Tiree’s Flag is Officially Unveiled
It was a historic moment for the island on the 8th of September. After months of hard work and consideration, Tiree’s official flag was unveiled to the public in the small hall of An Talla.
Despite some last minute arrangements and postponing due to the plane’s delay, it gave the weather adequate time to chase away the grey clouds and reveal bright sunny weather, perfect for what was in store. An Talla was bustling with both locals and visitors for the Ultra marathon, with a few of the runners popping in to witness the ceremony for themselves. Refreshments were provided during the greeting as the small hall filled with individuals, before Dr John Holliday opened the proceedings of the unveiling. He expressed the importance of flags, stating “Tiree needs a rallying point more than a lot of other places. One thing you can say about Tiree is that over the last century and a half, is that it is a place you have to leave, for one reason or another. There are over a million people of Tiree descent around the world and bringing all this Tiree primary together is quite a difficult thing and so I thought having a flag would be a good way of doing this. Many of these people who left have had two Gaelic words engraved on theirs hearts: dualchas meaning where you come from and the second one is cianalas which is a longing for home. ”
Tiree Community Council began the process of creating a flag for the island two years ago, in May 2016. A sub committee was formed and the competition was arranged earlier this year, in April. 261 entries were submitted to the contest, originating from as far as Canada, Switzerland and South Uist. “When they came in, in this big box, we spread them out on the tables in the Trust offices, we were completely overwhelmed. There were a lot of designs to choose from. Everybody in the flag committee chose a different design, and we didn’t agree at all. I thought at that stage “How are we ever going to whittle this down to one flag? If it hadn’t been for Lord Lyon, we would have struggled.” The committee set up a stall at the Agricultural Show in the summer, they flew four of the flags at the Business Centre in Crossapol for all to see so members of the public could vote by post and there was online voting as well. The committee made their best effort to create an open competition and choose a flag that would best represent the island for years to come, with 1,598 individuals voting.
In all methods of the voting, there was one clear winner. Donald Cameron from Scarinish was revealed as the contest winner with 56% of the vote. He used the stalks of barley to remind us that Tiree is the most fertile of all the Hebridean Islands, and create an orb to symbolise the ‘sunshine isle’.
Dr Holliday went on to explain that Angus MacPhail would be raising the Tiree flag at the ‘Best of the West’ festival in Inveraray and that the winners of the Ultramarathon would have a flag to keep wrapped around them upon crossing the finish line. “The flag is not just a physical flag – it is a design that I hope will be used on mugs, hoodies and tea towels. It is a community flag, it belongs to all of us. There is no copyright. Anyone can take it. The more we use it, the more it will become a part of the communities heritage.” There was mention that the committee desired to make the 2nd September Tiree’s flag day, and do something in celebration of the islands new symbol.
Donald Cameron said, “I’m very proud to win this honour. It’s an amazing thing to become part of the history of Tiree.” He thanked the individuals and groups that had taken part in the competition and added, “A great island deserves a great flag. Flags are really public symbols; it’s a symbol of who you think you are and it’s about what you want other people to think and know about you. It could be a slightly obscure reminder of the past, but its much stronger if it projects something about the island today that people don’t know very well. I picked a universally understood positive symbol like the sun. Tiree is one of the sunniest places in Britain, as you all know, and it’s this very particular sun that Tiree is also known as ‘Tir An Eorna’, land of the barley. The summer barley is a direct link to its past, it’s present and its future. I hope the people of Tiree take it to their heart and use it as much they like.”
The public were piped outside by David Buchan where Donald Cameron and his son raised the flag officially for the first time. Once back inside the hall, John Anderson blessed the flag from the Church of Scotland. Philip Tibbetts who came from the flag institute in London and offered his expertise was invited to speak. He apologised on behalf of his boss who sent his congratulations on the winning design and the island’s accumulation of an official flag. They were incredibly impressed with the vigorous and determined nature of the flags process.
Pat Boyd made a speech on behalf of HM lord Lieutenant of Argyll and Bute, giving thanks to everyone who got involved from the contest entries, to those who voted, to the winner. Rosemary Omand made a speech on behalf of the Tiree Association. This was followed up by a poem written and recited by Donald Meek, which can be viewed in both Gaelic and English on the flags website. Ishbel Campbell sang Am Falbhh Thu Leam a’ Rìbhinn Òig?, with encouragement for the crowd to join in. Ian Gillies explained how individuals could download the flag for anyone’s use and those who attended the event were treated to lapel badges.
The unveiling ended with John Holliday giving thanks; “I’d like to thank everyone who sent in designs. It was agonising to realise how much time people put in to make the designs. It’s a very brutal process to whittle them down to four, and then whittle them down to one. So to everyone who had the courage to put pen to paper, I would like to thank you.” He also gave thanks to other individuals and groups who supported both the project and the event including Will Wright, the Tiree Trust, the Show Committee, Lord Lyon and the Flag Committee before thanking everyone who attended the event. It was a heart-warming day for Tiree’s community. The flag is available for download from the website: http://tireeflag.com/