Irish Volunteer Harp Badge

The Irish Volunteers utilized the harp as one of the symbols for their organization because of its ties to Gaelic Ireland. Volunteers often wore harp pins on their jackets when in civilian attire, or wore a harp badge on their caps when they were in uniform. These badges were available for purchase through various outfitters that manufactured and sold uniforms and products to the volunteers. Often times though volunteers would craft their own insignia and badges, particularly if they were lower income members who could not afford to buy a full uniform. The Irish Volunteer harp badge seen here is one example of a hand crafted volunteer badge. This harp badge actually started life as a Royal Irish Constabulary Badge, which features a kings crown above the harp. Many volunteers obtained the RIC badges through various means and then chipped the crown off the top of the badge, which resulted in the badge baring a striking resemblance to the harp badges being produced and sold to the Irish Volunteers. Volunteers did this to other forms of British Military insignia as well. The Irish Volunteers also frequently modified the Imperial Yeomanry 29th Battalion Irish Horse Cap Badge by chipping of the “IH” on the bottom of the badge. They would then utilize the remaining trefoil as a tunic sleeve insignia for officers.

The defacement and modification of Irish police and British military badges can be seen as one way that the Irish Volunteers rebelled against the government. They did not respect either force and saw them both as being powers that aided the British government in maintaining control over Ireland. By chipping off the symbols of British government from these badges and refashioning them into new, purely Irish symbols, the Volunteers were able to manifest this lack of respect into physical action.