The London Irish Badges ... red and black swords.

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The London Irish Badges ... red and black swords.

by dom_pedro on Sun Mar 12, 2006 9:41 am

In 1197 a group of semi-monastic knights were founded by the Bishop of Riga to propogate the christian faith in the Baltic Provinces of the Holy Roman Empire and to protect the new Christianity against the pagan nations. The Ensiferi (or Swordbearers) of Livonia were temporary crusaders and not very successful in their crusade against the pagans of Europe , so the Pope Innocent III gave them a more permanent status, but threw open their membership to all sorts of adventurers and mercenaries without the distinction of birth rights or what have you. The group lasted a short time, but with their grand masters dead (one killed by others of the order and one on the field of battle) the remaining bunch asked politely if they could actually join the Teutonic Order of Knights if that wasn't too much of a problem and the Pope agreed to let them. the Ensiferi had lasted only about thirty years.

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Not very good crusaders!

Their mantle was the red cross of St George with a red sword of St Paul and this is the oldest link I can find with the left hand side of the badge of London Irish (now of course a black sword, but I'll not go there ... yet).

When I found this out I wondered whether I might be on for a Da Vinci Code (or Foucault's Pendulum) style saga that linked London Irish with the Templars or Rosecrucians, and blood lines from the poor carpenter's son but no ... the old City of London chose the red cross of St George and red sword of St Paul (London's patron saint) as its standard partly because of its strong links with the Templars, but that's about it ... not exactly Holy Grail, Holy Blood stuff.

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St George was Lebonese

BUT I found details that the red cross and red sword is only the flag for the City of London, that is the old City not what we class as London these days - the big sprawling conurbation that spreads from the Southend to Slough. The old City is the area east of Fleet St and not a big area either (in 1700 an estimated 208,000 people lived in the city, in 2001 that figure was 7,185).

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Some rusty irons gates with fancy crest

London Irish have played 'home' matches at a number of grounds around London. Hammersmith, Walthamstow, Catford, Blackheath, Norbiton, Motspur Park, Wandsworth and Sunbury but I couldn't find any that were within the 'walls' of the old City of London. Perhaps, the London Irish badge should have included the crest of the London County Council (formed in 1889 and became the GLC later on before Maggie got rid), since LI were really a team from around London.

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Red Ken's lot?

Thankfully no. Wavy blue lines look rubbish. It was Tony Byrne that gave me the details I was looking for as he explained that London Irish had strong links with the London Irish Rifles regiment and sometime around 1908 the regiment became the County of London regiment and their regimental badge is the crest from the City of London above a portcullis.

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A bit of marching up and down the square

So there we have it, London Irish's second badge comes from the army links of the old rugby club, well at least the left hand side anyway and the right hand side is Ireland's National emblem? Well no, the shamrock is thought to have been used by St Patrick to explain the holy trinity to the pagans, but then were there ever really any snakes in Ireland before he got there? Anyway, the Harp is Ireland's official national emblem (but don't Guinness have the copyright?) though the shamrock is a popular emblem I understand.

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My old Kooga/MG Rover cream shirt and it shows up those Guinness stains a treat

But what of London Irish's first badge, since I've just said that the above is LI's second badge ... again Tony explained. I could see from the early photos in "Passion in Exile" that the red cross/red sword was not the original badge, but couldn't make out any detail in the pictures. Tony told me that this first badge goes back to the London Irish Rifles' (prior to the change around 1908) which was a harp surrounded by shamrocks:

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More marching up and down the square

And that probably really explains the shamrocks on the second badge, still used by the Amateurs, the LISC and erm this site. Of course this is all history and around 2003, London Irish decided they didn't have the rights to the badge even though Tony also told me that at a meeting in the early 60s that the issue of shirt and badge ownership had been sorted out. Anyway, I've never seen a clear reason for the change from the red sword of St Paul to a black sword, but my guess is that it was purely aesthetic (the US military use a black sword on an organisation's badge to signify a covert operations unit).

Since this has ended up as a bit of a history lecture, I'll set some homework - but be aware that I'm setting it as I don't know the answer. When London Scottish and Richmond RFC were swallowed up into our fine club, London Irish found space for their crests on our shirt (initially on the sleeve but now on the bottom left of the front of the jersey), but they seem to have changed both crests/badges, so my question is why? They decapitated the red lion of London Scottish and used its head, and the turned the flags of Richmond into a shield. So why?

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Richmond RFC's flags

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From the sleeve of my old Kooga shirt

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The red lion of London Scottish

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From the sleeve of my old Kooga shirt
Last edited by dom_pedro on Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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by James LI on Sun Mar 12, 2006 11:22 am

DP
a good history lesson before Mass on a Sunday morning. (Gabriel's Mammy will be pleased to know).

Who is going to supply the answers?

Will we win today and go 3rd?

So many questions.........................we await the answers.
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by PGT on Mon Mar 13, 2006 7:26 pm

DP an excellent analysis and review of LI history and where we are now, so impressive in fact that I hesitate to add anything to it for fear of detracting (for reasons that will become all too apparent) from such a fine piece of work.

As Tony Byrne may have told you, and as Tony Maloney told me, the London Irish badge (that is the badge used by the amateur club, LISC (with approval) and this site, and not the current logo) was conceived in the 1950's by a man from Northern Ireland who sketched in out on a cigarette packet late one night. Implausible you might think but not necessarily so when you think about the London Irish Rifles connection.

That said, when the logo (and this might also shed some light on the London Scottish and Richmond question - that sounds similar to the Midlothian question posed some years ago by Tam Dayell!) was launched those MB participants will recall that there was extensive debate, both here and also in the other place, about the black sword. As incoming LISC chairman (succeeding Peter Graham) I therefore took this issue up with Richard Sanderson and Malcolm Ball as it was they who decided that a new logo was required. Armed with a reference to an inverted black sword somehow (I don’t recall precisely) being connected with St. Paul I asked Richard and Malcolm what the heraldic significance of the black sword was, professional image and marketing consultants having been involved in its creation.

Image my surprise when I received the answer (and I kid you not) “Well we thought it looked good”. Unfortunately I was so stunned by this answer that it did not occur to me to enquire after the decapitated lion!

When it comes to badges and logo’s I think you can guess where I stand. Indeed for years afterwards, and from time to time still, I often asked Conor O’Shea when he was going to restore the club badge to the playing and replica shirts (a badge incidentally that appeared on the JC Benefit Game Commemorative shirts - I wonder why!).
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by dom_pedro on Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:36 pm

I thought about looking into the red/black sword issue a bit more but hoped that people here would be able to fill in the blanks. Looks like I was right in that they went for the black sword on aesthetics and I bet they thought that the left side had too much red in it. And here is what it could have looked like:

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New badge, red sword?

This of course steps over the issue of why specifically they needed to change it.

Patrick, you mention the 1950s as the time of the design of our old badge but I reckon it was much earlier than that as the picture of the side from 1913 that I've seen definitely has the red sword style badge. If anyone has a better idea of exactly what that first badge was then I'd like to see it as although it may have been based on the London Irish Rifles, I don't think it was a copy of it.
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by PaulHP on Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:14 pm

From looking at the Passion in Exile, they used 4 shamrocks from around the edge London Irish Rifles badge pointing NW, NE, SE, SW, but can't make out if there's anything in the middle.

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by PGT on Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:46 am

Martyn, you may well be right about the use of the current (not old!) badge. Although the 1950's were mentioned, conception was said to have occurred after a late night in Sunbury so I doubt if anyone recalls the actual date. When did the club become established in Sunbury as that might give a clue. My copy of 'Passion in Exile' eluded me last night although I am told it has since been found.

All in all I think this is a case for Inspector Whewell of the LISC Constabulary; joking apart it might make an interesting LISC feature and could involve all members of the family (amateurs, professionals - Macca has 26-years club service so he might be able to shed some light on this - and supporters').
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by Tony Byrne on Tue Mar 14, 2006 12:21 pm

Patrick - I have heard the story about the badge being designed on the back of a fag packet, but, I have always discounted it as rumour. in fact I recall one very light night/morning, working in Fitzies bar, when this was mentioned and someone retorted it was first drawn on the backside of a, very drunk, London Welsh player who wanted everyone to sign his backside.
I am not convinced the original badge was exactly the same as the LI Rifles badge but a copy of their badge used to hang in Fitzies.
It was a great pity that when Fitzies bar was demolished a lot of memrobilia was detroyed.
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by eek_the_weeble on Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:08 pm

I have always thought it a great shame that the club went for a black sword.

The sword of St Paul is red - aesthetics is the only reason ever given for the change which means the left hand side of our club emblem has no real meaning, unless you look at it's heraldic symbology, in which case, from quotes above, it's the "subversive forces of St George".

Read into that what you want....... :shock:
Make something idiot proof and they'll build a better idiot
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by AlecW on Wed Mar 15, 2006 8:13 am

First game at Sunbury was 1931 - not even Macca can remember that far!

Seem to remember reading that during the war, LI & LW semi-amalgamated for a few years, in order to be able to put out a team. They appeared at least once as the...

Shamleeks

Best name for a rugby team I've ever heard.

:lol:
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by PGT on Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:20 am

I saw that as well, in a recent match programme I think, an excellent name which no doubt took a lot of thinking about!
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by eek_the_weeble on Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:34 am

Has to be better than some of the possible alternatives...

The LeekPads.......sounds like something my dear old Mammy could use :roll:
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by dom_pedro on Wed Mar 15, 2006 4:20 pm

Could the original badge have been a harp in the middle with four shamrocks around the sides? The pics in Passion in Exile aren't clear enough.

The red sword badge was definitely being worn by 1913 season as the team photo shows, though of course it's a black and white photo so I'm assuming it was a red sword ... perhaps?? Nah!
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by dom_pedro on Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:20 pm

The BBC seem to have resurrected the red sword badge :

BBC report on JML and Murphy contracts
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by PGT on Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:48 am

A campaign beckons 'Free the Red Sword one"!
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by Ken E on Fri Mar 17, 2006 1:53 pm

Surely the colour of the sword was changed from red so that the design could be copywrited by the professional club? Nothing clever or even subversive, just business.
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by eek_the_weeble on Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:05 pm

Would be interesting to throw the question to the College of Heralds though and see if they have the right to bear arms..... :wink:
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by Mrs Chicken on Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:47 pm

The reason the sword colour was changed is as PGT describes above. Aesthetics.

Nothing clever, nothing subversive - and nothing to do with business either!
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by dom_pedro on Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:08 pm

Everyone's homework is now overdue as it's about time to send this thread off on a crusade to the Features section ( :? ) ... well anyway, I thought my version of the new badge with the all red left hand side looked quite nice and I'm still not clear on the decapitated lion issue.
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by alex22 on Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:04 pm

The answer to the London Scottish and Richmond badges is quite simple - those were the actual badges they wore on their shirts in the 1998/99 season; their last as professional clubs before being "merged" into London Irish. They may have been different from their historical badges or those worn today by their amateur teams - I guess another branding/aesthetics call!!

At the time London Scottish was owned by Tony Tiarkes (I think) plus Bristol RFC who had something like a 20% stake - a bizarre way of ensuring they recovered their Premiership status through the back door if they failed to win National League One (or Premiership 2 as it was called then). Both were happy to sell out Scottish. Richmond were in administration at the time but the administrator was forced into agreeing the merger as the Premiership was threatening to terminate Richmond's membership, which they could do under Premiership rules due to the administration. Without this membership the administrator would have had nothing to sell and so the rescue package/consortium which was being pulled together in conjunction with Oracle was scuppered.
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by IronLung on Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:55 pm

The guys and girls here may be able to help? http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/
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by dom_pedro on Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:15 am

Thanks to all for contributing and to Alex22 for answering the flag and lion question.
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by dom_pedro on Fri Nov 03, 2006 7:51 pm

One thing to add on to this thread is that I finally scanned in a couple of images from "Passion in Exile" by Peter Bills.

The first is actually the first London Irish team back in 1898. It isn't terrifically clear but this looks to be the badge that is similar to that of the London Irish Rifles though with maybe only the four shamrocks.
Image

Here's a closer look but unfortunately not much clearer.
Image

This is the 1913-1914 team clearly sporting the red sword, red cross and shamrocks of the 2nd badge.
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by Shawshank on Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:08 pm

Interesting that in the space of some 15 short years, the "LI Moustache" which was clearly de rigeur under the rigorous Captaincy of R.S.V. "Ironmonger" Dyas, had fallen into serious decline. Possibly due to the malign influence of the Herbert Asquith, who, somewhat daringly, became the first "clean-faced" PM for 250 years.
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by PaulHP on Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:18 pm

Dom
The 1898-9 badge is Ireland badge from that time, I would imagine that they got some old shirts off the IRFU seeing that Louis Magee was the captain of Ireland.
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by dom_pedro on Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:35 pm

15 years but a different century SS ... fashions change even faster these days (he said sounding too much like a grandad :oops: ).

Paul, that explains it then ... not our 1st badge at all really.
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by PaulHP on Fri Nov 03, 2006 10:21 pm

Dom
Thats the second Ireland badge by the way, the first didn't have a white background!
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by Loobs on Sat Nov 04, 2006 1:11 pm

PGt, the JC game at the Stoop saw LI play in Emerald Green shirts with the 'old' badge on, as LISC supplied the shirts for the game. Murph sorted them at the time from Peverill.
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by PGT on Mon Nov 06, 2006 3:18 pm

Er yes, I was LISC Chairman at the time and Conor, Murph and I worked on the badge/design of the shirt together. This was at the time that Canterbury were about to replace Kooga and there were all sorts of issues connected with what shirts the players could/could not wear for the match depending upon whether this was a London Irish team or not and which of them was to be the supplier (the fact that it was a charity benefit match was lost in the midst of commercial wrangling over IP rights!).

Having LISC sponsor the shirts (hence the left sleeve refers to London Irish Supporters Club) solved the problem as we could decide who the supplier was and what the shirt should look like. At the same time it also allowed supporters to play a part in the benefit match because all of the participating players shirts were purchased from a small mark up on the cost of the replica shirts (both being identical incidentally) and the generousity of Peverill and even resulted in a small profit.

Even if I say it myself I still think it is one of the nicest LI shirts or recent years and is certainly my first choice out of the wardrobe.
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by AlecW on Mon Nov 06, 2006 5:19 pm

Patrick (and Murph!), they are indeed just about the best LI jersey of recent years.

- Pure cotton (not polycotton, or worse, just poly)
- Lovely rich emerald green, which doesn't fade
- Full heavy playing weight
- Nice design
- Nice and warm

And yes, on a cold day, it is one of the first out of the cupboard for me, too.
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by Loobs on Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:49 pm

I guess my brain's cryptic factor wasn't working out the cryptic clue in the message up top.
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