Last modified: 2008-07-19 by dov gutterman
Keywords: jamaica | america | agriculture | sunshine | hope | saltire | caribbeans |
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image by eljko Heimer, 25 Febuary 2002
Official Name: Jamaica
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II)
Flag adopted: 6 August 1962
Coat of arms adopted: 6 August 1962
ISO Code: JM
The symbolism of the colours is: yellow, sunshine and natural
resources; black, the burdens borne by the people; green,
agriculture and hope for the future. "Burdens and hardships
there may be, but we have hope and the sun still shines".
James Dignan, 22 November 1995
"The Jamaica National Flag came into use on August 6,1962, Jamaicas Independence Day. It was designed by a bipartisan committee of the Jamaica House of representatives.The Flag has a diagonal cross or saltire with four triangles in juxtaposition. The diagonal cross is in gold and one-sixth of the length of the fly of the flag; the top and bottom triangles are in green; and the hoist and fly triangles are in black. The exact shade of green used in the flag is Emerald T8 17, British Admiralty Bunting Pattern. The Flag follows the "Admiralty Pattern" and the proportion is 2 x 1."Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth" is the symbolism of the Flag. Black stands for hardships overcome and to be faced; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources".
See also more information plus explanation of usage (clearly defining the civil and state ensign use of the national flag) at <www.nlj.org.jm> and 20 Jamaican Dollar banknote showing the flag of Jamaica at <www.boj.org.jm>.
Both sites claim that the width of the yellow stripes is "1/6th of the length of the fly" of the flag. Now, I read this to be 1/6th of the flag length (horizontal, longer, dimension), however this produces very, very "fat" stripes. Or maybe the meaning of "the length of the fly" is length of the free side, which would be equal what we call hoist. In that case, 1/6 of hoist is maybe somewhat thinner then I am used to envision the JM flag, but much closer to what's usually seen.
eljko Heimer, 23 Febuary 2002
According to [pay00] -
National Flag (CSW/C-- 1:2) - The site I mentioned few days ago
defines the width of the saltire as 1/6 of hoist (if I have
interpreted it rightly, see previous messages). Green shade is
defined (though with some system that does not halp us much), but
the saltire is just called "gold". Usually this is
shown as simple yellow (so [pay00],
[smi82], [vdv00] etc.) but I guess that it
should be darker, as gold sould be. At least, the flag used on
Salt Lake ceremonies these days was cleafry having a darker
"orangeous" yellow shade.
eljko Heimer, 25 Febuary 2002
When in Jamaica for at the time of the 40th anniversary of
Independence, I heard a local radio broadcast which mentioned a
description similar to above, but also described an alternative
history. It seems that an unpopular member of the outgoing
colonial regime stormed out of a meeting to being discuss the
colors of the flag for the soon to be independent country,
saying: "I don't care what the flag looks like, as long as
it has at least one of the colours from the Union Jack in
it!" History shows he was disappointed.
Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the politician or a reference, but it is at least an amusing folk history.
David C. Oliver, 5 June 2003
The colours of the Jamaican flag were described at the time of
it's origin as 'Black for the people'; Yellow for the Sun'; and
'Green representing the lush vegitation of the island'.
John McGhie, 5 April 2005
I have some information which you may find useful -
information which is certainly not well known. My father Rev
William R.F. McGhie, was a Church of Scotland minister who in
1957 went out to Jamaica to work as a missionary. Both my parents
were from Glasgow although we lived, at that time, in Stonehouse
in Lanarkshire. Shortly before Jamaica got her independence from
Great Britain the Jamaican Prime Minister Sir Alexander
Bustamante (who was a friend of my fathers) showed my father
designs of the proposed Jamaican flag. It was to be a green,
black and gold tri-colour (ie vertical stripes). My father
commented that as a Christian country the flag should contain a
cross to reflect that fact. My father then sketched the St
Andrew's cross replacing the colours of the Scottish flag with
the green, black and gold of the Jamaican flag as it is now. Sir
Alexander Bustamante agreed that this would be better and the
rest is history, as they say. Of course, not many people know
this but I can guarantee this is the truth.
John McGhie, 7 Febuary 2005
I can vouch for the validity of the "Alternate History of
the Jamaican Flag". My father, Rev. William R. F.
McGhie was one of Alexander Bustamante's
chaplains. Sir Alexander called him 'Padre', and
he talked with the Prime Minister often, both on the telephone
and in person. I say 'one of'' because Sir Alexander, who
was an unabashed ambassador of Jamaica's Rum industry usually
gave that title to many 'men of the cloth', whose advice he often
sought after. The first official release of the Jamaican flag (3
horizontal lines) was not well received at all by the
Jamaican public, My father was only one of the citizenry
calling for a design change, but he did indeed recommend to Sir
Alexander that the redesigned flag should have a cross,
signifying the history and influence of 'the church' in Jamaica's
past. Sir Alexander asked him to submit ideas for an
alternate design. I can clearly remember my father one
morning in his study, tracing the St. Andrew Scottish national
flag from an encyclopedia, and applying the existing colors of
Green, Yellow and Black into the St. Andrew's cross motif.
I cannot remember if the colors in my father's design were placed
in the exact positions as what became the official flag, but the
design was certainly his.
John McGhie, 27 March 2005
image by eljko Heimer, 25 Febuary 2002
The Coat of Arms, based on the grayscale vectorial drawing
from Corel Clipart (with only very minor chnages I made and
colourization based on several sources). It seems that the Coat
of Arms does not apear on any current Jamaica flag (but it did
prior to independence), so it is no wander that it is not shown
in Album [pay00].
eljko Heimer, 25 Febuary 2002
Am I wrong in saying that the scroll and the helmet should be
both the same colour? They are both blazoned "Or",
Also, according to Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Heraldry website <www.ngw.nl>, the current arms have the motto in Latin (on, apparently, a scroll Argent).
Santiago Dotor, 26 Febuary 2002
I shall wait for experts to judge on this, especially the
colourization. I think that Ralf is wrong - the Latin motto is
older then the current English one (possibly this was the slight
change of 1957?) though I have no firm arguments of that, and
have to wait for experts to resolve it.
David describes the 1906 Coat of Arms supporters to be wearing blue clothing, this being allegedly changed to green-golden of current design. However, it seems to me that both Nat'l Geographics [gmc17] and Flaggenbuch [neu92] already show the clothing coloured as in current Coat of Arms. Possibly the 1906 grant really contains blue clothing, but the 1957 change migh have only proscribed what was customarly "always" in real use.
eljko Heimer, 26 Febuary 2002
DK Flags of the World [udk98]
says: "The coat of arms, based on those granted to Jamaica
on 3 February 1663, is among the oldest granted to a British
colony." No image is shown. Smith [smi76c] seems to be the source of
Corel Clipart, and says: "The arms are those originally
granted in 1661; the pattern was modified in 1957 by having the
motto and artistic rendition altered."
The coat of arms shown on <www.geocities.com/TheTropics/2754/jacrest.gif> (defunct) has minor differences with Smith's image. The dark grey feathers surrounding the helmet are yellow in Smith. Background of the helmet is red in Smith. The reverse of the scroll, as shown below the supporters' feet are in Smith the same colour as the obverse.
Talocci [tal93] says that the supporters of the coat of arms are Arawaks.
Note that elements of the coat of arms (the four pineapples and red cross) are diaplyed on the banner of the Queen Elizabeth II in Jamaica and the flag of the Prime Minister.
Ivan Sache, 26 Febuary 2002
The Jamaican motto, "Out of Many, One People" was a
common unity theme, which had traditionally existed in Jamaica,
despite colonial pompousness and assumed
privilege. The authors of the Jamaican motto did not
care (or perhaps did not even know) that the motto of the United
States "E Pluribus Unum" translated to "Out of
Many, One"; it just fitted well with the spirit that existed
in Jamaica at the time of independence.
John McGhie, 29 March 2005
image by Mark Sensen, 16 September 1997
Smith says "The original Jamaican flag proposal was
discovered to resemble closely the flag of Tanganyka, although
the design was approved by British authorities, who should have
been aware of the conflict."
Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book says "It was originally designed with vertical stripes, but this was considered too similar to the Tanganykian flag".
The flag of Tanganyka has horizontal stripes, so that I don't understand Dorling-Kindersley mentioning vertical stripes as a source of confusion. The flag drawn by Mark is indeed very close to the flag of Tanganyka.
Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003
To add to this conflict of the origin of Jamaica's flag:
Originally Jamaica's proposed flag was to be blue with with a
Union Jack in a corner. Flag commitee member Dudley Thompson (who
practiced law in Tanganyka and also became famous in defending
Jomo Kenyatta) added that the color "black" has to be
on the flag. Slowly he introduced the colors "green"
and "gold" to the commitee. True the proposed flag
design did resemble Tanganyka's but the colors of Jamaica's flag
are genuinely the colors of the Africa National Congress (ANC).
Elliott Thompson, 28 April 2003
The ANC flag was adopted during their party congress in 1925.
There is no record on the ANC official website about how they
chose the black, green and yellow colours. I have, however,
heard a tale (the source no longer remembered) that a delegation
from Jamaica attended this congress as observers that year and
that they brought the colours with them as a gift! If true,
this would mean that the ANC recieved the colours from the
Jamaicans and not the other way around. It would also mean that
Jamaica's colours date back much further than the 1960's. Was
there perhaps an earlier political movement in Jamaica (circa the
1920's) with these colours for a party flag?.
It is to be noted that the ANC was the oldest black Arfrican political movement, having been established as such in 1912, but built upon an even earlier movement. It was therefore regarded as the senior liberation movement in Africa and at least three of the neighbouring countries adapted the ANC colours for their own use. So we see the flags of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe all containing the colours black, green and yellow/gold.
I have not been able the discover any coroborative sources for this tale. No mention is made in the ANC's offficial history about the origin of the colours except to state the date of adoption.
Andre Burgers, 28 April 2003 and 29 March 2005
I have no information on the origination of the black, yellow
and green colours. I can't remember my father saying
anything about the issue, nor do I think there was any mention of
the colours, or the ANC, in the DAILY GLEANER articles that I
frequently read. I rather doubt the story about Jamaica
sending a delegation to the ANC in 1925. Jamaica at that time had
a British colonial government, and I can't see British ex-pats
supporting the ANC in any way. The Jamaican colonial flag
was of course the Union Jack, in some form, and I'm sure the
black, yellow and green colors were not adopted until the 1962
pre-independence debates/public contests. My opinion
is that the black, yellow and green motif was a Jamaican
original, based on the descriptions associated with the colors
i.e. dark days in the past (slavery), green (the land of wood and
water), and of course, sunshine. The colors were
appropriate for Jamaica, regardless of any other country or
organization that may have used similar ones.
John McGhie, 29 March 2005
image by Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003
I got this flag myself on their independence day in
1962. I was a sailor On the Lake Champlain. A banner (Arms
on white) came with the flag.
Jim Wiseman, 3 January 2003
The flag sent by Jim Wiseman might be an other proposal.
Dorling-Kindersley says that there was a public contest for the
My (loose) conclusions are:
- Dorling-Kindersley is wrong.
- Mark drew the flag approved by the British authorities.
- The flag sent by Jim is a rejected proposal, or was proposed for a short period, between the Tanganyka-like and the current saltire flags.
Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003
Dorling-Kindersley is not wrong. This version of the
flag with horizontal lines (there was also one with vertical
lines) was printed in the Jamaican newspaper "The Daily
Gleaner" in 1962 just before independence. And yes,
there was a public contest For the design of the flag.
John McGhie, 27 March 2005
Jamaica is divided into three counties which are divided into
14 parishes as follows:
Cornwall County: Trelawny, Saint James, Hanover, Westmoreland and Saint Elizabeth.
Middlesex County: Saint Mary, Saint Ann, Manchester, Clarendon and Saint Cathrine.
Surrey County: Kingston, Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas and Portland.
There is no information about exisance of subdivisional flags.
Dov Gutterman, 8 August 2004
From what can be seen on the websites of the Jamaican Labour Party and the Peoples National Party they
use (and extensively) plain flags of respectively green (JLP) and
orange (PNP). However, watching a very blurred video of a PNP
public meeting, it is not inconceivable that
some flags might be defaced with the party symbol of a
male head with hat, as seen on the site,
although it could equally just be shadows.
Knud A. Berg, 31 March 2006
According to this WMO
page, Jamaica's Storm Warning Signals are:
- 39a (two red pennants above each other): "Gale warnings: winds within the range 34-47 knots."
- 41a (two red flags, pierced black, above each other): "Hurricane warnings: winds above 63 knots."
- 40a (red flag pierced black): "Whole gale warning: winds within the range 48-63 knots."
- 56a (red pennant): "Small craft warning: winds and seas or sea conditions are only dangerous to small craft operations. Winds range from 25-34 knots."
Jan Mertens, 27 January 2008