Last modified: 2019-04-10 by rob raeside
Keywords: hebrides | lewis | barra | gigha | scotland | cross: scandinavian | western isles | lymphad |
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A number of purported flags of the Outer Hebridean islands have been widely circulated on the internet. Here is one comment on them from a resident of the Western Isles:
Various theories have been published on the internet on the origins of Hebridean
flags. Some refer to the seven traditional
districts of Lewis being the seven bars of the flag. This is not something that has any root in Lewis folklore.
Lewis has four parishes and a burgh of Barony as correctly pointed out by
Malcolm Macdonald. This would make 5 bars (strangely enough as the old man in
Ness told Scott in the first place!). Also it would look very like the very
trendy Cuban flag (Western Isles tourist board marketing
people take note). I note also waffle about other obscure Hebridean flags. Can I make a couple of points. The flag of South Uist looks
uncannily like the flag of Devon. Could it be he got this idea when he was on
his holidays in Torquay? [Editor's note: the flag of Devon was developed long
after the South Uist flag was posted on the internet.] Finally absolutely no mention
is made of the flag of Great Bernera. This definitely exists and
has the authorisation of the Lord Lyon through an application made by Le Compte
Mirrlees, well loved laird of the island.
Modified from comments submitted by Angus Macdonald, 28 January 2006
source: see note below
flag is one of the most curious of the Hebridean flags. The blue and white
stripes are said to represent the seven traditional areas of Lewis: Back (Am Bac),
Lochs (Na Lochan), Ness (Nes), Point (An Rubha). Uig (Uig), West Side (An Taobh
Siar) and the main town, Stornoway (Steornabhagh). Blue and white stripes are
also used on the Harris flag.
Source: see note below
located by Fay Lawnsett, 21 September 2004
This flag was seen flying
about three years ago - apparently in front of a house owned by Norwegian people
which lies on the road from Stornoway to the airport.
Fay Lawnsett, 22 September 2004
I received the following message from Scott Hatton:
There is a flag for the isle of Lewis, the largest of the Hebrides. It is based upon the Nordic cross, reflecting the Norse tradition of the islands. the origins of the colours used and the meanings of the blue lines (water?) are unclear.
Chris Pinette, 23 March 1998
I want to suggest that this flag of the Isle of Lewis (Eilean Leodhas) is a
made up flag because on numerous visits to the Island I have never seen it (and
I´m someone who always looks out for flags). The flags commonly seen are the St
Andrews Cross and the occasional flag of Nova Scotia. Perhaps someone can tell
where on Lewis the flag can be seen - it's definitely not in the North of the
Island towards Ness or Tolsta.
Donald Mackenzie, 2 October 2002
http://www.btinternet.com/~haywards.cambs/haywards/index1.htm, mirrored at
that the flags of Barra and Lewis are in use.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 28 July 2004
Note to readers: this flag was provided to us along with flags of several other islands, by reference to Chris Pinette's website in 1998. Subsequently it was picked up by Wikipedia, and as we corrected the image we had, so did Wikipedia. We have since received the original story, reproduced verbatim for information:
Way back in time, maybe about 1997 when I was working on the Virtual Hebrides
website, I supplied Chris Pinette with a very badly drawn Lewis flag. I see
somebody has corrected my original, got the colours the right way around and the
correct number of stripes (7 not 5) and a 'Scottish saltire' blue not the bright
blue I used. Now the flag is correct, the FOTW and the Wikipedia have got a
curious circular reference going. They quote you and you quote them as the
source of the flag. As far as I can tell, whoever updated you, updated the
Wikipedia version at the same time. Perhaps it's best if you removed the source
as being from Wikipedia - I see lots of debate on the Wikipedia site as to why
you quote them and they quote you. I don't know who you should now quote as the
source. I got the (wrong) design from an old fisherman from Ness over ten years
ago who I think is now no longer with us. He'd drawn the five stripe version
from memory and got it wrong. I photoshopped it (once I was sober again) from my
scrapbook and the five stripe one took on a life of its own. I still see it
sometimes on the web - it's quite embarrassing.
On the original Virtual Hebrides I tracked down the other island flags now I had got started, drew them up and these caused a great deal of debate on our message board - we had nearly every-wired up Hebridean on the board at the time and it was rather active in the mid 1990s. When Chris approached me, I said there were no flags for the other islands apart from Barra, South Uist and Lewis and this got quoted on FOTW. However at the time I had tracked down a Harris flag - nine stripes of horizontal blue and white alternating, a North Uist flag - a large single white star on a blue background and a Benbecula flag, a horizontal tricolour of blue, white, green. I said there weren't other flags because I thought at the time these three flags particularly might have been made up by one of our forum readers. The colour scheme for seemingly independently originating flags was just too convenient - all the flags of Protestant islands were now blue and Catholic islands green - just like Celtic and Rangers. Flags don't follow that logic! Having mixed-religion Benbecula a tricolour of blue at the top, separated by white with green at the bottom just seemed too suspicious. (A beautiful flag and idea though). Perhaps I was wrong to dismiss them - I was a one-man flag dictator at the time for the whole of the Hebrides... The FOTW has inherited my opinion of them and now people on the Wikipedia treat it as gospel! Strange!
Back to the text and discussion since on the FOTW page and in the absence of the community spirit we had in the Western Isles to discuss endlessly these flags, as far as I can recall, Barra and Lewis were generally deemed as authentic, South Uist slightly less so - somebody noticed that it was the Norwegian flag gone green. However it had a few supporters from Lochboisdale. North Uist and Benbecula were regarded as nonsense and the Harris flag curiously left uncommented on - it's a small island and not many people were on the net in those days in such a remote place with a non-digital telephone exchange.
I hope this long ramble clears a few things up...
Scott Hatton, 6 October 2005
The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) flag
is the only genuine flag used and was used by the Western Isles teams
participating for the first time at the Island Games this summer in Shetland. I
believe there is some truth in the Council logo being 'adopted' but the Western
Isles blue ensign is a real joke. As for the Lewis flag and seven traditional
areas - pull the other one! Lewis has traditionally been divided into four
parishes - Stornoway, Barvas, Uig and Lochs (Census/Landlord Rents/Church,
Malcolm Macdonald, 11 December 2005
Secretary of the Stornoway Historical Society.
I would now class the Lewis flag as "dodgy". I drew it up from a source. They
may have (but may not have) made it up but anyway, even if he was telling the
truth, my graphic design skills may not have reflected anything near its look.
Its relegation to "Other reported Hebridean flags" with a big "if" is completely
justified. I am as suspicious as everybody now that it has never been seen
anywhere but the internet.
I have the opposite opinion of the Barra flag, but we indeed have to wait for a sighting/more information. Having seen it in use by the Clan MacNeil in the 1990s, I am confident one day Barra will get "promoted" but the best way forward indeed is to wait on...
Scott Hatton, 4 December 2007
image by Tomislav Todorovic, 16 February 2017
Based on https://web.archive.org
image by Tomislav Todorovic, 16 February 2017
The flag of Benbecula is described in a discussion
about the source of the flag of Lewis as a
blue-white-green horizontal tricolor. The information is said to have
originated from the Virtual Hebrides website and its message board, from
about 1997. This flag seems to appear nowhere on the Web.
At the Italian website History Portal (/Portale Storia/): http://www.portalestoria.net/GRAN%20BRETAGNA%20SCOZIA.htm a vertical blue-white-green tricolor is presented as the flag of Benbecula. No source is known for this flag, although it repeats the colors of the other design (see above), so its origin is left to speculation: it may have been derived from the horizontal tricolor by conflating with another vertical one, perhaps the Fisherman's Wedding Flag. This seems to be the only appearance of this flag on the Web, as well as the only appearance of any flag attributed to Benbecula.
Tomislav Todorovic, 16 February 2017