Renfrewshire flags

Raising the profile of local flags in Scotland, part II: Renfrewshire.

This is, or rather would be, the heraldic banner of Renfrewshire. Like all banners, it is simply one way of displaying a coat of arms, much as in the case of the flag of Angus previously mentioned here. As with all armorial bearings, these banners must be possessed by a defined legal person - the new City of Inverness was refused an application for arms as it had no city council to grant them to - as such the banner was first granted to the Renfrewshire County Council, and is now the property of Renfrewshire Council, perhaps more properly Mid-Renfrewshire Council as its jurisdiction extents only over one of three parts of the county. Of the other two modern council areas, Inverclyde has gained arms (and, thus, a theoretical banner) whilst East Renfrewshire manages to survive (somehow) without.

To my knowledge, the banner above is something of a fiction. It does not seem to be flown today by the local authority, nor have I seen any record of it ever having been flown. A practice common in other counties and cities - to fly the heraldic banner when the council is sitting in session - has never been adopted here. All Renfrewshire Council flag flying sites fly the Union Jack, Scottish saltire and European flag, with others such as the UN flag or the Armed Forces Day flag replacing the EU flag on relevant days.

The Renfrewshire banner is extremely similar to other heraldic designs across the county, but are based on the ancient arms of the Royal Burgh of Renfrew. Granted by the Lord Lyon in 1676, they carry similar associations: the arms of the local House of Stewart; the Royal arms of Scotland denoting their accession to the Crown of Scotland and, later, Great Britain; the sea; and, of course, the ship demonstrating the history of many of Renfrewshire's settlements as ports.

As with all town arms in Scotland, the Renfrew arms were re-granted to the community council, after the burgh councils were abolished in 1975. The banner of Renfrew is perhaps more notable than the banner of Renfrewshire due to its existence: there is an actual flag, tucked away, which bears this design. When Renfrewshire's flag flying policy was devised in 2001, Renfrew community council appealed to have the banner flown in place of the EU flag from Renfrew Town Hall (picture in a previous post here). This proposal appears, unfortunately, to have been rejected by Renfrewshire Council.

Other towns like Greenock and Port Glasgow adopted similar nautical themes in their heraldry. Inverclyde gained arms, based largely on those of Greenock, some time before 1996. For the sake of concision, I provide a projection of an Inverclyde flag above. Inverclyde, however, has no set or written flag-flying policy: flags are occasionally flown from its Municipal Building largely on the whim of the Provost. A flag enthusiast may spot the use of the St Andrew's cross, as opposed to the Union flag or an ensign - this situation occurs in the Greenock coat of arms, yet both a pre-1801 Union flag and Saltire are used on the arms of Port Glasgow (assumed, improperly, in the 1790s) - one may suppose this makes Greenock's arms pre-union, or at least harking back to those days, having been raised to a burgh by Charles I in 1635. It is a peculiar omission that the new Inverclyde arms did not include the current national flag, although in terms of anachronism it comes a distant second to Gourock's still-used arms, which contain a black fellow and a ship, with all the connotations that brings.

Whilst lacking the obvious aesthetic appeal of the county of Angus's flag, it is regrettable that these banners are not seen more often in their respective areas. Scotland has a rich heraldic tradition which has largely fallen by the wayside outside of the four main cities in favour of modern, and often rather poor, local government logos. It is also of some concern that the county of Renfrewshire - still in existence for Royal, ceremonial, land registration and other purposes - no longer has heraldry of its own, having been recklessly pilfered by the council which pilfered its name.

Unfortunately use of these banners, even by a loyal Renfrewshireman, would be a criminal offence in the same way private citizens flying the Scottish royal banner - the Lion Rampant - is. In England, this has resulted in a number of secondary, unofficial, county flags being created. Perhaps someone with some artistic flair may eventually get around to producing one for our county.

Update: A look at some proposals for a new flag for Renfrewshire

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Previous Articles

Renfrewshire flags - A look back at the proper flags of the ancient county of Renfrewshire.

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