One clause in the Dragoons’ contract that was standard in mercenary contracts was that the Dragoons had the rights to any captured ‘Mechs, equipment or salvage resulting from their operations. During the early stages of these operations, kept all the salvage but any prisoners were turned over to the R.A.A.F. for processing. However, as the Dragoons began to take an ever increasing and independent roll in their sector, they were confronted with numerous requests from captured warriors to become bondsmen to the Irish Dragoons instead of being passed on to the R.A.A.F. Once the Dragoon’s high command understood the nature of the bondsman concept, they decided to start honoring these requests since the Dragoons were still rapidly expanding.
All the Clans used a bondsman cord around a captured warrior’s wrist to mark his status as a bondsman and his progress toward becoming a full member of his new clan. In the Clans the bondman chords were significant to each individual clan. Clan Wolf used strips simulated wolf skin, Clan Ghost Bear were three strips of white bear skin, and the Moonrakers used a reptile skin. The new “recruits” expected this tradition to be followed. Most of the ex-clan warriors were strongly disappointed at the lack of this basic ritual, feeling it denied them their method for showing their status and progress to becoming a fully accepted member of the Irish Dragoons.
This had the high command in a bit of a quandary. They wished to honor this tradition because they had come to have a great deal of respect for the Clan Moonraker as a fighting unit and the high caliber of warriors that wanted to join Dragoons’ ranks. But they couldn’t come up with anything that would have a similar significance to the Clan’s tradition. Then one night a major was frequenting a pub where the entertainment for the evening was quartet that was singing old, traditional Irish folk songs. Half way through the night the group sang Black Velvet Band. This was the story of a young man who is betrayed by a beautiful woman and goes to prison for seven years for a crime he didn’t commit. Part of the chorus was, “. . . her hair hung over her shoulders, tied up with a black velvet band.” The major thought this would fill the need so he suggested it to his colonel. The suggestion went up the chain of command and was heartily approved. As a result the Black Velvet Band became a bondsman chord for the Irish Dragoons.
Since the Irish Dragoons wanted to respect and honor Clan traditions they explaining the Legend of the Black Velvet band and how it was associated with indentured servitude and relocation. The concept of indentured servitude which could be worked off resonated with the prospective Clan bondsmen, and they enthusiastically accepted its usage as a bond chord. They even suggested various elements to be included in the ceremony when the chord is cut and the bondsman becomes a true Irish Dragoons warrior. It became so successful that is was suggested that it be applied not only to captured personnel, but to captured BattleMechs as well. It soon became tradition to paint a “black velvet band” on the unit color side of the captured Clan ‘Mech’s arm or weapon. Since the unit color site of the ‘Mech is the side that displays the Irish Dragoons insignia, that insignia is often painted on the black velvet band itself. The tradition became so popular that the Third Regiment also adopted it for captured Clan vehicles as well. Even though graduating ‘Mech warriors have their chord is cut in an auspicious ceremony, the black velvet band remains with the ‘Mech or vehicle for the remainder of its service life.