The flag of the Isles of Scilly, the Scillonian Cross, was registered in 2002. The design was the winning entry in a competition to select a flag for the territory, held by the local newspaper, Scilly News. Although traditionally part of Cornwall, as an archipelago nearly thirty miles from the Cornish coast, the Scillies have a keen sense of their distinct identity, naturally manifested in the selection and display of a distinct flag; this was the motivation behind the competition, launched in January 2002.
There were two rounds of online votes. The first round focused on elements or charges that ought to be considered on a prospective flag for the territory. Three such ideas were presented with voters being asked to say yes, no or maybe to each one;
a silhouette of a gig at sail – a gig is a traditional wooden rowing boat used in the island;
a puffin – there were once vast numbers of this popular seabird on the islands; although much reduced in the modern era, it was still an obvious symbol for the locality;
an abstract “map” of the islands
in the form of differently sized stars, for the five differently sized main islands of the group, whose placement reflected their geographic distribution.
The paper had initially also suggested a flag based on an Australian or New Zealand model
with this pattern of five stars, in gold. This specific proposal was also included in the first vote although the campaign organisers were not entirely sure if they would be permitted to use the Union Jack (Union Flag). There was also a concern that the proposed flag was just too similar to the Australian or New Zealand flag to be easily identifiable and this question formed part of the vote that was put to the public.
The gig was approved of by only 41% of voters; only 19% favoured the puffin; 51% of voters agreed that the “NZ/Australian model” flag was too close to the New Zealand and Australian flags but there was an 84% approval of the star map pattern for any prospective flag.
Based upon these results a number of proposed designs were created incorporating the star map in various combinations. These were presented in a second round of voting using a form of proportional representation whereby voters were asked to indicate their favourite, second favourite and least favourite choices! Each favourite vote was awarded two points, each second favourite vote received 1 point and every least favourite vote got minus two points! Once the arithmetic had been completed the results table stood as follows
with by far the best design being voted the winner. Whilst the flag distinguishes the islands as an entity in their own right, the use of a white cross does indicate linkage with mainland Cornwall – at the time the only other British territory bearing such a white cross. The cross design is also held to signify the islands’ profound Celtic heritage. This is set against an unusually divided background; an unorthodox orange at the top which represents the famed fireglow Scillonian sunsets and below a blue, representative of course, of the sea in which the islands are located. As described, the five white stars in the “fly” position of the flag reflect the location and size of the Scillies five main islands. This flag of the community was duly registered by the Flag Institute.
Another flag was created in the Scillies that year, it was unveiled in August and intended for use by the local council. The blue flag includes the council’s logo in yellow and light blue, within a yellow oval.
Apparently the design is nicknamed “Old Smiley” because of its similarities to a smiling face when observed from a distance. This council flag was to fly over the Town Hall, the Airport and other Council properties. Chairman of the Council, Dudley Mumford, explained that the Council flag was devised to “place the Council on a par with other local authorities.” adding that “flags are very much a part of civic pride in local government around Europe.” However, despite its designation as an official flag representing only the council, it was nonetheless sold at the Tourist Information Centre!
A third “flag” has been associated with the Scilly Isles. This is the banner of arms of a British department, the Board of Ordnance, established to supply military equipment.
The Scillonian Cross flying around the archipelago
The Scillonian Cross alongside the Cross of Saint Piran, the flag of Cornwall, the county of which the Scillies are a part.
The Scillonian Cross flies at the Vine Cafe, on the island of Bryher .