Thursday, 24 October 2013

Londonderry Coat of Arms

This really all started with some free time and nothing to do, so I made a variant of the coat of arms of my home city, Londonderry:
I am not proposing any changes or anything like that, but I was surprised at the impact adding a crest and supporters had on the arms. If you are not familiar with the Derry coat of arms then you might want to look at the page about my flag proposal first, it explains the individual components. The harp is really just moved from the centre of the chief, which is not uncommon on some variations and interpretations of the city's arms. What is less common is any real supporters. The official coat of arms used by Derry City Council has no supporters or crest but it is not uncommon to have the arms flanked by flags of all descriptions, usually one or more is historic crimson flag of the city. However in cases like that, it is little more than decoration, where the above design has proper heraldic supporters (although animals and mythological creatures are more common for coats of arms in the British Isles than plant supporters). The supporters are oak branches reflecting the meaning of the name Derry,(anglicised from Gaelic Doire meaning oak grove).
Playing about a little more I made a more exotic version, based slightly on the coat of arms of Spain. The supporters on the Spanish coat of arms are two columns called the pillars of Hercules, which symbolise the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Well I did something similar, with towers to represent the walls of Londonderry:
Londonderry has the most complete set of city walls in Great Britain and Ireland, built
between 1613-1618, besieged three times (the last in 1689 lasting 105 days and being the longest in British history) but have never been breeched by an attacking army, for this reason Derry is known as the Maiden City. I thought it might be nice for the coat of arms to reflect that hence the above design. The flag on the left tower is the historic city flag used in the 1689 siege, the flag on the right is the banner of the De Burghs who were the local medieval knights, and is today incorporated into the Ulster Flag.
The crest features a dove, with an olive branch this has two meanings, the most obvious is peace after a turbulent 20th Century. The second meaning is that it represents the city's patron saint and ancient founder, St Columba. The Irish name for Columba, 'Columbkille' means dove of the church, and a dove is often used to symbolise the saint.
The anchor and the water base represent the city's maritime heritage and the River Foyle which like most old cities has shaped its history. The Port of Londonderry is the most western port in the United Kingdom, which has made it a very strategic location, more recently in WWII when the Allied Navies operated out of the city and the German Submarine fleet surrender here. It was sadly also one of the main emigration ports to North America, and Scotland. Although Belfast gets the glory of Northern Ireland's shipbuilding history, this industry was also once present in Derry. So all this is represented by the anchor and the river base.
The other symbol is the flax flower, although recently this is used as the emblem of the modern Northern Ireland by the Assembly, Supreme Court and other organisations. Here it represents the city's textile heritage. The old shirt factories of Derry are somewhat of a local legend, at its peak the city was the most prolific in the British Empire. There was a lot of factories in the city reaching its peak in the 1920s when it was  employing around 18000 people mostly women. Sadly none of the factories are now making shirts due to the cheap wages of Asia taking the trade. The Flax Flowers represent the rich textile heritage, although if people also see them as representing a modern city in a modern NI, they can.  
Last but by no means least is the banner that wraps around the towers and the arms itself. This celebrates Londonderry's achievement as being the first city to hold the title of UK City of Culture. The city has been city of culture throughout 2013 with many cultural events happening and has mostly been a success. The text "2013" representing the year as city of culture, and the roman numeral 'I' representing the fact it is the first city to hold the title, if it were Chicago they would add a star to their flag but I added a banner to the coat of arms to represent it.
There is of course so much more I could have added for music, sport, education and culture but one has to draw the line somewhere and I think I have included 1000 years of history into one design, without taking anything away from the proper arms and motto, pretty well.
 I am perhaps a little bias in saying I am pleased with the design but I am concerned it all might be a little too much. So if that is the case another simpler design for a crest and supporters is below:
It keeps the oak branches as the only supporters, and it keeps the dove crest. however there is also a mural cornet. This type of cornet is common on the coats of arms of towns, cities and regions in mainland Europe, but are rare in Great Britain and Ireland. In fact one 19th century herald said they were very "un-British." However as they often symbolise the walls of a settlement I think Londonderry can be an exception given its status as a walled city.
The city coat of arms has been updated and changed slightly throughout history, the figure of death and castle is so old, its origins are unknown. The London Chief wasn't added until 1613, and as recently as 2003 the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms issued letters of patent to Derry City Council, re-adding the harp to centre of the chief, so you never know perhaps one of these additions will be adopted some day.
Although this was really just for some fun, and I thought I'd share the outcome. It goes to show you don't always have to think up completely knew designs, sometimes you can achieve a great deal by simply enhancing an old one.
Comments and Discussion are Welcome.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

CG1: Commonwealth Games

Now that the official countdown to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow has begun, I think I will do a series of Games related posts over the coming months.
First a little background into the Games. The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi- sport event that involves athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, its a little like a mini Olympics. Although there are 53 members states of the commonwealth about 70 teams take part, as many of the dependencies and territories of those states also compete separately under their own flag. It is particularly interesting in the UK, as the Home Nations compete separately (one of the few occasions outside rugby and football that they do),so you have an interesting scenario where many of the British Olympians, who are used to competing as a team are now competing against each other.
This series of posts will look at the Vexillology side of the games, mainly the flags each team will compete under. Here is a table I made of the teams that competed in the last Games that are expected to compete in 2014:

The teams that are underlined are the teams I will particularly look at.

In this post I will look at teams that haven't been to the commonwealth games before but might be at the 2014. So some flags you might see (or might not as the case may be) are:

The Commonwealth Games Federation recognises Cornwall as an English county, rather than a Home Nation so therefore Cornwall isn't eligible to compete. However there is a Cornwall Commonwealth Games Association(CCGA), that is legally challenging this and the CCGA is expected to try to get a Cornish team competing in 2014. If successful they are likely to use the Cornwall Flag above.

British Indian Ocean Territory
Although the citizens of the Indian Ocean Territory currently reside in Mauritius, Seychelles and the United Kingdom, under the rules of the Games they can send a team under the title of British Indian Ocean Territory if they wish. The may use the official flag of the territory (above) or they may use the flag adapted by the Chagossians community in 'exile.'(below).
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Northern Cyprus has made application to take part in the Games, but as Northern Cyprus is not a member of the Commonwealth it has not taken part. This is unlikely to change as none of the Commonwealth countries recognise Northern Cyprus as a nation, but rather a territory of Turkey.

South Sudan
South Sudan having recently been recognised as a sovereign state is eligible to join the commonwealth and has made an application, South Sudan is expect to be able to take part in the 2014 games.
if you are looking forward to the games as much as I am, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to look out for new posts in this series, they will be marked CG (for Commonwealth Games) with the post number in the title.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Atholl Highlanders

The Atholl Highlanders is an infantry regiment employed and commanded by the Duke of Atholl. They Europe's only legal private army. Although their official duties are personal bodyguard to the Duke of Atholl, the defence of Blair Castle (traditional seat of the Clan Murray) its grounds, estates and inhabitants, it has never seen action and is more of a ceremonial display team, rather than an army.
In 1842 and 1844 the regiment escorted and guarded Queen Victoria when she toured Perthshire and stayed at Blair Castle. The Queen was so pleased with them that she presented them with her own colours thus given them regimental status in 1845. Its current colours were received in 1979. A picture of the colours on parade are below:
I am not too sure of the correct terminology as its a private army, but the right-hand colour seems to be the Queen's Colour and the left-hand one the regimental colour. Here's a better picture:

The gold and black bars appear to come from the traditional arms of Atholl.  The first thing that I noticed is that the Duke of Atholl's coat of arms on the regimental colour appear to be outdated. So my first proposal for new colours was to simply correct this:
 The regimental colour features the Duke's arms topped with the cornet of a Duke. The text is removed. The crest of the Clan Murray (the Clan of whom the Duke is chief) and the year 1845 (the year the first colours were received) are in the corners. The Queen's Colour still has the Royal Arms, although as the colour are for Highlanders I used the Scottish variant with the Scots Crown. I kept the cypher of Queen Victoria (in blue) but changed the crowned thistle with the cypher of the current monarch.
I was pleased with this but the flaw with these colours are that their is too much going on. The main problem for the regimental colour is that stripped field clashes with the arms. So my second design removed the bars:
 These colours both have a blue field. I removed the date from the regimental colour replacing it with the cornet. The Queens Colour is an ensign with the Scottish Royal Banner in the canton, and Royal cypher with a thistle wreath and the date. While this might work I personaly don't like it, I feel the Atholl Arms have too much going on, in them so I decided to replace them eith the cadge of Clan Murray in the last design:
I reverted back to the gold and black bars. In the corners I have the date 1845 and the cornet with the roman numerals for 12 (because the current duke is the 12th Duke of Atholl). The Queens colour has changed little from the first design, except there is no crown, and only the Scottish arms are used. I think this is the best, it keeps things as simple as possible but retains much of the historical and traditional features.
For more information on the Atholl Highlanders you cans read the Wikipedia article here.
Or if you like parades and that sort of thing you can see them on YouTube here.
Comments are Welcome

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Virgin Islands (United States)

Fallowing the launch of the Commonwealth Games this week, I was going to do a post about the flags of the nations and territories taking part compete under, however I have not designed a new flag for a while so I'll lave that for another time.

While most people agree that American State flags are often vexilogically incorrect and generally unattractive, and are quick to offer alterative designs,  territories administered by the American Government are often forgotten about. Of course what an American territory is, is debateable as many are designated differently. The territory I will do in this post is the United States Virgin Islands (often known simply as the Virgin Islands).
The current USVI flag looks like this:
File:Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg
It is based on the Great Seal of the United States. It is quite a horrible flag, I would say one of the worst I know of. Apart from the letters "V.I." there is no local symbolism at all. Even the flag of their neighbours in the British Virgin Islands have their coat of arms on their flag, which while the use of coats of arms on flags is debated at least its local and unique:
Another reason to change the flag is because the seal it was based upon is not used in the Virgin Islands. The current seal of the US Virgin Islands is below:
Interestingly the seal has both a USA and a Danish flag on it. Originally the USVI was the Danish West Indies, but in 1917 the USA bought the colony from Denmark. With this in mind my first design was based on the Danish flag but Americanised a little:
I didn't include any symbolism of the island's name sake Saint Ursula, like the British Virgin Islands did because I didn't want the two territories to share symbols that could lead to confusion. The above flag features a Danish Scandinavian Cross, with three stars on a blue field in the canton like the American flag. The stars representing the three main islands. I was however still unhappy with this as it looks like a Danish flag with a some American stars on it.
However I improved the design a little:
It still has the stars and the Scandinavian Cross, but the use of yellow and light blue really makes this more unique. I used light blue as it appears on some versions of the seal and it reflects the flag of the Danish Colony better as well as the sea. The yellow like the seal represents the tropical climate and sun as well as the distinctive breast of the islands national bird the bananaquit. I was going to include green to represent the land, however this didn't work too well with all the other colours so I dropped it.
Please feel free to Comment. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Some Northern Ireland "Fleg" humour

here is a clip I'd like to share of a local comedian summing up the Northern Ireland flag issue on a local TV comedy quiz show. Hope you enjoy it.
for more on the flags issue see here
or for my guide to flags used in NI see here

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Brazil Coat of Arms (link)

A while ago I posted about the coat of arms of Brazil, fallowing a discussion on the Flags Forum.
Well my friend from the forum Leonardo Piccioni has made a most excellent design, that is a must see if you are interested in the topic. The link to his blog is here.