Friday, 27 February 2015

My support for a young vexillologist

I would like to express my support for 14 year old Liam Kenward from Loose in Kent. This young lad has an impressive collection of over 200 national flags and ensigns, which he regularly flew from two flag poles in his garden. However following a single complaint his local council has ordered him to remove the flags and that he can only have one pole of reduced size, from which he can only fly one flag at a time. The full story was reported in the Mirror. I know the way the flags are flown may not strictly be in accordance with protocol, (I personally wouldn't fly more than two flags on a single pole and only in certain circumstances) but in my view protocol is just guidelines and private citizens can display their flags how they like. I fail to see the logic behind this story, perhaps if there were numerous complaints from neighbours, who have to live there everyday I could understand. But a single compliant from an anonymous source, I think the council acted a little rashly. From what I understand all these flags were national flags and nautical flags of various countries around the world, and not anything that could cause offense.
Just when I thought we lived in a free country.
Anyway rant over

Friday, 20 February 2015

New South Wales

The flag of the Australian state of New South Wales is like most Australian state flags a blue ensign with a British Union Fag in the Canton, and a regional insignia in the fly.
Despite the name "New South Wales" there isn't any Welsh symbolism on it at all! The emblem in the fly is a cross of St George of England bearing a lion and Southern Cross.
I corrected this by changing the emblem just a little bit:
I replaced the St George's Cross with that of St David the patron saint of Wales, and the lion with the famous red dragon. The idea is really the same as the original flag but with Welsh symbols rather than English.
However if New South Wales wants to move away from British ensigns to something more original, i though of this flag:
 Its an inverted Cross of St David defaced with the Southern Cross (in the same pattern as the Australian flag). The reason I inverted the colours of the Cross of St David are:

  • So it would be distinctive from the unofficial second flag of Wales
  • I wanted to show a connection to Wales, but at the same time I wanted it to be Australian rather than Welsh. The same way the Nova Scotia flag symbolises a connection to Scotland but stands out as something Canadian rather than Scottish. 
I think inverting the colours was the best way to do this, Another version could have the red dragon in the canton:
However I think this might empathise the Welsh connection too much, which might defeat the point of inverting the colours in the first place. On the other hand though dragons are cool. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Development & History of Irish flags Pt11: the Fenian Brotherhood

The Fenian and Irish Republican Brotherhoods was a militant republican organisation founded in 1858 with a large following and support among the recently arrived immigrants in the United States of America. The name Fenian was adopted from the Fianna a band of warriors in irish mythology who were led by the giant Finn McCool. Modern use of the word is as a derogatory name for Republicans and is generally seen as an insult. (it is also oddly enough used to describe a member of the Australian Labour party with republican views.) The use of the name Fenian here is of course in the historical context. In the late 1860s the Fenians conducted various raids/risings and actions which we in the modern world would call terrorism, around the British Isles and North America. Naturaly they had their own flags and emblems, some of which are still used today. The most common Fenian flags can be divided into three categories:

  1. Green Harp flags
  2. Stars and Stripes flags
  3. Sunburst flag

Green Harp flags

The green harp flag being seen as the flag of Ireland was naturally used. In County Dublin in 1867 insurgents raised a green harp flag over a police station. Above the harp was the inscription "For God and our Country" and below it "Remember Emmet" Robert Emmet led an insurrection in 1803 and was executed for treason. Such slogans were common on the Fenian flags "God Save Ireland" and references to the so called Manchester Martyrs, who were executed for murdering police officers in England were also common.  Between 1866 and 1871, American Fenians many of them Civil War veterans (some even wore their blue US army uniforms!) conducted invasions of Canada, The idea of the "Fenian Raids" was to gain Irish independance from the United Kingdom by holding Canada ransom. They were ultimately no match however for the British garrison troops and Canadian militia many of whom were of Ulster-Scots Protestant origin, Alexander Muir for example who was a member of the Orange Order and wrote the Canadian anthem the Maple Leaf forever, served in the Queens own Rifles of Canada at the battle of Ridgeway,which brings us back to the green harp flags. It is at this confrontation between Fenian and Canadian troops we see a most interesting flag. A 1869 illustration of this engagement shows the Fenians under green harp flags, one of which has the letters "I.R.A." above the harp! It is uncertain if these letters actually stand for "Irish Republican Army" the name used by the revolutionaries of the 1919-21 and various terrorist groups since. Although in the book "1916: The Easter Rising" by Tim Coogan it states that when they surrendered to awaiting US authorities they were described as the "Irish Republican Army" if true this is probably the first use of that infamous name.
Fenians' "IRA" flag at battle of  Ridgeway. The Union Jacks of the Canadian troops are also odd

Stars & Stripes

The American influence on the Fenians in Ireland is also evident in their flags, there are a handful of examples that are clearly inspired by the flag of the United States. On such flag captured in 1867 at a place called Tallaght, is a green field with 32 gold, eight pointed stars, representing the counties of Ireland. A flag rather similar to the American jack (ironically called the Union Jack) flown by Federal vessels and prior to 2002 the US Navy. It is unclear if this was meant to be part of a larger flag or not. Other flags would suggest that it was originally meant to form the canton of a flag, but it appears for one reason or another it was used individually.
A flag found in Dublin on St Patricks Day 1858 had the arrangement of stars already mentioned in the canton, and four stripes, presumably for the provinces of Ireland in the rest of the field.

A flag found by police in the possession of a Mr Micheal Moore a Fenian supplier in Dublin in 1865  had eight stripes, alternating between green and white. Presumably the green stripes represented the provinces with the white being used to separate the green stripes.
Another design I found, has the stars in the canto arranged as a saltire, I can't vouch for it's authenticity but it is certainly interesting:

The Sunburst

Flag of the County Sligo Light Horse
The device of a sun rising from clouds was the most recognizable Fenian symbol. This is a symbol we have seen before in this series, in the 18th Century Volunteers flag of the County Sligo Light Horse. The motto translating as "After the clouds Sun"The symbolism of the Sun shining through the clouds symbolising the dawning of a new day, has clear republican symbolism. There was also a though by some to be a reference to Ireland's pagan past. One song called for people "whose pagan fathers adored the bright sun," to "Send your loud war-cry o'r the main, Your sunburst to the breezes spread."  There may also have been a flag as early as 1731. Far from being a uniquely Irish symbol there are various examples in 18th and 19th century European Vexillology of cloud and sun devices on flags, some even had arms with daggers emerging. it was a common revolutionary symbol.  However unlike other revolutionary movements in Europe and the Americas, the symbolism of the sunburst was used in poetry, song and art.
 I have used Irish-American greeting cards frequently in this series, If you look at them again, many have a sunburst in the background.  The symbol appeared on depictions of flag in the Republican magazine The Nation in throughout the Victorian period. The standard design seemed to be a green flag with a half sun, in the centre. Sometimes clouds were depicted at the bottom of the sun. The oriental look these flags have to us would have been lost on most of the Fenians. Most of Fenian Sunburst flags appear to have been American ones, but there are some examples of such flags being used in Ireland.  In April 1867 a number of Fenians were arrested returning from Dublin, from skirmishes at Tallaght on the 6th, One of the people in this group was found to have "a green flag,which was provided for this grand military display, and which had a sunburst with ireland and a harp painted on it." This description seems to match this this rare example of a similar Fenian flag:
Although the primary symbol is a harp, the sunburst at the hoist is an example of combining symbols. This flag has a colourful history, it was used by the land league of the 1860s. It was hidden in a sack of flower during the 1919-21 conflict, to escape being discovered and potentially destroyed by the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliaries. It was recently sold at auction to a private owner 52,000 Euro. 
It should be said though that the primary use of the sunburst in this period was in an American Context. It was as will be seen later in this series to decorate the Irish colours of the New York regiments in the Civil War.It was in the decoration of the title of the American newspaper the Fenian Volunteer and was flown over the Fenian Congress in Philadelphia in 1866. It was also used by the Fenian raiders of Canada. The flag Buffalo Fenians is particularly interesting. It was a green flag with the sunburst in the canton. In the fly was the inscription "Presented by the Fenian Sisterhood of Buffalo May 16th 1866" suggesting it was made by the ladies for the men. Diagonally across the field was the unit's name. Which called itself "Buffalo 7th Regt Irish Army of Liberation" Later a "battle honour" of  "Ridgeway & Fort Erie June 2nd 1866."
  It would be interesting as the style of this flag suggests a uniformed set of unit colours, however I haven't found any evidence to support this. This flag was owned by the Fort Eire Historical Society.
The most notable use of the sunburst was on the mainmast of the Erin's Hope a ship that was acquired by the American Fenians in 1867, to take funds and weapons to Ireland. Initially it was called the Jacmel and was taking its cargo to the revolutionaries in Cuba. This was a front and the ship and its cargo was diverted to Ireland. On Easter Sunday(21 April) about eight days off the US coast, a salute was fired, the vessel renamed Erin's Hope and two flags run up the mastheads. The sunburst from the mainmast and green harp flag from the foremast. There's no suggestion in accounts though that these replaced the national colours of the vessel, so one can assume the US flag continued to be used as the ensign. (this way the ship didn't violate any law of the sea regarding national flags)

The sunburst is still a relevant symbol in Irish Republicanism. It was as well be seen used in the colours of the Irish Volunteer Force, and is used in colours of the Irish Defence Forces and flags of Paramilitary groups. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge is the capital city of the American state of Louisiana. Its the second largest Metropolitan city in the state, a growing technology centre in the US South, and ninth largest port in the USA.
This is the city's current flag:
The red field represents the Native Americans who inhabited the area, They erected red poles alongside the Mississippi River, which game the city its name (Baton Rouge comes from the French for red stick). The shield in the colours of the US flag (I don't think its the actual coat of arms) incorporates the fleur de lee of the Kingdom of France, The Castile of Spain and the (Pr 1801) Union Jack of Great Britain, representing the European nations who's flags have flown over the settlement.
It ranks 80th with a score of 3.95 for city flags by the North American Vexillological Association, so it is by no means the worst flag, but its by no means the best.
I redesigned the flag slightly:
It keeps the same symbolism as the actual flag, it has the text removed so its more ecologically correct. The black stripes represent the fact that the city is home to the second largest oil refinery in the US. The 32 stars represent the 32 historical neighbourhoods.
I am not too sure on the shield. I generally don't like Union Jacks on shields but I think this one is probably unique.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


As it was announced earlier this week that the Fiji flag will change removing the colonial symbols.
The current Fiji flag
This got me thinking what could replace it? This was a topic visited by Leonardo Piccioni a while ago on his blog. His design was this:
and this

His flag was based on the flag of the Kingdom of Fiji before it became a colony, with the palm tree coming from the coat of arms and rugby logo:
flag of Fiji 1871-1874
I was also inspired by the old flag, however I chose two different symbols for Fiji, the canoe from the coat of arms (which may also be changed) and the Tabua (Whale tooth) an important cultural item.
The same basic flag as the Kingdom but with different symbols. My final design is horizontal and features the red white and blue colours of the first Fijian flag, with the Tabua as the central device.
I think the Tabua only on a horizontal design is much less messy, and this way most of the flag is on a blue field, which is in keeping with the lyrics of the national anthem "As we stand united under noble banner blue." 
Alternatively the canoe could be used, but from what I understand (which admittedly isn't much) the Tabua seems to be more relevant in modern Fijian culture. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

77 Brigade (British Army)

This post is about possible insignia for the Army's 77 Brigade, which is a new unit that will formally be raised in April. This is a specialist unit that will use psychological operations and social media to help fight in "the information age." No doubt a response to the impact social media is having on the current conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. Now its not a specialist corps (like the Engineers, Medics, Logistics etc) so it won't have a cap badge, however as a brigade it will have an arm patch (known as a Tactical Recognition Flash or TRF in the UK armed forces). In a typical army uniform you will find two TRFs, the one on the right arm is a regiment/corps flash, the one on the left below a Union Flag is a Brigade/Task Group flash.  So here is my design for a brigade flash for 77 Brigade:
Its designed to look like a computer "mouse" with the number 77 on it. The "77" is upside down and the two digits are facing each other, this is a reference to the cursor arrow that you are probably looking at right now. The colours have no real meaning and were chosen for their distinctiveness.

I also read that although an army brigade, under army command that will fit into the army structure, it will also include personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and civilian services, This got me thinking and perhaps my imagination ran away with me on this one, but perhaps this unit could be the forerunner to a fourth armed service. I know it sounds far fetched but lets look at history;
100 years ago wars were begging to be fought in the sky as well as on land and sea, both the army and navy had airbourne branches in their structure, but it wasn't until 1918, the last months of WW1 that the Royal Air Force was formed.
As the air became a new theater of conflict back then, cyberspace and the internet has become a new theater of conflict in the present, that as demonstrated by cyber attack allegedly by North Korea on US and South Korean companies show, some nations are already using.
So if a new branch of the armed forces is set up for online warfare, a cyber corps, what will be its insignia? This is my idea:
It features two crossed swords, and a torch, piercing a globe, This is flanked on each side by two old fashion feather quills, joined by a lock. The motto "Vigorous and Vigilant" is on scroll which stretches from the top corner of the dexter quill to the top corner of the sinister quill. This is all topped by a St Edwards Crown, the current crown of state. 
The torch signifies truth and knowledge, it is also often associated with signals and communication in military heraldry, aspects of which would certainly be used in this service. The quills symbolise communication through the written (or typed) word, the swords represents military endeavor. The globe symbolises the World Wide Web, and the lock symbolises security. 
But as I said perhaps my imagination ran away with me a little, but still I enjoyed making the badge, hopefully the quills don't make it look too much like a New Zealand army unit.