is an Irish beret
A beret is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, designated a "cap", usually of woven, hand-knitted wool, crocheted cotton, or wool felt, or acrylic fiber....
. It was formerly worn by peasants; however, it has since been adopted as the headdress of the Irish regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies, where its formal name is the "Bonnet, Irish, Green".
The name "caubeen" dates from late 18th century Irish, and literally means "old hat". It is derived from the Irish
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...
, meaning "little cape", which itself is a diminutive form of cába
, meaning "cape". According to the Regimental Catechism
of The Irish Regiment of Canada
, it is suggested that the name "caubeen" may have been derived from the French
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
word "corbeau", referring to the dark-green colours given to the bonnet by the French, for whom many Irish soldiers fought as mercenaries over the centuries. However, it is also stated in the Regimental Catechism that it is "more likely" derived from the Irish word "caipin" (sic: cáibín)
meaning "old hat".
In the British and Canadian armies, the caubeen is officially known as the "Bonnet, Irish, Green"
In 1916, the British army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...
regiment the Irish Guards
The Irish Guards , part of the Guards Division, is a Foot Guards regiment of the British Army.Along with the Royal Irish Regiment, it is one of the two Irish regiments remaining in the British Army. The Irish Guards recruit in Northern Ireland and the Irish neighbourhoods of major British cities...
established a pipe band. The pipers' uniform was a mix of standard service dress and bandsman dress, and also included a khaki bonnet, saffron-coloured kilts and green hose. The khaki bonnet was named "caubeen" by the Guards pipers, and was similar to the Scottish Tam o' Shanter bonnet, but without a toorie. In World War II, a number of British army regiments adopted both khaki and rifle-green caubeens as their headdress, replacing the GS cap.
Each regiment was distinguished by the feather hackle in their caps: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was a Irish infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 27th Regiment of Foot and the 108th Regiment of Foot...
wore their traditional grey hackles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers wore their traditional green hackles, the Irish Guards and London Irish Rifles wore granted blue hackles, and the Liverpool Irish
The Liverpool Irish is a unit of the British Territorial Army, raised in 1860 as a volunteer corps of infantry. Conversion to an anti-aircraft regiment occurred in 1947, but the regimental status of the Liverpool Irish ceased in 1955 upon reduction to a battery...
wore a blue-and-red hackle. The Royal Ulster Rifles
The Royal Ulster Rifles was a British Army infantry regiment. It saw service in the Second Boer War, Great War, the Second World War and the Korean War, before being amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968.-History:...
didn't get a band until 1948, so they didn't receive their black hackles until 1947.
In 1937, the London Irish Rifles extended the caubeen's wear to the entire regiment. In World War II, they were the only soldiers to wear the caubeen until 1944, when the 2nd battalion of the London Irish were serving with the Irish Brigade in Italy. The 2nd battalion of the Inniskilling Regiment started wearing caubeens made from Italian soldiers' greatcoats in January 1944, and the 6th battalion of their regiment soon copied them.
In February 1944, the British Army fortuitously made the "General Service" cap (a sort of Tam o' Shanter in drab cloth) the new standard undress cap. The caubeen passed muster, as the exact form of the GS cap hadn't been formalized at the time, and their re-tailoring of the stocks of GS caps went largely unnoticed by the ACI.
In 1947, the wearing of the caubeen was later extended to all of the infantry regiments in the post-war North Irish Brigade
After the Second World War there were 14 infantry depots in Britain, each bearing a letter. The depots were territorially aligned, and Infantry Depot M at Omagh was aligned with the regiments from Northern Ireland...
, with the Royal Ulster Rifles receiving a black hackle.
The Royal Irish Rangers
The Royal Irish Rangers was a regular infantry regiment of the British Army.-Creation:...
(formed in 1968 by the amalgamation of the remaining regiments in the North Irish Brigade, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, The Royal Ulster Rifles and The Royal Irish Fusiliers) were granted the wearing of the caubeen with the Irish Fusiliers' green hackle. It continues to be worn by the Royal Irish Regiment, created by the amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment
The Ulster Defence Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army which became operational in 1970, formed on similar lines to other British reserve forces but with the operational role of defence of life or property in Northern Ireland against armed attack or sabotage...
A blue caubeen, with hackle of three vertical stripes in colours matching the Royal Signals stable belt
A stable belt is an item of uniform used in the armed forces of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. Stable belts or similar derivatives are also worn by the armed forced of other nations such as Denmark....
, is worn by officers, warrant officers and sergeants of the now disbanded 40 (Ulster) Signal Regiment
40 Signal Regiment is a Territorial Army regiment in the Royal Corps of Signals in the British Army. The regiment forms part of 2 Signal Brigade, providing military communications for national operations...
. Sergeants wear an anodised metal Royal Signals cap badge, while officers and warrant officers wear an embroidered cap badge.
The modern caubeen is worn very high on the off-side (usually the left), which makes it resemble a tilted rimless Balmoral bonnet
The Balmoral is a traditional Scottish hat that can be worn as part of formal or informal Highland dress. Dating back to at least the 16th century, it takes the form of a knitted, soft wool cap with a flat crown...
. It is often made with narrow black tapes, that are worn tied neatly in the back; the Canadian version is made with wide tapes. It is traditionally rifle green in colour, and typically worn with a unit insignia (sometimes worn with a short colored plume called a hackle
The hackle is a clipped feather plume that is attached to a military headdress.In the British Army and the armies of some Commonwealth countries the hackle is worn by some infantry regiments, especially those designated as fusilier regiments and those with Scottish and Northern Irish origins. The...
, indicating regimental association) pinned on the off side of the cap.
Canadian and South African Army use
The caubeen remains the headdress for the 2nd Battalion, the Irish Regiment of Canada. It is a Primary Reserve light infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...
regiment of the Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...
. The Regiment was formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1915 as 1 Battalion Irish Regiment. The caubeen is worn with a green hackle, but not to designate it as a fusilier regiment as in the British Army sense; it was a gift from a commanding officer of the London Irish to the Irish Regiment of Canada during the battle of Coriano, Italy. The Regiment also wear a tartan kilt (O'Saffron tartan) kilt
The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic heritage even more broadly...
and scarlets. In the late '90s and early 2000s, the regimental dress was in slow decline, but more recently, the regiment has been re-issuing regimental dress at a steady pace.
In the past, the caubeen has been worn by members of the South African Irish Regiment, a Reserve Infantry battalion within the South African National Defence Force.
The caubeen is also worn by the honour guard of the Division One, Orange County, California branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish Catholic fraternal organization. Members must be Catholic and either Irish born or of Irish descent. Its largest membership is now in the United States, where it was founded in New York City in 1836...
, an Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...
fraternal organization. On their website they remark: "And we wear the green caubeen and carry the pike, the distinctive headgear and weapon of the Irish warriors of old"
In 1938 the Irish Prime Minister's deputy, James Dillon, complained about a tax on imported ladies' hats, remarking that Irish ladies would be forced to wear "Connacht caubeens". In response a ladies'-hat factory in Galway declared that, when Dillon next visited the city, they would present him with a suitable "Galway caubeen".
Caubeens are also sold as a women's woolen winter hat by an Irish hat retailer.
The caubeen receives mention in the Irish song "The Wearing of the Green
"The Wearing of the Green" is an anonymously-penned Irish street ballad dating to 1798. The context of the song is the repression around the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Wearing a shamrock in the "caubeen" was a sign of rebellion and green was the colour of the Society of the United...
", of which the best-known version was written by Dion Boucicault for his 1864 play Arragh na Pogue
, or the Wicklow Wedding
, set in County Wicklow
County Wicklow is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Mid-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Wicklow, which derives from the Old Norse name Víkingalág or Wykynlo. Wicklow County Council is the local authority for the county...
during the 1798 rebellion. The following is the second verse of Dion Boucicault's version:
When the law can stop the blades of grass
From growing as they grow,
And when the leaves in summer time
Their verdure dare not show,
Then I will change the colour
I wear in my caubeen,
But till that day I'll stick for aye
To wearing of the green.
An old song, still popular in Ireland, is "The Golden Jubilee" (or "Fifty Years Ago"), in which a wife exhorts her husband to take off his hat and put on his "ould caubeen", which he had worn fifty years previously. It was recorded by Connie Foley and Dorothy McManus in the 1940s and later by Sean Dunphy
Sean Dunphy was an Irish singer who represented Ireland at the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, achieving second place with "If I Could Choose". He was also the first Irish singer to record in Nashville....
Another Irish song referring to the caubeen is "My Old White Caubeen", which the Irish Times reported was sung at a meeting of the RIC
The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was Ireland's major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital, and the cities of Derry and Belfast, originally with their own police...