Newfoundland Tricolour

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The "Pink, White and Green" (sic) Flag of the Star of the Sea Assoc.
Newfoundland Tricolour.svg
NameThe Pink, White and Green [sic]
DesignA vertical tricolour of green, white, and pink.
Flag of Newfoundland (Natives'Society)
DesignA vertical tricolour of red, white, and green.

The flag commonly but mistakenly presented as the Newfoundland Tricolour, "The Pink, White and Green" [sic], is the flag of the Star of the Sea Association, a Roman Catholic Church aid and benefit organization established in St. John's in 1871 with subsequent branches in other locations. This flag is popular among people who are under the impression that it is the Native Flag of Newfoundland. It is not. It is incorrectly believed by some to have once been the Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, or more usually, the flag of the Island of Newfoundland. It was not. Its proportions are 1:2 with three pales of equal width coloured green (hoist side), white, and pink. The flag originated in the 1880s as the flag of the Roman Catholic fishermen's aid and benefit organization, the Star of the Sea Association (SOSA). The SOSA still exists as a Roman Catholic Church affiliated organization. The flag is based on the colours of the official banner of the association which is a green background with a white star and a pink cross on it. In the Church pink is a liturgical colour expressing joyous celebration and Mary, the mother of Jesus, is known as the Star of the Sea. The green of the shamrock of Ireland depicts the mostly Irish ancestry of Roman Catholics in Newfoundland. HOWEVER, the actual Newfoundland tricolour is the red (at the hoist), white (in the centre) and green (on the fly), in proportion 1:2, flag of the Newfoundland Natives' Society which was founded in 1840 in St. John's with subsequent branches in other communities. The word native in the society's name did not mean only indigenous people were members. Men and women of every race, faith, culture and social standing were welcome as members. "The Red, White and Green" is known as the native flag of Newfoundland.[1][2][3]


Official flag of Ireland
Incorrect flag of Ireland

Historical evidence indicates that the "Pink, White and Green" [sic] flag first appeared in the 1880s to 1890s as the flag of the Roman Catholic fraternal group the Star of the Sea Association, which was formed in St. John's in 1871.[4] It bears a strong resemblance to the nearly identical Flag of Ireland but with the Protestant representation of the orange panel of King William of Orange removed and replaced by a pink panel; pink being a liturgical colour of the Catholic Church symbolizing joyous celebration and the official colour of the Star of the Sea Association. Similar alternate versions of the Irish Flag with the orange panel replaced also exist, though these are not recognised by the Irish government.[5][6]

Popular mythical origins[edit]

A popular legend presented in the July 1976 issue of the Roman Catholic archdiocese's newsletter "The Monitor" is commonly though incorrectly believed as giving the origins of the flag.[1][4][7] The legend tells that the flag was created in 1843 by Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming and is supposedly symbolic of a tradition between local Protestants and Catholics. The annual wood hauls of firewood by sealers, waiting for their vessels to leave the port of St. John's, would get embroiled in a competition to supply wood to the Anglican cathedral, Roman Catholic cathedral, schools and other charity institutions. The Protestant English marked their wood piles with the rose flag of the Natives' Society, while the Catholic Irish used green banners. The threat of violence was such that the Speaker of the House, William Carson, suggested that Bishop Fleming should be enlisted as a peacemaker. Rather than simply preaching sermons, it was decided that Fleming would try to unite the sides. To that end, Bishop Fleming persuaded the two factions to adopt a common flag, tying together the rose and green flags of the two groups with a white handkerchief, which was to symbolize peace.[8][9] The rose-colour is said to have symbolized the Protestant English and was taken from the Tudor rose, though this has been questioned as the Tudor Rose is actually red and white, not pink,[10] while the green symbolized the Catholic (Shamrock) Irish. The white was taken from the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of fishermen and Scotland.[2]

Saint Patrick's Cross, a red saltire on a field of white

This is not the original version of the legend, however, but rather appears to be a modification of an older legend in order to incorporate Protestant English representation into a flag originating within the Roman Catholic Irish community. In 1900 historians Devine and O'Mara told that the concept of the flag was originated by Bishop Fleming in the mid-19th century as a symbolic gesture to quiet tensions between newly arriving Irish settlers and the existing Roman Catholic community in the St. John's area.[11] The local Newfoundland 'Bush-borns' and 'Old Country' Irish-borns were embroiled in rivalry to supply the biggest load of wood to the Roman Catholic Cathedral during the big yearly wood haul. There was argument over which group had the larger load and violence between them ensued. Upon hearing of this, Fleming induced them to join their pink and green wood slide markers together with neutral white being placed in between and thus was born the concept which eventually became the pink, white and green flag of the Star of the Sea fraternal association for Catholics. In this version of the story, pink similarly represented Newfoundland-born Catholics, possibly members of a "natives" group, that were supplying wood to Fleming himself, with the Protestant English not included in the proceedings at all. Devine and O'Mara conceded that this story was based on oral tradition with no actual historical evidence to support it.[1]

In 1902, however, the colour pink was redesignated to represent the "rose of England" by the first Newfoundlan-born Roman Catholic bishop and future Archbishop of St. John's Michael Francis Howley in the poem The Flag of Newfoundland, which he is credited as having written at that time and proposing it as an alternative national anthem to Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle's Ode to Newfoundland - Boyle being Newfoundland's British colonial governor from 1901 to 1904.[4][9] Howley attempted to overcome the perception of the "Pink, White and Green" [sic] as a Catholic flag by incorporating Protestant representation and turning the flag into a symbol representing all Newfoundlanders. This was a somewhat awkward assertion, however, since the "rose of England",is not pink. The national floral emblem of England is the red and white Tudor rose instituted by King Henry VII as the symbol of unified England following what became known as the War of the Roses. Historically, the colour pink has never been used to represent England, its people or any of the Protestant churches of England or Newfoundland, though it is a liturgical colour of the Roman Catholic Church to depict a joyous celebration. Pink was in use by other Catholic organizations in St. John's at the time. Furthermore, the Star of the Sea Association's original banner, predating the pink, white and green [sic] tricolour, consisted of a white star and a pink cross on a green background, as specified in their original rules and by-laws.[1] Incidentally, by specifying the colour green in the song as representing "St. Patrick's emblem",the shamrock, Howley also joined many Irish nationalists in rejecting the red saltire of Saint Patrick's Cross, which they see as a British invention and which forms the diagonal red cross of the Union Jack meant to represent Ireland.[12] Nevertheless, Howley was somewhat successful as many Newfoundlanders, primarily in the St. John's area and being certainly unaware of the flag's actual origins, began to accept it as a symbol of Newfoundland thus supplanting the true Newfoundland tricolour flag of red, white and green.[13][14] A third version of the story tells that the green represents the flag of Irish King Brian Boru, specifically.

Actual historical origins[edit]

There is no historical evidence to support Bishop Fleming ever creating the pink, white and green flag. The first published complete telling of the now popularly accepted "legend" was in a Catholic church archdiocese newsletter during the provincial flag debates of the 1970s and was not presented as fact at that time.[7] The St. John's Newfoundland Natives' Society flag is believed by some historians to have consisted of a green spruce tree on a pink background with two clasped hands and the word "philanthropy" eventually added, though there is no hard evidence to support that this flag ever really existed, that it was ever abandoned, or that the pink, white and green tricolour was ever adopted by the society. The Natives' Society was not a Catholic- or Protestant-only society but was a nationalist group formed specifically to promote the advancement of careers and interests of native-born Newfoundlanders, no matter what their ethnic origin or religious affiliation. Its first president, elected by members of the society in 1840, was a Roman Catholic physician by the name of Dr. Edward Kielly. During its early days onward it served as a vehicle to allow Newfoundland-born Roman Catholics who opposed Bishop Fleming's political influence to work alongside Protestant reformers (then affiliated with the "Tory" party) and was openly opposed by Fleming.[15] Available history indicates that the society actually used a tricolour flag of red, white and green, raising the speculation that it was this flag that symbolized peace between the Catholics and Protestants within the society - red and white being a more fitting representation of the red and white Tudor Rose of England and the society itself being expressly non-denominational.[1]

The red, white and green tricolour of the Newfoundland Natives' Society (NNS) was widely recognized as the flag of Newfoundland during the mid to late nineteenth century. With the introduction of Responsible Government in 1855 the need for the NNS waned and it ceased operations in 1866. The red-white-green flag gradually disappeared from use. The pink, white and green colours of the Roman Catholic fraternal group the Star of the Sea Association, as specified in their first published rules and by-laws, appeared sometime after the group's formation in 1871 and may have been confused with the Natives' Society's red, white and green tricolour by reporters and from black-and-white photographs of the period, from which it is impossible to distinguish the actual colours. There is no reason to believe that the pink and green colours of the Star of the Sea Association flag were intended as a symbol of union between Catholic groups as in the Devine and O'Mara legend. With the Association's inception in 1871, their by-laws stated "the banner of the Association shall be green ground, white star with pink cross in the centre" and the officers "shall wear, at all processions, sashes of green, white and pink." The actual tri-colour flag based on these colours, now recognized as the "Pink, White and Green", seems to have surfaced within the Association sometime in the mid-1880s and there is no known historical evidence to indicate its existence before that time. The Star of the Sea Association appeared publicly under these colours, in the form of pink, white and green sashes and green flag with a pink cross and white star for the first time in 1875 when they marched alongside the Benevolent Irish Society in St. John's during their centenary celebrations parade of Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell's birth. Newspaper descriptions of this event report the Natives' Society's red, white and green flag being flown prominently as the flag of Newfoundland, alongside the flags of England, Ireland, France and the United States, but make no mention of a pink, white and green tricolour. Sometime thereafter the "Pink, White and Green" tricolour appeared and, with the support of the clergy, was adopted by other Catholic groups in the St. John's and surrounding area in the 1880s and 1890s.[1]

Official flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1980 to present.

It has been suggested on some websites and commercial tourist items that the Irish flag was based on the "Pink, White and Green" - the basis for this claim being that Irish nationalist, Thomas Francis Meagher, was the son of Newfoundland-born mayor of Waterford, Ireland, Thomas Meagher Jr., and himself designed the Irish flag based on the "Pink, White and Green". Irish history, however, states that the design that would become the Irish flag goes back as far as 1830 and had widespread recognition by 1848. From March of that year, Irish tricolours appeared side by side with French ones at meetings held all over the country to celebrate the revolution that had just taken place in France. The following month, in April 1848, Meagher brought a tricolour of green, white and orange to Ireland from Paris, where it is said he received it as a gesture of goodwill from a group of French women, and presented it in a Dublin council meeting - it was likely patterned after the French Tricolour flag as a symbolic show of solidarity between the two countries. The green, white and orange Irish tricolour was used unofficially by nationalists as a symbol of opposition to the British government until being adopted publicly by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Easter Uprising of 1916.[6] Despite the popular myth, the earliest historical evidence supporting the appearance of the "Pink, White and Green" in Newfoundland points to at least 41 years after the first appearance of the then unofficial Irish tricolour flag and possibly as late as 60 years thereafter.

Given this, its origin within an Roman Catholic fraternal group and the first public appearance of the colours in a centenary celebration of Daniel O'Connell's birth, the "Pink, White and Green" flag was likely[citation needed] based on the then unofficial Irish nationalist flag with the orange panel representing Protestant King William of Orange removed and replaced by a pink panel of the Star of the Sea Association - pink being a liturgical colour of the Roman Catholic Church depicting joyous celebration and one of the formal colours of the Association. This effectively removed any symbolic Protestant English representation from the Irish flag and the subsequent use of the "Pink, White and Green" by Catholic Irish groups in the St. John's area as a symbol of Newfoundland nationalism and opposition to confederation with Canada further links the flag to its Irish counterpart by analogy to the IRA's flying of the strikingly similar Irish tricolour in their resistance to union with Britain.

Given the inaccuracy of The Monitor's 1976 legend and the fact that there were heated debates in Newfoundland during the 1970s as to the design of the new provincial flag, the current legend of the "Pink, White and Green" was likely forwarded at that time in an attempt to gain Protestant (60% of the province's population[16]) and province-wide support for an Irish-based flag, rather than the various Union Jack based designs being proposed at the time, but it is not supported as a factual account of history. From 1931 until confederation with Canada in 1949 the Union Jack was legislated as the national flag of Newfoundland, and then from 1952 until 1980 the Union Jack was readopted as the official flag of the province of Newfoundland. Ottawa's refusal to recognize the Union Jack as a unique representation of the province led to the provincial government seeking a new Newfoundland flag and the eventual design and adoption of Christopher Pratt's deconstructed Union Jack–based design as the Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador on May 28, 1980.[11][17][18]

Use and popular myth[edit]

The Union Flag, Newfoundland's official provincial flag from 1952 to 1980.

Around the turn of the 20th century the "Pink White and Green" flag gained significant social and possibly commercial use, primarily by Roman Catholic groups in the St. John's and surrounding area. It remained controversial, however, as many Protestants did not accept it as their own flag, feeling that it was, in fact, a Roman Catholic/Irish nationalist flag. Bishop Michael Fleming, credited in popular legend as its creator was, in fact, a self-fashioned leader of the Irish community in Newfoundland and pursued an "Irish nationalistic" agenda in taking on the local British establishment, even to the point of intervening to get particular men elected.[15] In 1904, the "Pink, White and Green" was a central symbol for those opposed to confederation with Canada, a sentiment supported by Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael F. Howley and his clergy, particularly on the east coast,[19] thus further associating the flag with the Catholic Church and Irish nationalism in the eyes of many Protestants.[20]

The Newfoundland Red Ensign, Newfoundland's civil flag from 1904 to 1965

Contrary to popular myth, photos from Government House during Murray's and Boyle's administrations and during the Prince of Wales visit to Newfoundland in 1860 show the Union Jack, the governmental ensigns, and various other flags being flown on ships in St. John's harbour, but not the "Pink, White and Green".[1] Captain Robert Bartlett, who captained Admiral Peary on his ultimate polar expedition in 1909, was claimed by members of his crew to have planted the "Pink, White and Green" within six miles of the North Pole.[21] This was in fact untrue, as Bartlett was never closer than 150 miles (241 km) from the pole, with Peary continuing on sled without Bartlett or his crew from there.[22] The tricolour is said to have been flown alongside the Union Jack at Government House during the administrations of Boyle and Murray,[9] though there is no photographic evidence from the period to support this, with existing photos showing only the Union Jack and governmental Ensigns. An official mail steamer was to be seen flying the tricolour as late as 1907 but was forced by authorities to replace it with the Newfoundland Red Ensign, the civil flag of Newfoundland vessels, upon entering St. John's harbour.[18] After the First World War its use diminished and Newfoundlanders generally flew the Union Jack as their flag - the Union Jack being legislated as the Dominion of Newfoundland's official flag in 1931, with the Newfoundland Red Ensign designated as "National Colours".[17] In recent years, the "Pink, White and Green" flag has undergone a revival, and has become popular on T-shirts incorrectly referring to it as "the Republic of Newfoundland flag," despite the fact that available history indicates it originated exclusively as a symbol representing Roman Catholic/Irish communities on the island, was never officially recognized as a national or provincial flag, and although Newfoundland was an independent British Dominion from 1907 to 1949, it was never a republic.[23] See: Dominion of Newfoundland.

It has been claimed that the colours of the flag were incorporated into the first public performance of Sir Cavendish Boyle's "Ode to Newfoundland" at the Casino Theatre in 1901, where a character resembling the Statue of Liberty clad in a flowing gown of vertical stripes of pink, white and green is said to have appeared on stage. The next day the colours appeared on the cover of the music sheet published by Boyle.[3] The pink, white and green tricolour did, in fact, appear on the first published sheet music of Boyle's "Ode to Newfoundland", which was published in January 1902, however, the music which was eventually used for the Ode came later and is used to this day. Connecting the pink, white and green with the Ode to Newfoundland was clever but not definitive. The cover to that sheet music depicted the "Pink, White and Green" being held by a fisherman and intertwined with the Union Jack being held by a Royal Navy sailor.[14] It is unsubstantiated, however, that the pink-based tricolour appeared in connection with the first performance of the "Ode to Newfoundland" at the Casino Theatre. This performance actually took place on December 22, 1902 as part of the closing of the play Mamzelle[24] - a play in which the French character Marianne, bearing a strong resemblance to the Statue of Liberty, appears clothed in a tricolour gown of red, white and blue based on the French tricolour.

The flag exists in Canadian heraldry. Its trice is present in the flag of the St. John's Fire Department. It also appears on the crest on some escutcheons or armorial bearings portrayed in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. The tricolour had a resurgence in the province, particularly in the city of St. John's, and there was a popular movement to petition the province to give the flag official status.[25] Premier Danny Williams announced in late 2005 that he would consider opening debate on the matter, and that he personally preferred the tricolour,[26] but an informal poll commissioned in October 2005 by Williams showed that only 25% of Newfoundlanders supported adopting the tricolour - with cost and the feeling that the colour pink would not be appropriate for the provincial flag being cited as the most popular reasons for rejection. The majority of support for the "Pink, White and Green" came from St. John's and surrounding Irish Shore area.[13][27][28]


The following poem, entitled The Flag of Newfoundland written by Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael F. Howley in 1902 and proposed as an alternative national anthem to Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle's Ode to Newfoundland, is the first known reference to the "Pink, White and Green" (PWG) flag as being the flag of Newfoundland and marks the first designation of the pink panel as representing the "rose of England".[4]<ref name="encyclopedia" / In another attempt to gain acceptance of the PWG as a flag for Newfoundland, sheet music composed by E.R. Krippner for the Ode to Newfoundland was published with the Union Jack and the PWG tricolour on the cover. However, music composed by Sir Hubert Parry was chosen by Boyle and is the music used to this day.

                                                                                                        1.The pink, the rose of England shows,                                                                                   
  The green St. Patrick's emblem, bright                                                                               
  While in between, the spotless sheen                                                                                 
  Of St. Andrew's cross displays the white.                                                                             
                                                                                                        2.Then hail the pink, the white, the green,                                                                        
  Our patriot flag, long may it stand.                 
  Our sirelands twine, their emblems trine                                                                                                  
  To form the flag of Newfoundland.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                        3.What'er betide our Ocean Bride                                                                                                      
  That nestles 'midst Atlantic's foam,                                                                               
  Still far and wide we'll raise with pride                                                                                          
  Our native flag, o'er hearth and home.                                    
                                                                                                        4.Should e'er the hand of fate demand                                                                 
  Some future change in our career;                                                                     
  We ne'er will yield: on flood or field                                                               
  The flag we honour and revere!                                                                        
                                                                                                        5.Fling out the flag o'er creek and cragg;                                                            
  Pink, white and green, so fair, so grand.                                                           
  Long may it sway, o'er bight and bay,                                                             
  Around the shores of Newfoundland.                                                                                              
                                                                                                       The poem  has since been rearranged as a song and recorded or performed by  Newfoundland artists. One such case is that of Newfoundland Irish folk band Shanneyganock's "Flag of Newfoundland" released in 2006. The lyrics and music along with their recording may be found on the GEST Songs Of Newfoundland And Labrador website.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Carolyn Lambert, Emblem of our Country, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Volume 23, Number 1, 2008.
  2. ^ a b John FitzGerald, "Pink, white and green", The Independent, January 9, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Paul O'Neill, The Oldest City: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland, 2003, ISBN 0-9730271-2-6.
  4. ^ a b c d Newfoundland Historical Society, A Short History of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, NL, Boulder Publications, 2008.
  5. ^ "Ireland Now: The Flag of Ireland". Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b Department of the Taoiseach, An Bhratach Náisiúnta: The National Flag, Dublin, Ireland.
  7. ^ a b Paul O'Neill, "Around and About", The Monitor, July 1976, pp. 11–12.
  8. ^ A brief regarding the proposal of the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador for a Distinctive Provincial Flag (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1977), p17.
  9. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.
  10. ^ "Newfoundland Pink-White-Green flag (Canada)". Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  11. ^ a b "Newfoundland Flags". Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  12. ^ Hayes-McCoy, p.38.
  13. ^ a b "Post Confederation Flags". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  14. ^ a b "The Pink, White and Green". Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Representative Government, 1832-1855". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Statistics Canada: Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census)". Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Historic Flags of Newfoundland (Canada)". October 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  18. ^ a b "THE PROVINCES Chap XIX: Newfoundland". Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  19. ^ "Responsible Government, 1855-1933". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  20. ^ Alistair B. Fraser, Flags of Canada, 1998.
  21. ^ "Crew of the Invermore say Capt. Bob Bartlett was within six miles (10 km) of North pole and planted the pink, white and green there". The Daily News, St. John's, 16 September 1909.
  22. ^ Harold Horwood, Bartlett: The Great Canadian Explorer, 1977, ISBN 0-385-09984-3.
  23. ^ "Dominion of Newfoundland" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  24. ^ Volume four, p. 168, Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.
  25. ^ Pink, White and Green: The Revolution
  26. ^ John Gushue, "Williams OK with changing province's flag: 'Personally' endorses Pink, White and Green", The Telegram.
  27. ^ Mark Quinn, "Push for old Newfoundland flag fails to cause ripple, poll finds", The Globe and Mail, 29 October 2005, A16.
  28. ^ (in French) "Les Terre-Neuviens souhaitent conserver leur drapeau", Radio-Canada, 29 October 2005.