Columbus Irish: “This flag dips to no earthly king.”

“This flag dips to no earthly king.”

According to popular legend, these were the words of US Olympian Martin Sheridan after fellow Irish American Ralph Rose refused to dip the Stars and Stripes to King Edward VII during the Opening Ceremonies of the 1908 London Olympics. As we all know, we Irish enjoy a good legend, especially one that tweaks the nose of royalty.

While Sheridan’s words may be exaggerated, the sentiment of the athletes was not. For years, Irish athletes marched behind the Union Jack among the athletes of Great Britain. Refusing to dip our flag was a show of resentment towards that slight.

At the Shamrock Club of Columbus, we have been honoring the American Flag since 2007 during our annual Flag Day celebration. A flag has a way of rallying people and leading the way through difficult times.

In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, when businesses, churches, and clubs were shut down, we still held our ceremony, in part to rally our members, in part defiance of the virus, but in large part to remember the history and sacrifices which our flag represents. The event was conceived by Past President Tom Byrne, who had received a flag from the Iraq War, which was donated to the Club. Each June 14th, we fly only one flag, Old Glory.

We begin with the National Anthem, usually performed by members of The Ladies of Longford. We raise the flag and listen to remarks from a keynote speaker. In 2021, we invited AOH National President Danny O’Connell to be our speaker.

Following the keynote address, the flag is lowered, folded, and presented to an honoree, who has served our country, or their family. We close by reading the founding date of each branch of the military and asking any members present to stand and be recognized for their service.

We say it often about events at the Club, but this truly is one of the best events we host. I am hard pressed to remember a year that I did not have a tear in my eye afterwards. And it was not from the smoke of the grilling hot dogs we served afterwards.

In 2020, I was afforded the privilege of giving the keynote address, and I shared the story of Corporal Frank W. Buckles, of Bethany, Missouri. Buckles was only 16 when he joined the US Army. After being rejected by the Navy and Marines, he was told driving an ambulance would be the quickest way to the front.

Last Surviving American
Buckles served with distinction in France and was honorably discharged from the service. On February 27, 2011, at the age of 110, Buckles passed away. He was the last surviving American veteran from World War I.

In remembrance of his service and a generation of WW I veterans, President Obama ordered the United States Flag to be flown at half staff on all public buildings and grounds throughout the United States, until sunset on the day of internment at Arlington National Cemetery. This story took a new direction when on March 15, 2011, arrived. My uncle, a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserve, noticed there was only one building with the flag at half staff.

Operation Fly the Flag
A month later, his American Legion Post, Avon Lake Post 211, began “Operation Fly the Flag.” Their mission was to inform government, public, and commercial locations within the community when a declaration was made related to flying the flag.

This program was expanded to include individuals who wished to honor the flag as well. A mailing list was created and notice, along with general flag etiquette for displaying the flag, was sent on holidays and other remembrance days. I told this story because, just three generations removed from Irish ancestors who saw our flag and our shores as the hope for a better future, my uncle was a boy scout, an independent businessman, a coach, and later served on City Council in Avon Lake. Inspired by his parents, he and my mother have always been standard bearers for civic involvement.

I had hoped he would have given that address in 2020, but age and travel prevented him during the pandemic. I was happy to carry the flag for him that day. Our humble event is a reminder of what it means to be part of a community, a country, and a place free to live without bowing to any earthly king. May God bless you and God bless America.

Upcoming Events
The Shamrock Club will be hosting a two-day music festival next month on July 7-8. Day one will feature blue grass, rock, and other good time music, as well as sampling beers from several local breweries. Day two will feature traditional Irish bands, including Columbus’ very own Drowsy Lads. At the end of the month, we will also host our annual golf outing. Come join us on July 28, all are welcome.
See you down at the pub.

*Andrew is a Columbus transplant after graduating from The Ohio State University with a Major in History and Minor in Political Science and Folklore. He is a past president of the Shamrock Club and a lover of a good story and a pint. You can contact him at [email protected].

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