Sunday, 16 August 2015

4. The Faroe Islands.

  The Faroe Islands postal administration issued a pair of stamps on 24 April 2015 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the territory's national flag which is known as the Merkid or "The Symbol". The stamps depict the Merkid with a view of the islands on the 12 krona stamp and the Faroese mountaineer Arne Vatnhamar unfurling the flag at the peak of Mount Everest on 25 May 2014 on the 11 krona stamp:-

    The issue was designed by Arne Vatnhamar and Andrea Ricordi and printed in lithography by Cartor. 

  The Faroe Islands came under rule by Norway in 1035 but from 1380 belonged to the dual monarchy of Norway and Denmark. In the 1660's the Danes awarded the islands to Christoffer Gabbel, and afterwards to his son Frederick, as a personal feudal estate, but the family's harsh rule caused great resentment in the islands and as a result Denmark took back rule of The Faroes in 1708.
  Towards the end of the 19th century, there was a growth in nationalist feeling in the islands and various flags were considered for use to highlight this growing national feeling. Two notable early flags used the emblem of a ram, the Vedramerkid, which had been a national symbol for centuries (and is currently used as the national arms) and the image of an oyster catcher, the Tjaldursmerkid.

  Illustrations of the 19th century ram flag are depicted in Wikipedia and show that the standing ram facing the hoist was placed on a blue rectangle which was placed on a red field. I have not seen an illustration of the oystercatcher flag:-

 In 1919 three Faroese students living in Copenhagen, Jens Oliver Lisberg, Janus Osserson and Thomas Pauli Dahl, suggested a new design which used the basic Nordic cross design combining the flags of Norway and Denmark. The design placed a blue fimbriated red Nordic cross on a white field. The students had the flag made up and flew it from a student dormitory in Copenhagen called "Regensen" which is now attributed as being the first place where the Faroese flag was flown. 
  Lisberg returned to Faroes in the summer of 1919 taking the flag with him planning to suggest to the Faroese parlament that it be adopted as the national flag but was unsuccessful. Lisberg's original flag is now on display in the local church of his hometown, Famjin. Lisberg returned to Copenhagen and tragically died there the following year from influenza without seeing the acceptance of the Merkid as the Faroes' national flag.
  During the 1920's local shipping began to fly the Merkid and after the British occupation of the islands during World War II, on 25 April 1940, the British Consul, Mr. Mason, announced that all Faroese boats and ships would fly the Merkid. In 1947, 25 April was declared to be Faroese Flag Day and when Home Rule was granted to The Faroe Islands by Denmark in 1948 the Merkid was recognised as the national flag for use on land and at sea.
  During its history the flag has experienced minor variations because of changes in the shade of the blue fimbriations. The first change occurred on 5 June 1959 when a lighter shade of blue was adopted  but the shade was made darker again on 29 December 1998.
  Apart from surcharges applied to 5 Danish stamps in 1940 - 41 during the period of British occupation (see Commonwealth Stamps Opinion 443), Faroe Islands did not issue any stamps until 1 April 1976 when an independent postal service was inaugurated in the territory. 
  The first local philatelic depiction of the Faroe Islands national flag was included in the inaugural set of 3 stamps on the 1.60 krona value. The flag is depicted with the lighter shade of blue then used as fimbriations of the red cross:-

1976 postal inauguration issue.

With first day of issue cancellation

  The national flag was next depicted on a miniature sheet issued on 9 April 1990 which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Merkid. Three 3.50 krona values were included in the sheet - one stamp featured the flag itself and the others depicted local vessels using the flag as an ensign. The stamp depicts the blue as a darker shade than that used on the 1976 stamp but no changes had been made to the shade of blue between the date of issue of the 2 stamps:-

miniature sheet first day cover

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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

3. New Zealand To Choose New National Flag - Long Lists 40 Designs.

"The Black Jack"

Captain Stanley reclaims Akaroa and raises the Union Flag there in 1840.

  The New Zealand government has long listed 40 proposed designs from which a new national flag will be chosen in a forthcoming national referendum.
   The British issued a proclamation on 15 June 1839 which cited New Zealand as part of the British realm. 
  Before the British established a Protectorate in New Zealand, a flag had been adopted by the United Tribes of New Zealand in 1834 which may be viewed as the first flag of New Zealand. This flag was used by the Maori at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 whereby they agreed to the establishment of the protectorate. The flag was white with a Red Cross and in the canton was a similar white-fimbriated Red Cross on blue with a five-pointed star at the centre of each quarter. This flag was derived from that of the Church Missionary Society (depicted above).
  The 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty was depicted on a miniature sheet issued by the New Zealand Post Office in 1990 to commemorate the anniversary and a number of contemporary flags are featured in the illustration but not the flag of the United Tribes (as depicted above).
  In 1840, the French established a small colony at Akaroa and in response the British dispatched a ship, the Britomart, whose commander, Captain Stanley, raised the Union Flag to reclaim British sovereignty in the area. This event was commemorated by the 5d value of the set of 13 stamps issued in 1940 to commemorate the centenary of the proclamation of British sovereignty in New Zealand (illustrated above). This was the first New Zealand stamp to depict a national flag.
  In 1865, the British parliament passed the Colonial Defence Act which provided for "all vessels belonging to, or permanently in, the service of the Colonies" to fly the Blue Ensign "with the seal or Badge of the Colony in the fly thereof". This established the basis not only for individual flags to be flown on the ships of colonies but also to provide them with a recognisable national flag.
  In 1867 the New Zealand government adopted a flag which placed the white fimbriated letters "NZ" at the fly of the Blue Ensign as prescribed in the Act.

   The flag of 1867 was replaced on 23 October 1869 by a Blue Ensign with 4 white-fimbriated five-pointed red stars placed at the fly. 

   From 1900 to 1902 New Zealand flew a Blue Ensign with the 4 red stars placed on a white disc at the fly (depicted below) but on 12 June 1902 the flag of 1869 was readopted as the state and civil flag. It was first featured on a stamp of New Zealand on the 9d value, issued on 1 September 1960, of the then definitive series. Subsequently it was reissued on 10 July 1967 as an 8c value when the country adopted decimal currency (depicted above). The original design had been by the New Zealand Post Office Publicity Section and the stamp was printed in photogravure by Harrison.

  The United Nations featured the flag of 1902 - 2016 on one of its 1986 series of flags of member nations:-

  Below are more designs which have been chosen for the long-list for the new national flag. Although I personally like the novelty of the "Black Jack" designed by Mike Davidon which is shown at the head of this piece with its stylised, Maori-like, version of the Union Jack which places the new flag in its historical context, I suspect that the New Zealand citizens who will choose the new design in their national referendum will opt for one of the designs which feature a silver fern. The first 2 illustrations below of designs by Kyle Lockwood, show examples from the 11 proposed designs which include the silver fern:-

  The inspiration for further proposed designs owes more to traditional Maori art than to the traditional heraldry and flag design which British settlers brought with them to New Zealand and some combine the two. Thus of the latter type we may consider that while "Land of the Long White Cloud" by Mike Archer places the 4 white-fimbriated stars of the current flag at the hoist, the fly has more of the appearance of Maori art. 

Land of the Long White Cloud
  "Curly Koru" by Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford is a design which uses a traditional Maori spiral pattern, an unfurling pikopiko koru, and represents vibrancy and energy contained in a small place and can be clearly placed in the group of designs which are entirely Maori in origin and have little to do with the role of the British and other Europeans in New Zealand culture:-

Curly Koru

  I presume that New Zealand will have a new national flag in 2016. It will be interesting to see which design emerges from the competition as the new symbol of the country. These are interesting times for vexillologists as we also await the revelation of the choice of the new flag of Fiji. Hopefully both of the new flags will be featured on stamps at an early stage.

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

2. New Flags From Birmingham And Fiji.

  Although this Blog is intended to show national flags on stamps, I feel I should include mention of exciting new flags which have not yet been depicted on stamps or may not ever be shown in a stamp design.
  I have been particularly pleased this week by the announcement from my home city of Birmingham, Britain's second biggest and most important city, that a new flag has been adopted for Birmingham for use by the general public. 
  Previously, the city had been represented by the flag of the city council which is a banner of the arms of Birmingham. The council flag was adopted in 1977 to reflect the city's status as a metropolitan borough and the incorporation of the district of Sutton Coldfield which resulted from the Local Government Act of 1972. The arms were originally those of a branch of the De Bermingham family who were Lords of the Manor of Birmingham from 1100 to c.1527. The Bishop's Mitre represents Sutton Coldfield, being taken from the town's corporation arms, and commemorating Bishop Vesey of Exeter who had lived in Sutton in the 16th century.
  The new flag was the winning entry in a public competition held in early 2015 and was chosen from 470 proposed designs with the announcement of the winning entry being made on 23 July 2015. The flag was designed by 11 year old Thomas Keogh and David Smith and takes the form of a yellow bull's head, which recalls Birmingham's Bullring market, placed on a red field with an abstract yellow letter "B" on blue at the hoist, which when placed on its side, takes the form of the Roman numeral "M" (1000) representing the title "City of a Thousand Trades" by which Birmingham has long been known. 

  Until the 1972 Local Government Act, Birmingham was part of the county of Warwickshire whose flag, like the new Birmingham flag also features an animal - a bear. 
  The erect white bear, in profile facing the hoist and with a red muzzle and collar, is chained to a white staff by a golden chain and placed on a red field under a yellow horizontal stripe on which is placed 3 red crosses. The bear emblem is known as the ragged staff and is part of the arms of the Earl of Warwick. The chief is derived from the arms of the former Earls of Warwick, the Beauchamp family.

  Possibly the most significant new flag of 2015 has yet to be revealed - the new national flag of Fiji which the Fiji government intends to raise on 10 October 2015 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Independence.
  Fiji became a British colony on 12 October 1874 when King Cakobau ceded the islands to a Great Britain. A stamp which was issued on 9 October 1974 to commemorate the centenary of the cession of Fiji depicted King Cakobau's flag:-

  A flag badge to be placed at the fly of the Blue Ensign for the new colony was adopted in 1877 and depicted a shield on which was placed a mermaid looking at herself in a hand-mirror on a blue background. The shield was placed over 2 crossed war clubs and surrounded by foliage. The badge was based on the Seal of the Supreme Court of Fiji:-


Flag 1877 - 1883.

 A flag badge was adopted in 1883 to be placed at the fly of the Blue Ensign which took the form of a white disc on which was placed a crown with a lion standing on it, all over the word 'FIJI':-

Flag badge 1883 - 1908.

  The 1883 badge was replaced by a new flag badge on 4 July 1908. The badge took the form of a white disc on which was placed the arms of Fiji which were a shield with a chief of a crowned lion passant with a gold coco pod held between its forepaws and below, a St. George's cross quartering the shield. The first quarter depicted three sugar canes, the second a coconut tree, the third a white dove with an olive spray in its beak and in the fourth quarter, a bunch of bananas. The crest was a local catamaran on a red and white striped base with supporters of two Fijiians standing on the motto 'Rere Vaka na Kalou Ka doka na Tui' ('Fear God and honour The King').
  The arms were first featured on the 3d and 8d value stamps of the 1938 to 1955 definitive series and appeared again on the £1 definitive stamp issued on 14 November 1961:-

  The first philatelic depiction of the arms in colour was on the £1 value of the definitive seies which was issued on 15 July 1968. The stamp was designed by E. Jones and printed in photogravure by De La Rue:-

  The form of the Blue Ensign flag was changed on 8 May 1924 by the removal of the white disc and the placing of the arms directly on to the blue field.
  Fiji became an independent monarchy within The Commonwealth on 10 October 1970 and adopted a national flag which was a variant of the former flag wherein the shield was placed on a pale blue field with the Union Jack, said to represent The Commonwealth, at the canton. The first philatelic depiction of the new flag was made on the 10c value of the 4 stamp set issued on 10 October 1970 to commemorate the achievement of Independence. The stamp, which also depicted the Fijian prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was designed by John Waddington Studio and lithographed by Format International:_

 After a military coup on 14 May 1987, Fiji became a republic on 6 October 1987 but the national flag remained unchanged. Other useful philatelic depictions of the 1970 - 2015 flag include possibly the best depiction of the flag which featured on the 45c value of the set of 4 stamps issued on 6 October 1980 which commemorated the 10th anniversary of Independence. The issue was designed by John Cooter and lithographed by John Waddington:-

  Finally it useful to mention that the 1970 - 2015 national flag of Fiji was depicted on one of the 16 stamps issued by The United Nations on 26 September 1980 as part of its ongoing flag series. As usual the issue was printed in sheets of 16 stamps making 4 se-tenant blocks of 4 different stamps so that all 4 different stamps could be collected together by obtaining the centre block:-

Fiji stamp as part of central se-tenant block.

Maximum card, first day postmark 26 September 1980.

  Fiji's national flag design committee has shortlisted 23 designs from which the new flag will be chosen. Flag enthusiasts as well as the people of Fiji now have only a short time to wait before the revelation of the design of Fiji's new national flag and I expect that the release of a stamp illustrating the world's newest national flag can not be far behind.

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

1. Philatelica Vexillogica. Iceland National Flags.

  I have been fascinated by national flags since the age of about six years old when I used to visit our local newsagents shop where packets of bubble gum were sold. Each pack of gum contained a picture of a national flag against a background of a colourful depiction of local scenery. The flags fascinated me - they were colourful and exciting to a young child - and pretty soon I knew the names of 50 countries around the world and could identify their flags. I remember particularly liking the card depicting the old Egyptian flag with, if I remember correctly, an exciting background depicting the pyramids and the sphinx  as well as the intolerable torture involved in trying to obtain card no. 26 - Great Britain's own Union Jack - which never seemed to appear in the vast number of bubble gum packets which I purchased at a cost of 1d each.

  When I was 8 years old, I was given a stamp album for Christmas and after a slow start I was spending every penny or so that I amassed on 3d packets of large and colourful stamps to place in my lovely new album. I particularly liked collecting dinosaur and animal stamps (I recall that about that time Poland issued some spectacular sets featuring dogs and cats and especially dinosaurs) but I do not remember that stamps which featured flags came my way very often. 

  In the early 1960's the children's television programme, Blue Peter, began to feature regular items on new British Post Office issues the face values of which at that time, with a bit of help from their parents and some saving up of pocket money, were within the financial reach of a keen stamp collector child. I remember the lovely National Nature Week pair of 1963 giving me great delight and I recall the worry of trying to obtain the 1964 Shakespeare set with its terrifyingly expensive 2/6d value which was obtained with a little help from some adult family members. But flags did not feature too often on these early 1960's GPO stamps.

  The first set of stamps I ever bought in a "proper stamp shop" Included a wonderful flag stamp - the 1/3d value of the 4 value Malawi Independence set of 1964 - but it was all a very nerve-wracking affair since I think the total price of the set amounted to 5/- - I remember that my grandmother who had accompanied me to the shop was scandalised that I should have spent so much money on stamps but she indulged me and again I think family members chipped in. The 1/3d flag stamp was glorious to me and, for a while, was a true gemstone in my collection. How I cherished that particular stamp.

Malawi 1964 Independence 1/3d stamp.

  For the rest of my life I was a stamp collector and retained my interest in national flags. I was only ever an interested flag enthusiast and nothing more but in 1991 I became a member of The Flag Institute - an excellent time to gain access to William Crampton's Flag Bulletins in view of the numerous national flags which were being introduced due to the fall of The Soviet Union and the changes in Eastern Europe. Soon afterwards even more flag information became available as I came to terms with using the Internet. And finally, I started a little sideline thematic collection of stamps which featured national flags. 

  So, here in this Blog I shall mention interesting new flag-themed stamps which come along as well as interesting previously issued stamps on the subject. I do not intend to mention every stamp which appears with a flag on it but simply those which give excellent depictions of the flags they are portraying - less satisfactory versions will be included if they represent the best depictions available on stamps. The Blog will mostly concentrate on national flags but will not exclude other interesting or significant flags.
  So to start, an excellent new issue from Iceland Post, the national Post Office of Iceland, which was released on 30 April 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the national flag of Iceland. 

  Iceland was a territory belonging to Denmark from 1381. The first flag of Iceland dates back to 1809 when a Danish adventurer, Jorgen Jorgensen, usurped the government in Iceland and proclaimed himself "Protector". He adopted a blue flag with 3 stockfish (split and dried cod). The flag was first raised on 12 July 1809 but used only for about 2 months until Jorgensen's arrest by the British who landed in HMS Talbot and returned the territory to Danish rule and the Danish flag was once more used in Iceland.

Flag of 1809

  In 1870, Sigurdur Gudmundsson, an Icelandic artist, designed a new flag for Iceland which took the form of a silver falcon on a blue field. This had no official status but became popular particularly among Icelandic students and was used during the Icelandic millennial celebrations of 1874 and the silver falcon appeared in the national arms of 1903 to 1918.

Gudmundsson's flag

  In 1897, the poet, Einar Benediktsson, suggested another design for a national flag which took the form of a white Scandinavian cross on a blue field and this grew in local popularity especially after the incident in 1913 in which a young Icelander, Einar Petursson, was arrested for rowing around Reykjavik harbour flying Benediktsson's flag - his arrest resulted in local outrage and many Icelanders flew the blue and white flag in protest.

Benediktsson's flag.
  The King of Denmark, Christian X, declared that the territory had the right to adopt its own national flag for use on land and in territorial waters on 22 November 1913. A National Flag Committee was established in early December 1913 and on 1 July 1914 the Committee submitted 2 proposals for the design of the flag. The proposed flag designs consisted of a red Scandinavian Cross fimbriated white on a dark blue field while the second took the form of a blue Scandinavian cross fimbriated white on a blue field. The blue and white were derived from the arms (a silver falcon on blue, as described above).
King Christian rejected the flag with the blue cross because he felt, so it is claimed, that it was too similar to the flag of Greece.
  On 19 June 1915 a royal decree established the red cross flag as Iceland's national flag. On 1 December 1918 Iceland became a separate realm of the Danish Crown and the use of the national flag was extended to that of merchant ensign for use in all waters. Iceland became a republic on 17 June 1944 but retained its national flag.
  The new stamp issue consists of a single 50g stamp and accompanying 2000g miniature sheet which features the national flag and the members of the Flag Committee. It is a fascinating issue for vexillologists and a must have for a thematic flag stamp collection:-
2015 Centenary flag stamp.
  In addition to the new issue of 2015, another important stamp of Iceland which depicts the national flag is that which was released in 1930 as part of a set of 15 stamps which commemorated the 1000th anniversary of the first meeting of the Althing, the Icelandic Parliament:-

1930 stamp.

    A stamp was also issued in 1930 which depicted the swallowtail form of the flag of Iceland. This form of the flag is only used for official purposes:-

1930 stamp.
  The same form of the flag was also depicted on 2 stamps which were issued on 1 December 1958 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Iceland's existence as a separate realm of the Danish Crown:-

Stamp of 1958.

Stamp of 1958.

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