The Red Hand of Ulster (Irish: Lámh Dhearg Uladh) is an Irish Gaelic symbol used in heraldry to denote the Irish province of Ulster.
The Red Hand is rooted in Gaelic culture, possibly dating back to pagan times.
The Red Hand is first documented in surviving records in the 13th century, where it was used by the Hiberno-Norman de Burgh earls of Ulster
It was Walter de Burgh who became first Earl of Ulster in 1243 who combined the de Burgh cross with the Red Hand to create a flag that represented the Earldom of Ulster and later became the modern Flag of Ulster.
It was afterwards adopted by the O’Neills when they assumed the ancient kingship of Ulster, inventing the title Rex Ultonie (king of Ulster) for themselves in 1317 and then claiming it unopposed from 1345 onwards.
An early-15th-century poem by Mael Ó hÚigínn is named Lámh dhearg Éireann í Eachach, the first line of which is a variation of the title: “Lamh dhearg Éiriond Ibh Eathoch”, translated as “The Úí Eachach are the ‘red hand’ of Ireland”. The Uí Eachach were one of the Cruthin tribes (known as the Dál nAraidi after 773) that made up the ancient kingdom of Ulaid.
The Red Hand symbol is believed to have been used by the O’Neills during its Nine Years’ War (1594–1603) against English rule in Ireland, and the war cry lámh dearg Éireann abú! (“the Red Hand of Ireland to victory”) was also associated with them.
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