Flag day planned to mark unveiling of winning design
AN annual Caithness Day has been mooted to celebrate the impending creation of the county’s first modern-day flag.
It is one of a number of spin-offs which could result from the raising of what will be the first registered area flag on the Scottish mainland.
A judging panel met on Friday to review the 327 entries from members of the public and local schoolchildren vying to be credited with creating a bit of civic history.
The bumper postal and e-mail response included 10 designs conceived in the USA as well as submissions from Brazil, Australia and from individuals throughout England and Scotland.
The panel was particularly delighted with the feedback from local pupils and college students with entries having flooded in from Pennyland, Mount Pleasant, Miller Academy, Castletown, Keiss, Reay, Pulteneytown and Thrumster primaries, Wick High and North Highland College UHI.
It gave plenty of headaches to the seven-strong panel charged with drawing up a short list of designs which is shortly to go out to a public vote.
They settled on four, each of which drew on elements from more than one entry. They are now being put in digital format while panel member Dr Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon, will take a week or so to ensure none is for any reason invalid.
The public vote will be launched later this month and run until July 31. Thereafter, a formal application will be lodged by Highland Council to register the flag, which should allow it to be formally launched at a ceremony in September.
Dr Morrow, who travelled north from his home in Dundee, was delighted with the size of the entry and commended the way the competition had been run.
He plans writing to all the schools to thank them for taking part and to praise them for the high overall standard of the entry.
He said registration of the flag will give it international protection while allowing individuals to freely buy and display it.
“The petition will be from the citizens of Caithness which means it will be owned by the community,” said Dr Morrow, the chief heraldic authority in Scotland.
Fellow panel member Phillip Tibbetts, of the Flag Institute, was also blown away with the response to the competition, which was launched following a successful Fly the Flag for Caithness campaign run by the Courier and Groat.
While Orkney and Shetland are the only parts of Scotland to have a registered flag, Mr Tibbetts has been involved in a number of competitions to design flags to represent counties and areas in England.
“I’m very impressed by the response to this competition,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure this is the highest number of entries per person living in the area.
“We thought we got a good entry of 500 for the flag competition in Birmingham but here we have had 347 from a population of about 25,000.”
Mr Tibbetts, whose honorary post as vexillologist invariably elicits questioning looks, is a passionate advocate of the benefits a flag can bring.
These, he said, are not confined to the swelling of civic pride and the reinforcement of an area’s identity. A flag, he says, can bring clear economic advantages.
He cites the Black Country where he said local businesses have capitalised on the flag the area of the West Midlands adopted in 2012.
“It’s led to a resurgence of local identity while sales of the flag and its associated merchandise have been good for the local economy.
“They have also used it to inaugurate an annual Black Country Day and Festival.”
The Caithness panel believe the latter idea could be adopted here with the staging of a Caithness Day every summer.
Given the interest there has been from elsewhere in Scotland in the wake of the current initiative, Mr Tibbetts said the panel and the people of Caithness have a duty to come up with an eye-catching design to represent the county.
He said it needs to be simple, timeless, easily recognisable when flying in the wind and capable of being downsized for display on a tiepin or a letterhead.
Dr Morrow has pledged to buy the first flag, which is destined to be flown from the new Highland Council headquarters in Wick.
The panel also includes Caithness civic head and Wick Highland councillor Gail Ross; her Thurso and Caithness landward colleagues Roger Saxon and Gillian Coghill respectively; council ward manager David Sutherland, and Courier and Groat editor Iain Grant. The Association of Caithness Community Councils has also a place on the panel but no representative was able to attend the short-listing.