Last modified: 2022-12-03 by rob raeside
Keywords: royal nova scotia yacht squadron |
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image by Clay Moss, 3 January 2015
In theory I would think on the RNSYS burgee, the saltire should probably be
the same color as the saltire on Nova Scotia's flag,
however I have in my own flag collection an RNSYS burgee sent to me by the RNSYS
for use in my class room. The blue colors on the actual burgee are all the same.
They are darker blue, probably reflecting Union Jack blue. On my burgee, the
gold shield is simply outlined in red as per the shield in my images. Also, the
size of the shield, and crown correspond with my burgee.
Clay Moss, 3 January 2015
Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, Halifax.
Established July 1837 as Halifax Yacht Club.
1861. Granted title ‘royal’.
14 April 1862. Warrant for plain Blue Ensign. Blue burgee : overall white edged red cross; in white canton, crown above Scottish lion shield in centre of blue saltire.
1880. Warrant cancelled. Unusually, this was published in the London Gazette on 13 July.
9 November 1880. New warrant in name of Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.
1937. Canadian Blue Ensign replaced Blue Ensign.
David Prothero, 3 January 2015
What is unusual about the 1880 entry?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 3 January 2015
When a warrant is issued it is, as far as I know, not published in the London
Gazette; so why publish the cancellation? I have never seen the cancellation of
any other warrants published in the Gazette, though that may be because it is a
fairly rare event. The cancellation of the warrant was, presumably, connected to
the change in the name of the club, but why did it happen four months before the
new warrant was issued? There just seems to be something strange about the
procedure. When Royal Southampton changed its name to Royal Southern, the
warrant was ‘re-issued’.
David Prothero, 4 January 2015
I went looking for a bit more about that history. What appears to be the 1907
yearbook of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron,
https://archive.org/details/officersmembersf00roya_0, has an interesting
elaboration on its title page:
Date of admiralty warrant, 9th November 1880,
and 15th May 1894.
These dates appear to shows this club existed before 1880.
The reason why the cancellation and new issue were not together, would likely be that the cancellation of the Royal Halifax warrant was caused by the merger, after which a new application was made for the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.
Now, if two more or less equal clubs merge, usually the one brings in the name, and the other the burgee. The current burgee, however, looks very Nova Scotia-related. Either it's more recent, or the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron swallowed a moribund Royal Halifax. I can add to that, that the 1882 yearbook https://archive.org/details/cihm_67212, lists no members that were in the club before 1875, foundation date of the Squadron, as if the Royal Halifax either had no members left or was not considered to be continued in the merged club. Swallowing the Royal Halifax would have given the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron the older establishing date in North America, and it may be they believed the warrant would carry over as well, which would create a need to be very clear about the cancellation.
While the latter paragraph is speculation, it does seem clear that the part the club is vague about is at best a merger, rather than a name change. I have now even found this mentioned explicitly at Archives Canada, (http://www.archivescanada.ca), which is cached here.
"The Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (established 1875) merged with the Royal Halifax Yacht Club in 1880 to form the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (incorporated 1888)."
In the 1907 yearbook mentioned above, page 4, the Earl of Kimberley to the Marquis of Lorne, dated 14th August 1880, confirms that it pleased Her Majesty to permit the prefix "Royal". So, by the time of the first warrant, this was indeed the correct name. (In 1882, the Marquis of Lorne was Commodore of the squadron; I assume this was true for 1880 as well.)
The title page of the yearbook also tell us we're somehow missing a warrant: The warrant of 15th May 1894 is on pages 4 and 5: Indeed just the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's fleet, no mention of a charge. I don't know how it differs from the 1880 version.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 4 January 2015
Concerning the design of the flag, I don't know what the Constitution says
today, but in 1896 it said:
The Ensign of the Squadron shall be the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's Fleet.
The Burgee shall be blue, with a red cross of St. George, edged white, and the arms of Nova Scotia in the first quarter.
The Commodore's Flag shall be the Squadron Burgee, swallow-tailed; the Vice-Commodore's, a similar Burgee, with one white ball in the third quarter; the Rear-Commodore's, a similar Burgee, with two white balls in the third quarter."
From this I read the blue in the canton to be that of the Nova Scotia arms. On the other hand, the colour of the Blue Ensign is not mentioned, so there's no way to confirm that the Burgee is ensign blue. Anyway: you have an actual burgee, so that's apparently how this is interpreted.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 4 January 2015
The warrant of 5 May 1894 is not relevant. In 1894 parts of the warrant were
changed, and all clubs that had previously been granted a special ensign were
issued with a new warrant. All were dated 5 May 1894.
I had assumed that the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron was the Royal Halifax Yacht Club with a new name, but this is wrong. The merger between the two clubs may have taken place a little earlier than 1880. A Foreign Office file dated 1 September 1879, [FO 83/1925] lists privileged yacht clubs. Nova Scotia is in the list, Halifax is not.
I think that the club would originally been called the Nova Scotia Yacht Club. I have seen nothing specific about this, but ‘Squadron’ seems to be a title that some British related yacht clubs acquire when granted the title ‘royal’, e.g. Australian Yacht Club, established 1862, became Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in 1863; South Australian Yacht Club, established 1869, became Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron in 1890; Auckland Yacht Club established 1859, became Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1901.
If all this is correct:
Halifax Yacht Club
Established 27 July 1837. Burgee not known.
1861. Granted title ‘royal’.
14 April 1862. Admiralty Warrant for plain Blue Ensign. Burgee not known.
Lost Royal Warrant.
c1880. Absorbed by Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.
13 July 1880. Royal Halifax Yacht Club Warrant cancelled.
Nova Scotia Yacht Club.
Established 1875 by disaffected members of the Royal Halifax Yacht Club.
c1880. Absorbed remnant of Royal Halifax Yacht Club.
14 August 1880. Granted title ‘royal’ and possibly at the same time changed ‘club’ to ‘squadron’.
9 November 1880. Admiralty warrant for plain Blue Ensign.
Burgee probably as now.
1937. Canadian Blue Ensign replaced Blue Ensign.
David Prothero, 6 January 2015, 7 April 2015
This may also indicate that the Royal Halifax was no longer considered an active club, with its privilege withdrawn for that reason. The publication in the London Gazette on 13 July 1880 may have been to make this better known, for reason of whatever status change happened for these clubs at that time.
I'm now able to answer this for the case of the Nova Scotian, with thanks to
The Nova Scotia Legislative Library who preserved the 1876 year book, now
accessible on-line at
https://archive.org/details/cihm_67136. (I'm describing it as a yearbook as
it shares contents with later publications that clearly were year-based. This
(probably first) one doesn't itself list any year-dependent information, though,
so it may be that several years passed before a second edition was published.)
The title page of this work reads:
"Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.
Constitution, By-Laws, Sailing Regulations, &c., &c., &c.
Halifax, N. S.
Printed by Wm. Macnab, 12 Prince Street, 1876."
Indeed, the first article of the constitution confirms that "This association shall be known as the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron [...]"
From this it's obvious that the Nova Scotian was indeed a "Squadron" well before becoming "Royal". It may be the prefix was anticipated at the time of the naming, if the intention was to replace the Royal Halifax, but as this is likely their first constitution in print, they would seem to have been named "Squadron" from the start, and they obviously were named so before the events that lead to them adopting the Halifax' history.
The book contains more flag-related matter:
By-laws article I is left blank. In later editions of the year book this article describes the flags of the association. Though it's possible that the by-laws were adopted with such an article at the charter meeting, and that this article was then stricken before the yearbook went to print, It would seem more likely that no flags had been adopted at the charter meeting or during the remainder of the first calendar year, but that the intention was to fill in this article on that subject in the near future.
Apparently no burgee was adopted at the 1875 charter meeting.
By-laws article XIX is also of some interest, as it lead to further documentation in later yearbooks:
Each Yacht owner shall adopt a distinguishing flag, different from that of any other member, to be described in the Squadron list, and shall sail all matches under the same. Notice of any alteration in a member's flag to be sent to the Secretary before the lists for the year are printed."
Sailing regulations article V then tells us that for a mooring start, a red flag is hoisted as a warning to all yachts to take their station, then it's replaced by the Blue Peter with first gun shot as the five minute signal, and then a second guns shot to start. (For a flying start its just the guns.)
Sailing regulations article XIX again treats the distinguishing flags:
"Each Yacht must carry her owner's proper Distinguishing Flag, of a suitable size, at her main top-mast head, same not to be hauled down unless she gives up the race, in which case it is to be immediately lowered; if the top-mast be struck or carried away, the Flag must be re-hoisted in a conspicuous place, as soon as possible."
Sailing regulations article XXII finally tells us that for protests "a Flag" should be should be shown "conspicuously in the main rigging" and kept flying there.
Though the distinguishing flags are to be described in the Squadron list, that list didn't at this time form part of the year book. What is shown clearly is that, though we often informally describe such flags as "yacht flags", they are really the flags of their owners. If a yacht would have changed hands, the flag it carried would have changed as well.
We also can see here the importance of the system of distinguishing flags: Though it recalls the system of arms, with all the effort heralds had to put into it, it did create a system of unique identifiers for the participants in a race. The commercial code could only identify the name of a vessel, which might occasionally cause clashes in identification. The distinguishing flags identified the owner, and since no owner was allowed to enter two yachts in the same race, this identification was unique.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 January 2015
The Nova Scotia Legislative Library has preserved the 1879 year book:
https://archive.org/details/cihm_67137. The 1876 book apparently was an
oblong sextodecimo; this one looks like an upright octodecimo: a narrow format,
but since these are single sheet booklets it gives them four more pages: from 32
to 36. From the contents it would appear that the book has now become a true
yearbook, listing among other topics the programme for that year and the club's
The title page now reads:
Constitution, By-Laws, Sailing Regulations, &c., &c., &c.
Halifax, N. S.
Printed by William Macnab, 12 Prince Street, 1879."
The name of the club is not split just because of the narrow page; the second part is printed much larger, with more embellishments. The message seems to be that this association wants to be "The" Yacht Squadron, with Nova Scotia as their territory.
By-laws article I is now filled in:
The Ensign of the Squadron shall be the Ensign of Her Majesty's Fleet. The Burgee shall be blue, with a red cross edged white, and the Arms of Nova Scotia in the upper corner. The Commodore's flag shall be a red swallow-tail burgee, with the arms of the Province in the centre. The Vice-Commodore's flag shall be a white swallow-tail burgee with the arms of the Province in the centre. The Rear-Commodore's flag shall be a white swallow-tail burgee with the arms of the Province in the centre. All yachts are required, when cruising or accompanying a race, to fly the Squadron Burgee and Ensign. All yachts must have on board the three flags required to make their number in the Squadron List, and the Answering Pendant. Flag-Officers must have on board a complete set of signals (Commercial code)."
This answers the question whether the burgee existed before 1880. Note that again part of the articles has been left blank. Where previous the expectation was that the book owner would have to fill in the adopted flags, now it is left to the owner to fill in the colour of the ensign. Apparently, the intention was to get a warrant for an ensign different from the Red. Indeed, when the article speaks of the requirement to fly "the Squadron Burgee and Ensign", this obviously is not a reference to the Red, which would have to be flown anyway if no other ensign was allowed. Instead, it appears a special Squadron Ensign was foreseen.
Also, note that at this time, the officers' flags followed the colour system, which in the USA eventually became the norm. It wasn't until later, apparently, that they switched to the counting system, which became the norm in the UK.
Article XIX (distinguishing flags) has become article XIV but is otherwise unchanged.
The squadron had now adopted the Yacht Racing Association sailing rules, which replace their own rules in the book. (It may be this is the English YRA, founded in 1875.) This has its consequences for the flags used:
Sailing rules article 17 now tells us that, for all types of start, a preparative flag is hoisted half an hour before the race: Commercial code B for the first race, Commercial code C for the second etc.. This is replaced by the Blue Peter with first gun shot as the five minute signal. Then a second gun and the Blue Peter hauled down mark the start. (Since the Commercial Code had no vowels, the preparative for the first race is the first flag of the code etc.. This also means the system gets into trouble if there are more than 11 races, as the twelfth flag is the Blue Peter, the five minute signal.)
Article 30 now tells us that for protests "an Ensign", rather than any flag, should be should be shown "conspicuously in the main rigging".
The Commodore for 1879 is "His Excellency the Marquis of Lorne, K.T., G.C.M.G., &c., &c. Governor-General of Canada." Since the Constitution of 1876 already explicitly excluded the Commodore from those being elected on the year meeting, and no other means of selecting a Commodore is described, I expect he had been Commodore since the foundation.
The List of Yachts is included as well, which demonstrates that the possibility of a name clash in not just theoretical: It lists two vessels called "Dauntless". These would have the same signal in the Commercial Code (In 1866 this was "1st 2581", but it can't check whether this was still true..), but since they have different owners they have unique distinguishing flags.
At the end of the book follow three pages of "Useful Information", being information on flags from an unidentified print of Kemp's. Considering that the club didn't have an Admiralty warrant, it would seem noteworthy that almost a full page's worth is about exactly that: Warrants and special ensigns. Additionally, there's a paragraph on the prefix "Royal", and how it does not give Ensign privileges.
In 1879, this would not have been a matter of a printed photocopy still including less relevant parts. To be printed in this book, it must have been specifically selected and set. Apparently, at the start of 1879 a special ensign was at the front of the members' minds.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 9 January 2015
I first found an entry referring to the Halifax Yacht Club in the New York
Clipper of Saturday 31 May 1862:
"The Halifax N.S. Yacht Club -- The Lords of the Admiralty have issued a warrant authorising the Royal Halifax Yacht Club to wear the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's Fleet and a Burgee with the distinguishing mark of the Club thereon. Major General Doyle has become a patron of the Club."
I don't know whether all warrants speak of "a Burgee with the distinguishing mark of the Club", but otherwise, this gives as a design for the burgee a field with a mark.
But then ...
There seems to be a tendency of Almanacs in coastal areas to become more and more naval oriented over the years. Even though starting as farmers tools, as the same moon that governs the farms also governs the tides, tide tables are easily added. This then attracts new customers that could also use information on ports, which attracts even more naval customers, etc. ...
Belcher's Farmer Almanack seems to have followed this development as well, as for 1864 it includes the signals from the Ship's Staff at Citadel Hill, Halifax. And in that section, on page 50, is mentioned the Royal Halifax Yacht Club:
Commodore--Blue Burgee, centre a gold crown.
Vice-Commodore--Blue Burgee, centre a gold Crown, with a white ball in the upper corner
Rear-Commodore--Blue Burgee, centre a gold Crown, two white balls in the upper corner
Club Burgee--Blue, with the Provincial Flag in the upper corner.
Now, that tells us about after the changes. But the crown in the officers' flags might refer to the prefix, with older flags showing a different design. The Almanack has a longer history, but unfortunately it's only after these events that the flags get a mention, starting with the 1863 entry, which is equal to the 1864 version.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 January 2015
The Halifax Yacht Club was incorporated by an act of the Legislature in 1860, and in 1870 its name was changed by an amending act to "The Royal Halifax Yacht Club."
- 1877: Last year mentioned for membership candidates (Archives Canada)
- 7 March 1878: Last annual meeting found mentioned so far.
- 1 September 1879: Not listed by Foreign Office
- 23 September 1879: Execution issued, but not satisfied.
- 13 July 1880: Cancellation of the warrant is gazetted.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 January 2015
The yearbook of 1881, the first under the warrant (or new warrant) and with
the "Royal" prefix. And it does bring its share of new information.
The title page now reads:
Formed 1875. Date of Admiralty
Warrant, 9th November, 1880.
Constitution, By-Laws, Sailing Regulations, &c., &c., &c."
[Then a note that rule changes will be printed as update slips.]
"Halifax, N. S.
Printed by John Bowes and Sons.1881."
Obviously, Constitution article I has changed to say that "This Association shall be known as the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, ..."
By-laws article I has changed as well:
The Ensign of the Squadron shall be the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's Fleet. The Burgee shall be blue, with a red cross edged white, and the Arms of Nova Scotia in the upper corner. The Commodore's flag shall be the Squadron Burgee, swallow-tailed; the Vice-Commodore's, a similar burgee, with one white ball in the lower corner next the mast ; the Rear-Commodore's, a similar burgee, with two white balls in the lower corner next the mast. All yachts are required, when cruising or accompanying a race, to fly the Squadron Burgee and Ensign. All yachts must have on board the three flags required to make their number in the Squadron List, and the Answering Pendant. Flag-Officers must have on board a complete set of signals (Commercial code)."
No real surprises:
The ensign has been filled it as being the Blue Ensign. Since the burgee existed before this point, it would not have taken its shade of blue from the Club Ensign, thus it could have been NS blue at that time. With the other changes to the club, the officers' flags apparently have changed as well, as they now use balls style. The location is indicated precisely; it's indicated descriptively here as "the lower corner next the mast". Later versions have less clear "the third quarter".
Article XIV (distinguishing flags) is unchanged.
The Sailing rules are now described as having been altered to from the Yacht Racing Associations rules to agree with the by-laws. (This does not stop them from listing a provision that was for the 1879 season only.)
What I missed for 1879, which is still included in 1881, is: Article 4: ... If it's necessary during a Race to shorten the course, the signal flag denoting the race hoisted under the White Peter ... shall show that the Race is to finish with the round about to be completed ...
I'd never before heard of a "White Peter"; we even have David's remark that there's no such thing. Now we may add that there is in fact a White Peter. From other references on the web this would seem to be the name for the complement of the Blue Peter: white with a centred blue rectangle: S. I expect the name was derived from that of the Blue Peter, but if anyone knows more...
Included on page 30 is
"Extract from Admiralty Circular, letter L M M, 1st August, 1878."
I don't know whether this was the effect of the application for a warrant, or the cause for it, though.
More interesting is on the next page:
"Extract from Admiralty Letter of 24th June, 1880, Notifying Grant of Warrant to N.S.Y.S. to Wear the Blue Ensign of H. M. Fleet. L.
'' On granting this Warrant, my Lords desire me to state
'' that they must stipulate for the warrant to be returned
'' for cancelling should the Yachts of the Squadron be
'' reduced below ten in number, of which more than half are
'' vessels under fifteen tons.''
Interesting to see this limitation in itself (which would allow a club consisting of a single vessel that happened to be fifteen tons to retain the warrant). This would also suggest that this might be the normal, ungazetted way of cancelling a warrant: It's simply returned to the admiralty and nothing more is said about it.
But I would also draw attention to the date and the name: The letter is notifying of the grant on 24 June 1880, and the grant it speaks of is to the non-royal squadron. Then on 14 August 1880, the Earl of Kimberley informs the Marquis of Lorne of the prefix and in December a new warrant is issued for the new name? If so, is this the date for the first warrant, or could that already have been in the 1879 season?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 January 2015