Erin go bragh

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Erin go Bragh /ˌɛrɪn ɡə ˈbrɑː/, sometimes Erin go Braugh, is the anglicisation of an Irish language phrase, Éirinn go Brách, and is used to express allegiance to Ireland. It is most often translated as "Ireland Forever."[1]


Erin go Bragh is an English corruption of the phrase Éirinn go Brách in the Irish language.

The standardized spelling in standard Irish is now Éire go Brách, which would be pronounced [ˈeːrʲə ɡə brɑːx]. However, Éirinn (which survives as the dative form in the modern standard) is a historic form still used in dialects and is the source of the anglicised Erin. This linguistic shift (dative forms replacing nominative) is common among Irish nouns of the fifth declension.[2]

The term brách is equivalent to "eternity" or "end of time", meaning the phrase may be translated literally as "Ireland until eternity" or "Ireland until the end (of time)". The form Éirinn go Bráth or Éire go Bráth is also used in Irish and means the same thing.


1798 cartoon of Henry Grattan

Emigrant nationalism[edit]

In time, the phrase became anglicised. By 1847, it was already in use as "Erin Go Bragh". That year, a group of Irish volunteers, including U.S. Army deserters, joined the Mexican side in the Mexican–American War. These soldiers, known as Los San Patricios or Saint Patrick's Battalion, flew as their standard a green flag with a harp on it, with the motto "Erin Go Bragh" underneath.[3] Variations on this flag design have been used at different times to express Irish nationalism.

Around 1861, there was great distress in Ireland due to a partial famine and many landlords evicted the people who were unable to pay their rents. On the estate of Lord Digby, at Geashill, King's County, a large number of families were under notice to quit. Under ordinary circumstances they would, no doubt, like thousands of their compatriots before them, have found new homes across the Atlantic, but America was then the scene of strife between the North and the South, and that avenue of escape was thus closed. There seemed to be no alternative before them but the poor-house, when some of them remembered that Father Paddy Dunne, from nearby Tullamore had spent some years as a missionary priest in Australia. They came to him and asked him to obtain passages for them to any of the Australian colonies. The families were given assisted passage thanks to Queensland Immigration Society (QIS) and Bishop James Quinn to Moreton Bay, (now Brisbane), Australia on board the Black Ball Line's ship the Erin-go-Bragh (Ireland forever).([4])

At 196-days,[5] the Erin-go-Bragh's journey was one of the longest recorded passages to Australia, and, coincidentally, she arrived in the same week that Black Ball's Young Australia completed the fastest crossing. The journey was so slow that the passengers nicknamed the ship the "Erin-go-Slow". A total of 54 passengers died en-route mostly from various diseases. The "Erin-go-Bragh" eventually arrived in Moreton Bay on August 2nd, 1862 but was held up even longer at St Helena Island for health checks. After arrival, many of the families were given land for farms around the Logan river to the south of Brisbane.([6])


In the late 19th century, the Edinburgh football club Hibernian F.C. adopted 'Erin Go Bragh' as their motto[7] and it adorned their shirts. Founded in 1875 by Edinburgh Irishmen and the local Catholic Church, St Patrick's, the club's shirts included a gold harp set on a green background. The flag can still be seen at a lot of Hibernian matches to this day.

In 1887 a gaelic games club was set up in Clonsilla, Dublin under the name Erin go Bragh GAA. There is also an "Erin go Bragh GAA" club in Warwickshire, England.

In 1906, three Irishmen went to Athens, Greece to compete in the Olympics as an Irish team independent of Britain. They had distinct uniforms and intended to compete for the first time as representatives of their own country. Once in Athens, the British committee decided that the Irish would instead compete under the British flag. Peter O'Connor won the silver medal for the long jump. As he was about to receive his medal he rushed towards the flag pole, climbed the pole, and flew the Erin Go Bragh flag, as the Tricolour had not yet been invented. The other Irish athletes as well as many Irish-American athletes fended off security for a brief few minutes. It was the first time an Irish flag had been flown at a sporting event. [8]

Other uses[edit]

The phrase was paraphrased by a punning New York Times headline Erin go broke, written by economist Paul Krugman, referring to the 2008–2009 Irish financial crisis.[9] In the 2009 film The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day Norman Reedus's character Murphy MacManus phrases it as: "It's Irish for, 'you're fucked.'"[10] A Scottish song from the 19th century entitled "Erin-go-Bragh" tells the story of a Highland Scot who is mistaken for an Irishman. The first two verses[11] are:

My name's Duncan Campbell from the shire of Argyll
I've travelled this country for many's the mile
I've travelled through Ireland, Scotland and a'
And the name I go under's bold Erin-go-bragh
One night in Auld Reekie as I walked down the street
A saucy big polis I chanced for to meet
He glowered in my face and he gi'ed me some jaw
Sayin' "When cam' ye over, bold Erin-go-bragh?"

—19th Century Scottish song, [12]

A version of the song opens Dick Gaughan's 1981 album Handful of Earth.[13]

The phrase is used by Hercule Poirot in the television adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The Kidnapped Prime Minister" when Poirot suspects an Irish connection.

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