Brian Boru, The Royal Irish Regiment's Mascot

Conrí, Brian Boru X

Shortly after the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers moved from Gibraltar to Watchet, Somerset in 1971, Major Alistair Hayes, to mark his retirement, presented the Battalion with an Irish wolfhound. The dog was named after Brian Boru (Brian Bóramha) King of Munster and High King (Ard Rí) of Ireland who was born near Killaloe around 941, killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1041, and buried close to the north wall of St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh.

The dog's first handler was Lance Corporal ‘Tip’ Norris and when 2 R IRISH deployed to Bahrain, he and Brian Boru remained at Watchet to begin the dog's military ceremonial training. When the Battalion returned to the UK, and was LCplTipNorristasked with Public Duties in London (left), he made a good public impression. There is no doubt that Brian Boru's appearance was an additional attraction and following the first appearance an elderly lady appeared at the Guardroom door with some sugar lumps for 'the wee donkey'!

He remained with 2 R IRISH at Watchet and then Warminster until the Battalion moved to West Germany in 1974 when he was posted to the Depot in Ballymena. In 1977, Brian Boru I was 'pensioned off' and went to live out his days on a farm in Wexford.

Brain Boru II was purchased from a breeder in Whitehead, Co Antrim and, although a beautiful animal and a litter mate of a ‘Best Hound’ winner at Crufts, he never took to life with the military. He went AWOL from the Depot and was never seen again. A nationwide search, reported on TV and in the local press, failed to find him.

Brian Boru III - known as Shane - was 'taken on strength' in 1980. He spent all his time in Ballymena and was employed mainly with the Regimental Recruiting Team. He died in 1984.

BB4Brian Boru IV (right, supervising the dispatch of potato bread to the 2 R IRISH (Rangers) in the Falklands, 1987) was a 2.5 year-old bitch who answered to the name of Kelly. She was the gift of a local County Antrim well-wisher and although smaller than any of her predecessors, she soon settled into the military way of life.

Brian Boru V (below left), who answered to name of Tallow, was also a bitch. She was donated to the regiment by Tullygirvan Kennels in Bangor and was very much in evidence in all the Tercentenary Celebrations in 1989.

There remains a gap in knowledge of mascots between Brian Boru V and VIII which research seeks to fill; Brian Boru VII however was known as Victor.

BB5Brian Boru VIII was Merlin and Brian Boru IX was Finn. Both of these mascots were kept as pets by Major Hughie Benson serving with the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment.

Brian Boru IX was born on 8 January 2011 at Driftcot Kennels in Cambridgeshire, England. He died of a heart attack on 4 July 2014 aged only 3 years.

In 2015 the Regiment took a decision to find its Regimental mascot exclusively from the island of Ireland. Brian Boru X, pet name Conrí, meaning Wolf King, was born on 11 January 2016 at Nutstown Irish Wolfhounds, north of Dublin. His kennel name is Ronan of Nutstown and he was received in May 2016 after almost two years without a Regimental mascot. Brian Boru X's first appearance with the Regiment was at Old Soldiers' Day on 4 June 2016, the second anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Brian Boru IX (Finn).

BBBroochWhen on parade, Brian Boru has an official uniform. This consists of a piper green coat trimmed with silver lace and displaying the Regimental badge on either flank. Attached to the coat is a silver braid lead, which goes over the neck, shoulders, and hangs down over the dog's chest. A sterling silver breast plate brooch is worn at the neck of the coat. This brooch was designed and made in 2016 to Regimental specification by a silversmith in Killyleagh, Co Down. Recruit Poster W'HoundTo complete the ceremonial dress, the dog has a choice of dark brown leather collars, one displaying the Regimental cap badge while the other has the name engraved on a silver plate.

There had been at least one Irish Wolfhound in our antecedent regiments as on 19 February 1905, at Holywood Barracks, Belfast, one Captain Sherwell 'offered an Irish wolf hound to the officers, 87th Royal Irish Fusiliers'. The dog was accepted and the Commanding Officer's Fund paid for a silver collar for the dog that was named 'Faugh-a-Ballagh'.

(Left, a First World War recruiting poster.)