Regimental Mascots

London Irish Rifles

Formed in 1859 during the Victorian Volunteer Movement as the "28th Middlesex (London Irish) Rifle Volunteer Corps". In 1908 were transferred to the Territorial Force and renamed the "18th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)". In 1937, the London Regiment was disbanded and the LIR became known as "London Irish Rifles, The Royal Ulster Rifles".

In 1939, in response to the requirements of Second World War, the London Irish were raised as two Battalions. After the war, the Battalions re-formed as a Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. In 1967, with the disbanding of the London Regiment, the three Irish Regular Infantry Regiments had combined to form The Royal Irish Rangers, and the LIR became D Company (London Irish Rifles), 4th Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers, remaining so until the re-formation of The London Regiment.

The LIR moved from their historic home, Duke of York's Barracks, Chelsea to Flodden Road, Camberwell in 2000. In 2007 they opened a detachment for 13 Platoon at the TA Centre on Hammersmith Road in Hammersmith.

 cigarette card  cigarette card
The Pipe Band began in 1906 but not officially, as 'war-pipes' had been banned by several English heads of state. Richard II, having claimed that their use aroused Irishmen to acts of insurrection and violence, prohibited their even being owned let alone played in his Statute of Kilkenny in 1366, with a death penalty for infraction of the prohibition. The prohibition was reaffirmed by Elizabeth I and then Cromwell, although the penalty for infraction was reduced to banishment to the West Indies. William III in 1690 banned all Irish minstrels, harpers and pipers. By 1746 Irish war-pipes had pretty well disappeared, although some Uillean pipes had been developed as a replacement. Irish Regiments in the British Army avoided using Irish war-pipes, except surreptitiously, until pipers were legitimised for Irish Regiments by Army Order No. 538 in 1920.
The first wolfhound mascot of the L.I.R. was Shaun of Ballykelly, presented by Sheelah Seale in 1940 and nicknamed "Tara", after the Hill of Tara - the political and spiritual capital of Ireland since the Stone Age, and the seat of the High Kings until the twelfth century. Shaun was whelped December 6th, 1939, sire Silvagh Tim of Ballykelly, dam Killanny of Ouborough.
 Tunbridge Wells 1940
 The Pipe Band of the London Irish Rifles on parade with their Irish Wolfhound mascot, Tara, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent
on December 31st, 1940
 According to the book 'The Pipes and Drums of the London Irish Rifles 1906 - 2006' in his early days with the Band Tara had been subjected to physical abuse by the regiment's cook sergeant when he tried to sample the ingredients for a meal and was hit on the nose. This incident was said to have caused in Tara a deep seated psychological aversion to any moving white objects - the cook sergeant having worn white overalls. Tara was also frequently blamed for the Band's shenanigans but he did quite often steal female underwear from clothes lines and chase white doves. This was a time of strict rationing of food, and chicken was a luxury so it seemed that Band members would kill white chickens to take on leave and sprinkle the feathers around Tara's kennel to make it seem as though he was the culprit, and make a big fuss of him while doing so. Whilst leading a march, Tara saw something white moving and ran off into a farm where there was a large flock of chickens and rejoined the Band with a chicken in his mouth, which led to the following Charge being made against him.
Charge Sheet 
 Copy of the Charge Sheet issued by the London Irish Rifles in May, 1941
against the mascot, Tara, and the photograph of Tara included with the sheet
 In August, 1942 the 1st Battalion was preparing for being sent overseas and thus said goodbye to Tara, as it was realised that the dog could not accompany the battalion abroad. Tara was transferred to the 70th Battalion L.I.R. (Young Soldiers). He died in 1947. After Tara another ten years passed before the L.I.R. had another wolfhound mascot.
This is a painting - oil on canvas - by David Rowlands to commemorate 150 years of the London Irish Rifles from 1859 to 2009. The wolfhound is Tara 
 150 years
 The second wolfhound mascot was Kevin of Ballykelly, also bred by Sheelagh Seale. Kevin was whelped on August 10th, 1950, sire Ch. Artel Ballykelly Sandy, dam Cashel of Ballykelly. He was transferred to Norman Evans in March, 1951.
 Kevin of Ballykelly
 This is Kevin of Ballykelly, handled by his owner Norman Evans, Bugler and Dog Major (Handler)
in the First Battalion of the London Irish Rifles.
Norman Evans was a member of the Irish Wolfhound Club and lived at 40, Brent Road, Southall, Middlesex.
(Many thanks to VintageDogADay
for permission to use this photo)
Kevin of the London Irish Rifles 
 Picture taken in Belfast February 6th, 1954 during the conferring
of the Freedom of the City of Belfast on the Royal Ulster Rifles,
when members of the London Irish Rifles were on parade with
mascot Kevin with his handler, bugler Norman Evans.
 London Irish Rifles mascot
 Dog-Major (Rifleman) Norman Evans with the Regimental Mascot
of the 1st Battalion of the London Irish Rifles, Kevin of Ballykelly
 The next wolfhound mascot for the Band was not until the 1970s and this was actually the property of Bugler Dennis Halsey. The hound's pet name was Kipper but he was called 'Tara II' when he started serving as the Band's Mascot. The Band was in such an impecunious state at that time that the dog did not have a uniform, such as can be seen on the previous Mascots. I have been unable to find out where 'Kipper' came from or a kennel name, as there is no transfer listed to a Halsey in the Kennel Club breed records.
 Tara III followed much the same pattern, actually being owned by Angela Styles. His kennel name was Solstrand Ross, bred by Dagmar Kenis Pordham, sire Ch. Shadow of Kilmara, dam Solstrand Candice, whelped January 16th, 1999. The Band was still in a very poor financial state and so Tara III was classified as the Mascot of 'D' (London Irish Rifles) Company The London Regiment, in the hope that this would result in his veterinary and food bills being paid for by the Army. However, Whitehall refused to do this and reported it was a Regimental Pet and therefore would have to be supported by a voluntary fund. He was the mascot from 1999 to 2003, had four handlers during this period, and raised £200 for the Heart Foundation by completing a seven mile charity walk. He was retired in 2003.

The book 'The Pipes and Drums of the London Irish Rifles 1906 - 2006' can be obtained from The London Irish Rifles Association by contacting London Irish Rifles, Connaught House, 4 Flodden Road, Camberwell, London SE5 9LL
The home page of the London Irish Rifles Regimental Association can be found at
The archived history of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) page can be found at
The Official History of the London Irish Rifles 1st Battalion can be found at

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Updated 5/9/2013