag, by Thomas Francis Meagher, at 33 The Mall.

The actual date that TF Meagher raised the tricolour was the 7th March 1848.

Meagher had a colourful history which is well documented in our Bishop’s Palace museum. He was born in what is now the Granville Hotel, educated in England, sent to Tasmania by the “Empire”, fought on the winning side in the American Civil War and is attributed with “Founding” the 69th Brigade. A pallbearer at

Lincoln’s funeral, involved in politics in Montana, he mysteriously disappeared after “Falling off” a steamboat into the Missouri River and his body was never recovered. It is these

International connections, which the 1848 Celebrations have worked so diligently to maintain over the past number of years.

Annually, we see representatives from the US, Canadian, French and Australian Embassies attending the event as well as a significant numbers of US soldiers, from the 69th Infantry Division New York, who come to Waterford City, to celebrate their Waterford and Irish connections. This year eleven US military personnel, including the commanding officer Lt Col Don Makay, came to Waterford City to acknowledge the TF Meagher connection with today’s modern military machine - the US Defence Forces. Thirteen guests came all the way from Montana, bringing a traditional folk band called The Montana Shamrockers, who played at packed venues around the City. Four guests came from Massachusetts, three from Rochester and one travelled all the way from Tasmania!

This “International Brigade”, really does hold Mr Thomas Francis Meagher in very highest esteem. I would go so far as to say, that many revere this Waterford born native, who went on to do so much for these countries he adopted as his own. He was after all, prepared to give his life to the Union, under the leadership of Lincoln.

There can be no mistaking that Meagher has placed an indelible mark on Irish history. Whilst many others may claim to have first flown the tricolour, the simple fact is that the “Green, White and Orange” was conceived, created and designed by Meagher in Waterford.

Obviously, there are French influences from the “Vive la revolution”.

Little did Meagher know, that the flag he hoisted at 33 The Mall, would become such a recognisable symbol of all things Irish. Next week we will see just how wide that sphere of influence reaches, as all around the globe, the world will be turned green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Incidentally, another event whose origins can be traced directly back to a Waterford man, Franciscan friar Luke Wadding.

Meagher went on to raise his new Irish flag in Dublin, in April 1848. This is commemorated by a rather unkempt plaque, on a hidden wall, in Abbey Street, next to the National Lottery HQ!

The Irish tricolour which epitomises Ireland and all that is good about this wee island, on the far western fringes of Europe, is “Born of Waterford”. Yet for some reason, we do not seem to be able to capitalise on our historic ties to the very flag, so proudly waved around the world, on the 17th March each year.

The value of Waterford’s connection to Meagher and the Irish Tricolour, could be seen last weekend, by the large numbers of international visitors to the City. We have a real opportunity to build excellent international relationships with some not insignificant G7 counties. Yet, time and time again we appear not to be able to foster an Entente Cordiale with organisations and groups that have literally shown Waterford an open door.

This event, around the first weekend of March, should be a state event. With so much pomp and ceremony, that our Taoiseach and or President attend on an annual basis. If a son of Dublin could lay claim to the flag, guaranteed there would be national, if not international, celebrations.

Waterford must build on connections from our past, if we are to build a future. Maybe next year this will start with our own citizens supporting this event!

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