Explained: The mystery behind Japanese flag that flew at Cork GAA matches 

Flag was flown in 1902 by Japanese warships on a visit to Cork to honour two men from Carrigaline who had helped modernise its naval service
Explained: The mystery behind Japanese flag that flew at Cork GAA matches 

Petty Officer Mark Keane and Senior Petty Officer
William Bryant with the Japanese Flag at the Naval base in Haulbowline. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

This Imperial Japanese flag has flown at many Cork GAA matches, but the incredible story of its origins has finally been revealed. 

The original Japanese flag was actually flown in 1902 when Japanese warships came to Cork to honour two local men credited with founding their modern navy.

The flag has been 'rediscovered' and donated to the Irish Naval Service's headquarters where it will be hung in the main dining hall.

The large 'Imperial Japanese Flag' had lain in a box in an attic for many years, brought out when an avid GAA fan went to Cork matches.

It was flown in 1902 by the Royal Navy, which occupied Haulbowline at the time, to honour the arrival of two Japanese warships – Asama and Takosogo – to Cork harbour.

The ships made the journey to honour twin brothers John and Cornelius Collins from Carrigaline who helped found Japan's modern navy.

They were sent by the British to 'The Land of the Rising Sun' in 1873 as instructors to help modernise the Japanese fleet. 

They were supposed to stay three years but remained there for 15.

The Japanese, under the command of Admiral Goro Ijuin, arrived and went to the Collins' brothers home to meet them. 

The brothers helped take 1,200 of the Japanese crews to the famous Cork Exhibition which was on at the time,” Naval Service Senior Petty Officer William Bryant explained.

He said the Naval Service was delighted to have been donated this significant piece of history and that many Cork GAA fans wouldn't have an idea of the significance of the flag when it was taken to matches.

He has extensively researched the period and this history will be detailed alongside the flag which has been framed.

Meanwhile, Petty Officer Mark Keane said the Naval Service is also delighted to have been presented with a rather rare medallion.

Medal that was presented to John J. O'Sullivan at the Naval base in Haulbowline
Medal that was presented to John J. O'Sullivan at the Naval base in Haulbowline

In 1996, 122 of them were struck and given to some sailors who served in 1946 when the Naval Service was officially founded.

It belonged to the late JJ O'Sullivan from Passage West. 

When he died it was left to his sister who later died without children. She in turn left it to a neighbour, Joan Buckley, who has donated it to the Naval Service as part of their 75th-anniversary celebrations.

It has been mounted in a frame alongside a picture of JJ O'Sullivan and the official letter presented to him at the time. It will also hang in the main dining hall in Haulbowline.

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