[from Ellan Vannin vol 2 #7 p274/276 Jan 1927]

[note this was written before the 3-legs became the official flag of Man in 1931]


To a Manxman the question of his national flag is not only of academic, but also of practical, interest. At home or abroad, should one of our countrymen ask, " What is my flag ?" and, further, " When may I fly it ?" the answer is at least debatable. No such difficulty arises for the denizens of the United Kingdom, nor for our kinsmen in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—those self-governing Dominions beyond the seas—for reasons which I shall attempt to indicate as briefly as possible. On the other hand we are fortunate in our little commonwealth to be far removed from the storms and passions of race, religion and politics, that have raged around the Vierkleur, that South African rival to the Union Jack, and the banner with the strange device which now floats over what used to be the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin, so that the matter can be approached in a suitable spirit of calmness and detachment.

The Briton is more particularly concerned with (a) the Union Jack, and (b) the three Ensigns.

(a) The Union Jack, or, more correctly, the Union Flag, is the national flag of the British Empire, and symbolises the Union of Great Britain and Ireland (now Northern Ireland only), as effected by the Act of Queen Anne of 1707, and the Act of King George III. of 1801, and in it are combined the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick. It is flown by representatives of the Empire all the world over, and is the only flag, with certain following exceptions, that a private individual or corporation has a right to display on shore in its plain condition and without any emblazonment.

(b) The Ensigns, White, Blue, and Red, are primarily maritime flags, and, in the language of heraldry, they have a "Union Jack described in a canton at the upper corner thereof next the staff. "

The White Ensign is essentially the flag of the Royal Navy, With one exception, viz., the vessels belonging to the Royal yacht Squadron are allowed to fly it.

The Blue Ensign is exclusively the flag of the public service other than the Royal Navy, and is as well the flag of the Royal Naval Reserve.

The Red Ensign is historically the distinguishing flag of the British merchant service.

Now let us consider the position of our Canadian, our Australian, and our New Zealand cousins.

The flags of these British Dominions are the same as those of the Mother Country, but differentiated by the badge of the Dominion being placed in the fly, if it be the blue or the red ensign. For example, the ensign of the Dominion of Canada displays the armorial bearings of the Dominion; in the case of the Federated Commonwealth of Australia a large six-pointed star, emblematic of the six States immediately under the Union, is borne; the New Zealand device is the southern cross, and at present no other Dominion or Colony except the three above-mentioned is allowed the privilege of defacing (heraldically) the Red Ensign. This point is an important one when we come to consider the flag so well known to all of us— the Red Ensign with the Three Legs of Man in the fly— and it is also necessary to note that, in the Dominions which have been granted this right of defacement, the flag most generally flown by private individuals on land is not the Union Jack (more peculiar to the United Kingdom, of which they form no part), but the Red Ensign, proudly fluttering in the breeze with their own self chosen emblem in the fly, in conjunction, of course, with the Union Jack in its accustomed position in the canton in the upper corner. For this custom, of course, there is ample precedent, as Mr. Barlow Cumberland has shown in his "History of the Union Jack." By the authority of the Act of Queen Anne of 1707, to which reference has been made, the Red Ensign became the national right of all British subjects on all lands as well as seas, and so the Dominion ensigns passed onward to bear evidence of their country over the homes of the Dominion residents; as they have the right to use the plain Red Ensign everywhere, so they use its daughter flag, the Dominion Ensign, and although there was at first a restriction to its use at sea, this has been merged in the more widely extended and general use on land.

So now we come to the Manxman. He is certainly entitled to fly the Union Jack, for, although the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, yet it is within the British Empire. However, on the analogy of the three great Dominions, he would also be able to hoist on land the Red Ensign with the cherished symbol, the Three Legs, in the fly, and most Manxmen would probably prefer thus to proclaim their nationhood. But this difficulty must he faced—the flag which is so familiar to us all has never been authorised (although the Lieut.-Governor is entitled to fly his own flag— the Union Jack charged in the centre—just as the Viceroy of India or a Colonial Governor does), and from a study of the prints in the Manx Museum it seems to have been adopted by the Manx mercantile marine at a date somewhere between the years 1842 and 1854. In view of this fact, would it not be eminently more satisfactory to place ourselves on a proper footing, as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have already done, and for us to take steps to obtain the necessary authority ? No difficulties should arise if our choice were confined to the well known designs, and we would then have the honour of flying the Three Crosses and the Three Legs side by side in the one flag, on land and sea, in Ellan Vannin, and in the homes of our kinsmen across the waters.

Should the above argument be thought worthy of further investigation (which I should very much welcome, as I cannot claim to have more than a passing knowledge of the subject), what body more suitable than the W.M.A. could be found to initiate the movement and pursue it to a conclusion which would be acceptable to all?

Ballasalla Place, Malew.



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