Red Hand of Ulster

In an ancient expedition to Ireland, it was given out that whoever first touched the shore should possess the territory which he touched; O'Neill, seeing another boat likely to outstrip his own, cut off his left hand and threw it on the coast. From this O'Neill the princes of Ulster were descended, and the motto of the O'Neills is to this day “Lamh dearg Eirin” (red hand of Erin). (See Hand.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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