Flying the Banner in Honour of O'Connell

Clare Champion, Friday, January 30, 2004

By TJ Flynn

Local shoemaker John Murphy uncovered a big piece of Ennis history in his old premises – an eight foot Foresters banner depicting The Liberator himself.

A piece of old Ennis uncovered on the third story of an O’Connell Street building, was last week donated to the Clare County Museum to be conserved for generations to come.

In the midst of moving premises local shoemaker John Murphy came across a large banner from the old Ennis Foresters Club on the third story of his former shop in the heart of Ennis, which is now home to Concepts.

The painting on the banner depicts a scene of the Ennis Foresters making a presentation to Daniel O’Connell and the banner dates back to 1872.

Although the Ennis Foresters would not have been in existence during the time of O’Connell’s election, the club would have been in the process of gaining members throughout Clare.

But for one public appearance for St Patricks Day in the early ‘80’s, the banner would not have been on view for in the region of a century.

“It was up on the top storey of my shop on O’Connell Street for years and when I was in process of moving to Market Street I decided to find a permanent home for the banner” said John Murphy. “It had been hanging on the top floor for years and I thought the museum would be the best place to house it”.

It was in John’s former premises that the Foresters met down through the years. Ceasing as a functioning club in the 1980’s, the all-male Foresters members used to meet regularly to play billiards, cards and rings.

The banner was just one of a number of items left by the Foresters, but measuring eight foot by eight, it certainly is the most impressive.

While in the process of relocating the banner to the museum last week, John made another discovery. When the banner was turned around, it revealed another image on the reverse.

According to John Rattigan, curator with the Clare County Museum, the second image is linked to a scene from the bible. The connection between the two images is as yet unknown.

Because of the large size of the banner, the museum will be unable to facilitate it as part of its display, but its image will be included on the museum website.

“The main thing now is to clean and conserve the banner” said Mr Rattigan. “The museum wouldn’t really restore items as this approach takes away from the historical value of an artifact. The cleaning process will take about a week as it’s a lengthy process and has to be done very carefully. But when completed, the colours of the banner should stand out and it will hopefully resemble its former glory”.

This is the second large banner donated to the museum. A numbers of years ago, a banner depicting the election campaign of Eamon de Valera was given to the museum. This banner is currently on display as it is far smaller in size than the banner donated by John Murphy.

The Ennis Foresters banner will make a significant addition to the vaults of the museum and its donation will ensure that the popular club will be remembered as part of Clare history.

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