Trade Union Banners of the Regular Operative Slaters of Dublin
By Noel Campbell
Among the NMI’s trade banner collection are two that belonged to the Regular Operative Slaters of Dublin. The first, an original nineteenth century banner is painted on a green background with union name “Regular Operative Slators Dublin” at top. The centre white shield with male figures either side bears the trade emblems. Underneath is a second shield with two clasped hands. Motto reads “By love and harmony we support”. The reverse depicts Erin lamenting on a harp. The banner is 247cm high by 207cm wide.
The second banner was made in 1929 to replace the 1800s banner which is in poor condition. This newer banner is painted on canvas and while it copies the original, the artist made changes to the figures and to Erin. The banner is 317cm high by 214cm wide.
The Daniel O’Connell Connection
While ‘Slaters’ were listed among the fifty associated trades to march in the funeral procession of Daniel O’Connell in 1847, the Regular Operative Slaters of Dublin Union was formed in 1860. The union carried the original banner in the ceremony procession of the laying of the foundation stone of the O’Connell Monument (O’Connell statute, Dublin) from Merrion Square to Sackville Street (O’Connell Street) in August 1864. In 1875, the union also participated in the O’Connell Centenary procession again through the streets of Dublin. The banner was carried on two poles of polished oak and stood fifteen feet high. The men carrying the banner wore green rosettes and scarfs. The occasion that was the procession was accurately captured in Charles Russell’s painting ‘The O’Connell Centenary Celebrations, 1875’.
What happened to the union?
In 1895 the union boasted 120 members. The following year it joined the Amalgamated Slaters and Tilers Provident Society of England and Ireland. The union went on to become the Amalgamated Society of Slaters, Tilers and Roofing Operatives and eventually in 1969 it joined with the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. The latter union did not have many members in the Republic of Ireland at the time. Of its near 2,000 members in 1955, three were from the Republic.
How did the banners come into the NMI?
The banners were donated to the National Museum of Ireland by T. McDermott, Secretary of the Slater’s Union.
The trade banners are part of the Museum’s Folklife collection, which is stored in Turlough Park and are not currently on public display.
You can find more information in the following:
Carter, Peter and John B. Smethurst, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, Volume 6, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2009.
O’Neill, Timothy P. Irish Trade Banners in Ó Danachair, Caoimhín (ed), Folk & Farm; Essays in Honour of A.T. Lucas, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1976.
Ward-Perkins, Sarah (ed), Select Guide to Trade Union Records in Dublin, Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1996.
For contemporary reports of O’Connell’s funeral, the O’Connell monument procession and the centenary procession read The Freeman’s Journal editions of the 6th August, 1847, pp.2-3, 9th August, 1864, pp.5-7 and 7th August, 1875, pp.3, 6-7.