Flags and the Four Courts, 1885-1922

The Prince and Princess of Wales’ 1885 visit to Dublin, as depicted in the Graphic, 18 April 1885. Perhaps because of its dirty condition, there were no depictions of the Four Courts among the many illustrations of the visit.

From the Dublin Daily Express, 17 April 1885:

“Sirs – The soiled flags which were displayed on the Four Courts during the Prince’s visit, and were a disgrace to the noble building, ought, I should think, receive a thoroughly good washing before being replaced on the return of his Royal Highness.

A line or two in your influential paper calling the attention of the authorities to the matter, would, I have no doubt, have the desired effect – I am, sir, yours &c


Flags and the Four Courts were again in the news in April 1922, when the Anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War took occupation of the Four Courts and hoisted their flag over the building. As reported by the pro-Treaty Freeman, ‘mutineers in new trench coats’ lined the parapet at either side and saluted a tricolour flag. A later report in the Illustrated London News describes the ‘green flag of the Republicans’ as flying over the portico.

Photograph from the Illustrated London News, July 1922, via British Newspaper Archive

The rebels in the Four Courts hoisted a new flag – a white one – on the 30th June 1922, after wholesale bombardment of the building by Provisional Government forces. But later that year a rebel audaciously visited the Four Courts one more time to recover the original flag hoisted in April.

According to the Dublin Evening Telegraph of 22 June 1922:

“Shortly before 3 o’clock on Wednesday evening the Tara street section of the Fire Brigade were asked to send a fire escape ladder to the ruins of the Four Courts. They were told that some employees of the Board of Works were in the ruins and could not get down.

On arrival at the Four Courts, a young man who was standing near at hand told the firemen to put the escape ladder up to the flagstaff as the men who could not get down were near the flagstaff. The young man then climbed the ladder along with the firemen, and when at the top he said that the men must have got down by some other means.

He then produced a pliers and cut down the tricolour, which has been flying from the flagstaff since the occupation of the Four Courts on last Good Friday.

When on the ground once more the young man thanked the firemen, saying: ‘That is what I wanted,’ pointing to the flag; ‘I am from the I.R.A.*”

He then walked away.”

*The I.R.A. the young man was referring to was the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, the Irish Republican Army (1922-69) and not the Provisional IRA created in 1969.

I love this story!

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