MacPhail: Flying the flag

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Flags have never been a type of symbol that held any great significance or importance to me.  What a particular flag represents can mean different things to different people and under the umbrella of most can be a very wide range of connections and reasons to identify with and to support the overall entity being symbolised.

In truth, I have never felt wholly connected enough to any of the flags common to this part of the world to be comfortable in being represented by them.

The Saltire, The Lion Rampant, The Union Flag, The Flag of Europe and many others familiar to us all have certain aspects about what they stand for, or have come to be associated with, that I’m not wholly comfortable with.

There are, of course, many positive messages carried by these flags and how they are perceived is very much in the eye of the beholder, so I respect those who do feel that certain flags are an appropriate representation of their beliefs, views and identity.  I do enjoy seeing flags being flown and waved for special occasions but so far, I just wouldn’t be the one to wield them.

However, my hitherto aversion to flag-bearing may now be nearly cured as I am very pleased that a new flag has recently been designed and unveiled to represent the Isle of Tiree.

Tiree has followed in the footsteps of many other islands that have added a flag to their name in recent years. This is the end result of a competition that attracted many hundreds of entries from across the globe.

The winning designer was Donald Cameron from Scarinish, Tiree, whose emblem depicting 12 golden sheaves of corn placed as a sun-like clock face on a green background is a very fitting representation of a fertile island with famously long hours of sunshine, traditionally known as Tìr an Èorna (The Land of Barley).

Donald’s ancestors were the last family to live on Craignish to the west side of Ben Hough and were renowned for their skills as fishermen, boat builders and craftsmen. It is fitting that the design Donald has crafted will now be an important emblem of his island.

To mark the occasion, Professor Donald Meek of Caolas, Tiree, composed a poem entitled Bratach an Eilean Seo (The Flag of this Island).  Space does not allow me to include the whole composition but the following stanza encapsulates an important part of what I hope the flag will come to mean.

Bratach an eilein seo
togaibh gu càirdeil,
togaibh gu carthannach,
togaibh gu bàidheil.

The flag of this island,
hoist it in friendship,
hoist it with kindness,
hoist it with empathy.

I hope the more militant among our population will not now race to conquer all our neighbouring islands, flagless or not by jamming a Tiree Flagpole on their summits – Gunna, Coll, The Treshnish Islands, Iona and even Mull are now vulnerable to crusading Tirisdich out to build an empire!

To finish on a serious note, well done to all who brought this worthy project to fruition.