E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
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; ONeill, seeing another boat likely to outstrip his own, cut off his left hand and threw it on the coast. From this ONeill the princes of Ulster were descended, and the motto of the ONeills is to this day Lamh dearg Eirin (red hand of Erin). (See HAND.)