The Fianna were founded on the 16th of August 1909 and on the 16th of August 1959 this medal was issued to commemorate their 50th anniversary. The medal was issued by Na Fianna to mark the anniversary and has no connection with either the 1916 Rising or The War of Independence and was issued to or bought by serving or ex-Fianna members. Some medals may have been issued to ex-Fianna members who served in the Rising or War of Independence but as the medals were issued un-named it is not possible to identify these unless accompanied by supporting evidence.
The Fianna Badge
The images on the left is the design of the original Fianna badge, the images on the right is of one of the many modern copies.
Fianna Eireann Membership badge, dated 1945
According to the Fianna handbook the colours of the Fianna badge are green, white and orange. The sunburst on the badge is a symbol of our forefathers’ never-ending fight against foreign oppression. There are fifteen points on the sunburst, twelve represent the Code of Honour and the other three the Fianna Motto. The pike across the middle of the badge symbolises the victories and defeats that Ireland has suffered in its long fight for freedom. The name “Fianna Eireann” on the badge means “Soldiery of Ireland”.
The Fianna Motto:
Glaine ‘nar gcroi – Purity in our hearts.
Neart ‘nar ngeaga – Strength in our arms.
Beart do reir ar mbriathar – Truth on our lips.
The anniversary of Na Fianna was marked on the 16ht of August by the publication of a Jubilee souvenir containing a history of the movement. Although some Fianna members served important roles in the 1916 Rising the movement remained small in comparison to the Boy Scout Movement. Many ex-Fianna members went on to serve as active members of the IRA.
The name Fianna Éireann also called Fianna na hÉireann and Na Fianna Éireann which translates into English as Soldiery of Ireland or Warriors' of Ireland, named after the mythological Fianna, has been used by various Irish republican youth movements throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. "Fianna na hÉireann" is currently on the list of terrorist groups proscribed in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act (2000).
From August 1915 up to Easter week there were nine Companies of Fianna Éireann and the Fianna Éireann Band in Dublin.
The Fianna did consider themselves as Scouts and as can be seen from the spine of the first edition of their handbook they called themselves The National Boy Scouts.
Fianna Éireann, organized as a youth hurling league, for boys and girls, existed in West Belfast 1903 (Witness Statement of Bulmer Hobson to the Bureau of Military History 1948). Bulmer Hobson was a member of the I.R.B. Hobson relocated to Dublin and the organization collapsed in Belfast. In Dublin, Hobson became acquainted with Constance Markievicz, Helena Moloney and others, who were all members of the newly founded Sinn Fein. They were members of the Drumcondra branch. It is unclear as to if it was Markievicz or Hobson who first had the idea of setting up a Republican Youth Movement in Dublin, Hobson, in his statement to the Military Bureau claims he approached Markievicz with the idea but several other sources state that Markievicz saw some of the newly formed Boy Scouts on the streets of Dublin and was horrified to see the sons of Irishmen who had died for Ireland would be induced to join such a British Imperialistic organization. The first Na Fianna Sluagh was set up in Dublin in 1909. It was claimed in a radio program “Talk History” on News Talk radio that Baden Powell the founder of the Scout movement had approached Pearse about setting up a Boy Scout Troop prior to the setting up of the first Fianna Sluagh. (A Sluagh is equivalent to a Boy Scout Troop).
Each company had a ‘An Chead Sluagh’ also spelled without the H, ‘An Chead Sluagh’ was the Headquarters with other Branches in its area. It was not unusual in the early days of the Fianna for different branches of the same company to wear a different style uniform. Camden Street wore Jerseys and Kilts, Sluagh Emmet wore cotton shirts with green slouch hats and blue knickers (knickers were a different thing in 1909 than they are today).
The double breasted shirt with brass buttons worn by the Fianna was designed by Michael Lonergan, he got the idea from the American Army uniform. Described as "he was a very good type of boy with a great taste in clothes" he worked in Clerys on O’Connell Street Dublin. He had a very high standard of efficiency and was a very competent drill instructor and was recruited by the I.R.B. as Drill Instructor in Foresters Hall at 41 Parnell Square in 1912. He moved to America in 1914 to be with his mother and the rest of the family who were living in New York at the time. He worked in a bank in New York and went on to play a prominent role in establishing the Catholic Boy Scouts of America.
Although Na Fianna never enjoyed the same popularity as the Boy Scouts it survived and was popular in some areas. The above image is a Fianna Sluagh in Bodenstown in 1935. You can see from the image that the Scarf or Necker familiar from the Boy Scout uniform and worn by some Fianna Sluagh is replaced with a lanyard which usually held a penknife or whistle. It is also noticeable that the ‘Smokey Bear’ type hat is less evident, the hat was still part of the uniform but expensive and easily lost.
The Fianna flag is sky blue with a sunburst and “Fianna Eireann” inscribed on it. It symbolises the passing of the long night of sadness and the dawning of a new era of hope in Ireland. It was the banner of the Fianna of Fionn known in Irish folklore as the ‘Gil Greine’.
Na Fianna in Scotland
Several Sluagh were organised in the Irish communities in Scotland. In Glasgow the Willie Nelson Sluagh was formed, Willie Nelson was a 16 year old Presbyterians from Antrim hanged outside his mother’s front door for taking part in the 1798 Rebellion under the command of Henry Joy McCracken. There was also a Sluagh in the Govan area in the city of Glasgow. Although the Irish Sluagh’s tended to have mixed uniform the Scottish tended to favour the Saffron kilts. A uniformed troop of Glasgow Fianna scouts attended the funeral of the Fenian leader O'Donovan Rossa, in August 1915.
The Irish National Guard
The Irish National Guard ING was formed in 1912 as a Nationalist youth (male only) organisation for the purpose of training youth in Drill and the use of arms. Accounts of who formed the organisation differ, some say Augustine Finlay was the founder, but Thomas O’Donoghue (WS Ref 1666) gives a good account of its foundation. Although O’Donoghue was involved in the founding of Na Fianna he felt Na Fianna was too close in organisation and method to the Boy Scouts, the ING would have much more emphasis on military training and would be for youths rather than boys. The ING was initially successful having three branches in Dublin and three in Galway. When considering a name for the ING Irish Volunteers was considered but as O’Donoghue said we “rejected the name Irish Volunteers because it savoured too much of Arthur Griffith’s ideal of King, Lords and Commons of Ireland”. It faded out after about a year with most of the Dublin members joining B Company, 3rd Battalion, Irish Volunteers when they formed in 1913. O’Donoghue said “I lost heart in it because they started a Cumann na mBan group in it and I would not have anything to do with it then. I had a horror of ladies being in uniform and masquerading as soldiers.” The first President of the ING was J. V. Lawless, Matthew Stafford and Sean O’Hanlon were also involved in setting up the ING, Thomas O’Donoghue was the first secretary. After leaving the ING O’Donoghue became Instructor and Pipe Major with the Fintan Lalor Pipe Band which was founded by Robert de Coeur in late 1912.