The Scottish island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides archipelago, traditionally part of Inverness-shire, has been associated with a green flag bearing a dark blue Nordic style cross, fimbriated (outlined) in white, for several years and this was formally registered by the Lord Lyon, Scotland’s heraldic authority, in 2017, an announcement being made on June 28th. The flag was duly added to the Flag Institute registry.
Islander Scott Hatton relates that along with the flag of Barra, it originated on the now defunct website ‘Virtual Hebrides’ which existed from 1994 to 2001. Various designs were discussed on this forum, which he subsequently created on his computer and estimates the flag’s appearance from about mid 1997.
Specifics regarding the provenance and significance of the cross design are sketchy but again, like Barra, the island was part of the mediaeval Norse “Kingdom of the Isles” and this historico-cultural linkage is reflected in the Scandinavian form of the flag.
The design subsequently became well established in the ensuing decade and is evidently much used across the island
greets visitors at Lochboisdale Harbour.
and can be seen on local vehicles
Although there was no legal sanction for this practice, the flag’s usage and evident popularity
facilitated its formal recognition. A de facto situation made de jure.
Recognition of the flag was championed by Donnie Steele who arranged for a petition to the Lord Lyon, for its registration, to be signed off by the community councils on the island and then formally submitted by the community landlord Storas Uibhist, South Uist being a part of its estate. Storas Uibist also provided funding for the registration fee charged by the court of the Lord Lyon. The petition was also blessed by the regional authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
The registration effort was supported by Alasdair Allan MSP, and his office, who engaged the assistance of Philip Tibbetts, Communities Vexillologist from the Flag Institute, who brought his experience registering flags in Caithness and Kirkcudbrightshire to the campaign.
said: “I have been working on recognition for a year now, and I am delighted to announce that the flag of South Uist has been officially recognised by the Court of The Lord Lyon. Official recognition will be an enormous boost and can only enhance South Uist, which we must take full advantage of. Discussions with key stakeholders such as community councils, Stòras Uibhist and the Comhairle were very positive, and the green light was given to drive this forward. We need to look at innovative ideas and ways to enhance the local community, recognition brings global identity to South Uist and economic benefits/opportunities will ensue. Official recognition will be an enormous boost and can only enhance South Uist. We must take full advantage of this.”.
, CEO Stòras Uibhist commented: “With the support of Stòras Uibhist, former Councillor Donnie Steele and Philip Tibbetts of the Flag Institute have worked tirelessly for several months to gain the community of South Uist, through the Court of the Lord Lyon, the privilege and grant of an ensign flag; a first for the Western Isles. Donnie Steele and Philip Tibbetts are to be commended for their hard work on behalf of the community of South Uist. Stòras looks forwarding to the flag raising ceremony planned to mark this achievement scheduled to take place at the South Uibhist Games on the 19th July.’
, MSP said “It’s great news that the community in South Uist will now have its flag formally registered in the Lyon Court and recognised as theirs. The flag is already widely used locally and I hope that this move will help promote South Uist’s unique identity and strong community spirit. This is a project I am personally very supportive of and I would like to thank Donnie for his efforts on this and Philip for all the work he has done – and is doing – to promote community flags across the Western Isles.”
reflected “It is wonderful to see official recognition for a flag that for so long has been used so passionately, by South Uist and I am immensely proud to have helped support this petition to the Lyon Court on behalf of the Flag Institute. Being such an iconic design I am sure this will be a great symbol for the island, becoming as successful as the highly popular flags of Shetland, Orkney & Caithness. I look forward to supporting any other community that would like to do the same”
Following its official registration the flag was formally raised at the South Uist Games, held at Askernish, on July 19th, by gold medal winner Hannah Mackinnon, seen below with her island flag draped around her
The island’s flag has been seen in Glasgow
at the Park Bar, held aloft by festival goers,
and appeared on the masthead of the Monterrey Maritime Museum, California
On South Uist itself, it has flown outside Daliburgh School
and the Kildonan Museum
A flag has also been proposed for the sister isle of North Uist
In addition to this distinct flag for the island, a flag used to represent the entire Outer Hebrides archipelago also exists.