In April 2017, just over a year after its neighbour Caithness registered its own county flag and following encouragement on social media from interested parties such as the Association of British Counties, county residents met to initiate a county flag competition for Sutherland. Details of the competition were released in September 2017, school pupils and young people across the county were expected to play a major role.
The gathering where the competition was formulated
took place at the former Sutherland District Council chamber, above the public library in Dornoch and comprised the county’s Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main, five of her deputy Lord Lieutenants; Major General Patrick Marriott; Lieutenant Colonel Colin Gilmour; Sheila Stewart; Kim Tulloch; and David Grant plus Graeme Smart from Kinlochbervie High School, Frances Gunn, Tongue, community volunteer development officer and Garry Cameron, ward manager for East Sutherland and Edderton. The group was given a presentation by the Flag Institute’s Community Vexillologist, Philip Tibbetts, seen at the centre of the group in the above photo, who told the meeting,
“A flag brings pride to communities and has real benefits. It has become incredibly popular in Caithness in a short space of time.”
describing how the Caithness flag was now flying at several public buildings and how it now features on items such as car stickers, lapel pins, bunting and T-shirts and appears on the kits of local sports teams.
He guided the meeting through the process of officially registering a flag with the Court of the Lord Lyon which was expected to take from six to nine months to complete.
The Lord Lieutenant then formed a steering group comprising representatives of various local groups to oversee and progress the scheme. Deputy Lord Lieutenant Patrick Marriott said the flag “would be a unifier”, while his colleague David Grant commented: “Hopefully it will engage a lot of people across Sutherland.”
The competition took place across September and October 2017, with judging taking place on Monday October 30th at Drummuie. Three hundred and twenty-eight entries were received, from as far afield as New Zealand Japan and Sweden with many featuring the county’s wildlife. A Selection Panel, chose several of the designs for presentation to a Judging Panel, comprising the Lord Lyon, Philip Tibbetts of the Flag Institute and members of local schools, council and Lord Lieutenancy team, the Sutherland Flag Steering Group, who decided the winning entry from amongst the designs selected.
Pictured below are, back row from left: Councillor Jim McGillivray, vice Lord Lieutenant Colin Gilmour, Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main, vexillologist Philip Tibbetts, Kieran Day, Kinlochbervie High School, Deputy Lieutenant Frances Gunn. Front row, from left: Syke Macdonald, Golspie High School, Lord Lyon Dr Joseph Morrow, Carmen Heddie and Erin Mackintosh, both Farr High School, Deputy lieutenants Patrick Marriott and Graeme Smart, head teacher at Kinlochbervie High Scghool
Secretary of the selection panel Colin Gilmour said there had been a “phenomenal” 328 entries, reflecting the wide interest shown in the project throughout Sutherland and particularly from the county’s schools.
He said: “The selection panel was very impressed with the imaginative thought put into each design, with a wide variet of configurations depicting the varying Sutherland landscape, wildlife and life across the county.
“Salmon proved themost popular fish, whils deer, otter, eagles, wild cats and Highland cattle and sheep featured in many illustrations.
“Mullet stars, used in heraldry to depict any star shaped charge with rays, featured strongly.
“There were a few Viking helmets, including one with blood dripping from it, and also a train being pulled by a team of horses, with the comment that the horses were included to demonstrate just how often the trains break down in Sutherland!”
The selection panel spent a day looking at all the entries and chose three entries which will be amalgamated to make up the final design.
The next step will be to “finesse” the art work, the winning design will then be manufactured with a formal unveiling and presentation ceremony held in the new year.