Newfoundland Tricolour

Newfoundland Tricolour

Flag of "Pink, White and Green" (unofficial)
Name The Pink, White and Green
Proportion 1:2
Design A vertical tricolour of green, white, and rose.

The Newfoundland Tricolour, more commonly known as the "Pink, White and Green", is a popular but unofficial flag in use in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador and is incorrectly believed by many to have once been the Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, or more usually, of just the island of Newfoundland. Its colours are green, white and rose. Its proportions are 1:2 with three pales of equal width coloured green (hoist side), white, and rose. Originating in the 1880s as the flag of a Roman Catholic fraternal group in St. John's, Newfoundland, it is one of the very few and perhaps one of the oldest popularly recognized flags in the world to use the colour rose.[1][2][3]



Flag of Ireland, likely basis for the "Pink, White and Green"

Historical evidence indicates that the "Pink, White and Green" flag first appeared in the 1880s to 1890s and was based on the colours of the Roman Catholic fraternal group the Star of the Sea Association, which was formed in St. John's in 1871.[4] As such, and given the political climate in Newfoundland at the time, the design of the "Pink, White and Green" flag was likely based on the nearly identical Irish flag but with the Protestant representation of the orange panel of King William of Orange removed and replaced by a pink panel from the Star of the Sea Association's three official colours, which were themselves based on liturgical colours of the Catholic Church. Similarly, it is not uncommon in Ireland for alternate versions of the official Irish flag with the orange panel replaced by another colour to appear publically as symbols of rejection of English influence and Protestantism. This has led the Irish government to officially and actively discourage the defacing of the official Irish flag, specifically the replacement of the orange panel by another related shade (typically yellow).[5]

Mythical Origins

A popular legend presented in the July 1976 issue of the Roman Catholic archdiocese's newsletter "The Monitor", however, is commonly though incorrectly believed as giving the origins of the flag.[4][6] The legend tells that the flag was created in 1843 by Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming and is supposedly symbolic of a tradition between local Protestants and Catholics. The annual wood hauls of firewood by sealers, waiting for their vessels to leave the port of St. John's, would get embroiled in a competition to supply wood to the Anglican cathedral, Roman Catholic cathedral, schools and other charity institutions. The Protestant English marked their wood piles with the rose flag of the Natives' Society, while the Catholic Irish used green banners. The threat of violence was such that the Speaker of the House, William Carson, suggested that Bishop Fleming should be enlisted as a peacemaker. Rather than simply preaching sermons, it was decided that Fleming would try to unite the sides. To that end, Bishop Fleming persuaded the two factions to adopt a common flag, tying together the rose and green flags of the two groups with a white handkerchief, which was to symbolize peace.[7][8] The rose-colour is said to have symbolized the Protestant English and was taken from the Tudor rose, though this has been questioned as the Tudor Rose is actually red and white, not pink,[9] while the green symbolized the Catholic Irish. The white was taken from the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of fishermen and Scotland.[2]

Saint Patrick's Cross, a red saltire on a field of white

This is not the original version of the legend, however, but rather appears to be a modification of an older legend in order to incorporate Protestant English representation into a flag originating within the Roman Catholic Irish community. In 1900 historians Devine and O'Mara told that the concept of the flag was originated by Bishop Fleming in the mid-19th century as a symbolic gesture to quiet tensions between newly arriving Irish settlers and the existing Roman Catholic community in the St. John's area.[10] The Newfoundland 'Bush-borns' and 'Old Country' Irish were embroiled in rivalry to supply the biggest load of wood to the Roman Catholic Basilica during the big yearly wood haul. There was argument over which group had the larger load and violence between them ensued. Upon hearing of this, Fleming induced them to join their pink and green wood slide markers together with neutral white being placed in between, and thus was born the concept which eventually became the pink, white and green flag of the Star of the Sea fraternal association for Catholics. In this version of the story, pink similarly represented Newfoundland-born Catholics, possibly members of a "natives" group, that were supplying wood to Fleming himself, with the Protestant English not included in the proceedings at all. Devine and O'Mara conceded that this story was based on oral tradition with no actual historical evidence to support it.[1]

By 1902, however, the colour pink was redesignated to represent the "rose of England" by then future Roman Catholic Archbishop and Irish nationalist Michael Francis Howley in the song The Flag of Newfoundland, which he is credited as having written at that time and proposing it as an alternative national anthem to Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle's Ode to Newfoundland - Boyle being Newfoundland's British colonial governor from 1901 to 1904.[4][8] This was a somewhat awkward assertion, however, as there is no reason to believe that the "rose of England", as mentioned in the song and supposedly referring to the ballad written in the fifteenth century, would be pink and not red. Historically, the colour pink has never been used to represent England, its people or any of the Protestant churches of England or Newfoundland, though it is a liturgical colour of the Roman Catholic Church and was in use by other Catholic organizations in St. John's at the time. Furthermore, the Star of the Sea Association's original flag, predating the pink, white and green tricolour, consisted of a white star and a pink cross on a green background, as specified in their original rules and by-laws.[1] Incidentally, by specifying the colour green in the song as representing "St. Patrick's emblem" Howley also joined many Irish nationalists in rejecting the red saltire of Saint Patrick's Cross, which they see as a British invention and which forms the diagonal red cross of the Union Jack meant to represent Ireland.[11] A third version of the story tells that the green represents the flag of Irish King Brian Boru, specifically.

Historical Origins

In actual historical record there is no evidence of Bishop Fleming ever creating the pink, white and green flag. The first published complete telling of the now popularly accepted "legend" incorporating the Protestant English was in a Catholic church archdiocese newsletter during the provincial flag debates of the 1970s and was not presented as actual fact at that time.[6] The St. John's Newfoundland Natives' Society flag is believed by some historians to have consisted of a green spruce tree on a pink background with two clasped hands and the word "philanthropy" eventually added, though there is no hard evidence to support that this flag ever really existed, that it was ever abandoned, or that the pink, white and green tricolour was ever adopted by the society. The Natives' Society was not a Catholic- or Protestant-only society, but was a nationalist group formed specifically to promote the advancement of careers and interests of native-born Newfoundlanders, no matter what their ethnic origin or religious affiliation. Its first president, elected by members of the society in 1840, was a Roman Catholic physician by the name of Dr. Edward Kielly. During its early days onward it served as a vehicle to allow Newfoundland-born Roman Catholics who opposed Bishop Fleming's political influence to work alongside Protestant reformers (then affiliated with the "Tory" party) and was opening opposed by Fleming.[12] Available history indicates that the society actually used a tricolour flag of red, white and green, raising the speculation that it was this flag that symbolized peace between the Catholics and Protestants within the society - red being a more fitting representation of the Rose of England and the society itself being expressly non-denominational.[1]

Irish tricolour misrepresented with orange panel replaced by yellow

The red, white and green tricolour of the Newfoundland Natives' Society was widely recognized as the flag of Newfoundland during the mid-nineteenth century but after the demise of the society in 1862 it gradually disappeared from use. The pink, white and green colours of the Roman Catholic fraternal group the Star of the Sea Association, as specified in their first published rules and by-laws, appeared sometime after the group's formation in 1871 and may have been confused with the Natives' Society's red, white and green tricolour by reporters and from black-and-white photographs of the period, from which it is impossible to distinguish red from pink. There is no reason to believe that the pink and green colours of the Star of the Sea Association flag were intended as a symbol of union between Catholic groups as in the Devine and O'Mara legend. With the Association's inception in 1871, their by-laws stated “the flag of the Association shall be green ground, white star with pink cross in the centre” and the officers “shall wear, at all processions, sashes of green, white and pink.” The actual tri-colour flag based on these colours, now recognized as the "Pink, White and Green", seems to have surfaced within the Association sometime in the mid-1880s and there is no known historical evidence to indicate its existence before that time. The Star of the Sea Association appeared publicly under these colours, in the form of sashes and green flag with a pink cross, for the first time in 1875 when they marched alongside the Benevolent Irish Society in St. John's during their centenary celebrations parade of Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell's birth. Newspaper descriptions of this event report the Natives' Society's red, white and green flag being flown prominently as the flag of Newfoundland, alongside the flags of England, Ireland, France and the United States, but make no mention of a pink, white and green tricolour. Sometime thereafter the "Pink, White and Green" tricolour appeared and, with the support of the clergy, was adopted by other Catholic groups in the St. John's and surrounding area in the 1880s and 1890s.[1]

Legal flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1980 to present.

It has been suggested on some websites and commercial tourist items that the Irish flag was based on the "Pink, White and Green" - the basis for this claim being that Irish nationalist, Thomas Francis Meagher, was the son of Newfoundland-born mayor of Waterford, Ireland, Thomas Meagher Jr., and himself designed the Irish flag based on the "Pink, White and Green". Irish history, however, states that the design that would become the Irish flag goes back as far as 1830 and had widespread recognition by 1848. From March of that year Irish tricolours appeared side by side with French ones at meetings held all over the country to celebrate the revolution that had just taken place in France. The following month, in April 1848, Meagher brought a tricolour of orange, white and green to Ireland from Paris, where it is said he received it as a gesture of goodwill from a group of French women, and presented it in a Dublin council meeting - it was likely patterned after the French Tricolour flag as a symbolic show of solidarity between the two countries. The orange, white and green Irish tricolour was used unofficially by nationalists as a symbol of opposition to the British government until being adopted publicly by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Easter Uprising of 1916.[5] Despite the popular myth, the earliest historical evidence supporting the appearance of the "Pink, White and Green" in Newfoundland points to at least 41 years after the first appearance of the then unofficial Irish flag and possibly as late as 60 years thereafter.

Given this, its origin within an Irish Catholic fraternal group and the first public appearance of the colours in a centenary celebration of Daniel O'Connell's birth, the "Pink, White and Green" flag was likely based on the then unofficial Irish nationalist flag with the orange panel representing Protestant King William of Orange removed and replaced by a pink panel of the Star of the Sea Association - pink being a liturgical colour of the Roman Catholic Church and one of the formal colours of the Association. This effectively removed any symbolic Protestant English representation from the Irish flag and the subsequent use of the "Pink, White and Green" by Catholic Irish groups in the St. John's area as a symbol of Newfoundland nationalism and opposition to confederation with Canada further links the flag to its Irish counterpart by analogy to the IRA's flying of the strikingly similar Irish tricolour in their resistance to union with Britain.

Given the inaccuracy of The Monitor's 1976 legend and the fact that there were heated debates in Newfoundland during the 1970s as to the design of the new provincial flag, the current legend of the "Pink, White and Green" was likely forwarded at that time in an attempt to gain Protestant (60% of the province's population[13]) and province-wide support for an Irish-based flag, rather than the various Union Jack based designs being proposed at the time, but it is not supported as a factual account of history. From 1931 until confederation with Canada in 1949 the Union Jack was legislated as the national flag of Newfoundland, and then from 1952 until 1980 the Union Jack was readopted as the official flag of the province of Newfoundland. Ottawa's refusal to recognize the Union Jack as a unique representation of the province lead to the provinical government seeking a new Newfoundland flag and the eventual design and adoption of Christopher Pratt's deconstructed Union Jack based design as the Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador on May 28, 1980.[10][14][15]

Use and Popular Myth

The Union Jack, Newfoundland's official provincial flag from 1952 to 1980.

Around the turn of the 20th century the "Pink White and Green" flag gained significant social and possibly commercial use, primarily by Roman Catholic groups in the St. John's and surrounding area. It remained controversial, however, as many Protestants did not accept it as their own flag, feeling that it was, in fact, a Roman Catholic/Irish nationalist flag. Bishop Michael Fleming, credited in popular legend as its creator was, in fact, a self-fashioned leader of the Irish community in Newfoundland and pursued an “Irish nationalistic” agenda in taking on the local British establishment, even to the point of intervening to get particular men elected.[12] In 1904, the "Pink, White and Green" was a central symbol for those opposed to confederation with Canada, a sentiment supported by Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael F. Howley and his clergy, particularly on the east coast,[16] thus further associating the flag with the Catholic Church and Irish nationalism in the eyes of many Protestants.[17]

The Newfoundland Red Ensign, Newfoundland's civil flag from 1904 to 1965

Contrary to popular myth, photos from Government House during Murray's and Boyle's administrations and during the Prince of Wales visit to Newfoundland in 1860 show the Union Jack, the governmental ensigns, and various other flags being flown on ships in St. John's harbour, but not the "Pink, White and Green".[1] Captain Robert Bartlett, who captained Admiral Peary on his ultimate polar expedition in 1909, was claimed by members of his crew to have planted the "Pink, White and Green" within six miles of the North Pole.[18] This was in fact untrue, as Bartlett was never closer than 150 miles (241 km) from the pole, with Peary continuing on sled without Bartlett or his crew from there.[19] The tricolour is said to have been flown alongside the Union Jack at Government House during the administrations of Boyle and Murray,[8] though there is no photographic evidence from the period to support this, with existing photos showing only the Union Jack and governmental Ensigns. An official mail steamer was to be seen flying the tricolour as late as 1907 but was forced by authorities to replace it with the Newfoundland Red Ensign, the civil flag of Newfoundland vessels, upon entering St. John's harbour.[15] After the First World War its use diminished and Newfoundlanders generally flew the Union Jack as their flag - the Union Jack being legislated as the Dominion of Newfoundland's official flag in 1931, with the Newfoundland Red Ensign designated as "National Colours".[14] In recent years, the "Pink, White and Green" flag has undergone a revival, and has become popular on T-shirts incorrectly referring to it as "the Republic of Newfoundland flag," despite the fact that available history indicates it originated exclusively as a symbol representing Roman Catholic/Irish communities on the island, was never officially recognized as a national or provincial flag, and although Newfoundland was an independent British Dominion from 1907 to 1949, it was never a republic.[20] See: Dominion of Newfoundland.

It has been claimed that the colours of the flag were incorporated into the first public performance of Sir Cavendish Boyle's "Ode to Newfoundland" at the Casino Theater in 1901, where a character resembling the Statue of Liberty clad in a flowing gown of vertical stripes of pink, white and green is said to have appeared on stage. The next day the colours appeared on the cover of the music sheet published by Boyle.[3] These claims are questionable, however, as the "Ode to Newfoundland" was not written until 1902 and was first sung publicly at the Casino Theatre on December 22 of that year as part of the closing of the play Mamzelle[21] - a play in which the French character Marianne, bearing a strong resemblance to the Statue of Liberty, appears clothed in a tricolour gown of red, white and blue based on the French tricolour. It would not be unexpected that the French Flag would appear on the music score of this French themed play as well. Confusion as to the colour of Marianne's gown and any tricolour on the sheet music was likely the result of black-and-white photos and printings of the era failing to indicate the correct colours. Other early available printings of the "Ode to Newfoundland" show no evidence of a tricolour flag being used.[22]

The flag exists in Canadian heraldry. Its trice is present in the flag of the St. John's Fire Department and in the municipal flag of Paradise, Newfoundland; it also appears on the crest on some escutcheons or armorial bearings portrayed in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. The tricolour had a resurgence in the province, particularly in the city of St. John's, and there was a popular movement to petition the province to give the flag official status.[23] Premier Danny Williams announced in late 2005 that he would consider opening debate on the matter, and that he personally preferred the tricolour,[24] but an informal poll commissioned in October 2005 by Williams showed that only 25% of Newfoundlanders supported adopting the tricolour.[25][26] This is roughly reflective of the 21.5% of the province's population who claim Irish ancestry.[27]


The following song, entitled The Flag of Newfoundland written by Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael F. Howley in 1902 and proposed as an alternative national anthem to Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle's Ode to Newfoundland, is the first known reference to the "Pink, White and Green" flag as being the flag of Newfoundland and marks the first redesignation of the pink panel to represent the "rose of England".[4][8]


The pink, the rose of England shows,
The green St. Patrick's emblem, bright
While in between, the spotless sheen
of Andrew's cross displays the white.

Fling out the flag, o'er creek and cragg,
Pink, white and green, so fair, so grand.
Long may it sway o'er bright and bay,
Around the shores of Newfoundland!

Should e'er the hand of fate demand
Some future change in our career:
We ne'er will yield: on flood or field
The flag we honour and revere!

Then hail; the pink, the white, the green,
Our patriot flag' long may it stand.
Our sirelands twine, their emblems trine,
To form the flag of Newfoundland!

What'er betide, our Ocean Bride
That nestles 'midst Atlantic's foam
Still far and wide, we'll raise with pride
Our native flag, o'er hearth and home.

Fling out the flag, o'er creek and cragg;
Pink, white and green, so fair, so grand.
Long may it sway, o'er bight and bay,
Around the shores of Newfoundland!

The song has since been rearranged and recorded or performed by other Newfoundland artists. One such case is that of Newfoundland Irish folk band Shanneyganock's "Flag of Newfoundland" released in 2006. The lyrics and music along with their recording may be found on the GEST Songs Of Newfoundland And Labrador website.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Carolyn Lambert, Emblem of our Country, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Volume 23, Number 1, 2008.
  2. ^ a b John FitzGerald, "Pink, white and green", The Independent, January 9, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Paul O'Neill, The Oldest City: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland, 2003, ISBN 0-9730271-2-6.
  4. ^ a b c d Newfoundland Historical Society, A Short History of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, NL, Boulder Publications, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Department of the Taoiseach, An Bhratach Náisiúnta: The National Flag, Dublin, Ireland.
  6. ^ a b Paul O'Neill, "Around and About", The Monitor, July 1976, pp. 11-12.
  7. ^ A brief regarding the proposal of the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador for a Distinctive Provincial Flag (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1977), p17.
  8. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.
  9. ^ "Newfoundland Pink-White-Green flag (Canada)". Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  10. ^ a b "Newfoundland Flags". Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  11. ^ Hayes-McCoy, p.38.
  12. ^ a b "Representative Government, 1832-1855". Retrieved 2010-06-29. 
  13. ^ "Statistics Canada: Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census)". Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  14. ^ a b "Historic Flags of Newfoundland (Canada)". October 2005. 
  15. ^ a b "THE PROVINCES Chap XIX: Newfoundland". 
  16. ^ "Responsible Government, 1855-1933". Retrieved 2010-06-29. 
  17. ^ Alistair B. Fraser, Flags of Canada, 1998.
  18. ^ "Crew of the Invermore say Capt. Bob Bartlett was within six miles (10 km) of North pole and planted the pink, white and green there". The Daily News, St. John's, 16 September 1909.
  19. ^ Harold Horwood, Bartlett: The Great Canadian Explorer, 1977, ISBN 0-385-09984-3.
  20. ^ "Dominion of Newfoundland". Retrieved 2010-06-29. 
  21. ^ Volume four, p. 168, Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.
  22. ^ "Ode to Newfoundland". Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  23. ^ Pink, White and Green: The Revolution
  24. ^ John Gushue, "Williams OK with changing province's flag: 'Personally' endorses Pink, White and Green", The Telegram.
  25. ^ Mark Quinn, "Push for old Newfoundland flag fails to cause ripple, poll finds", Globe and Mail, 29 October 2005, A16.
  26. ^ (French) "Les Terre-Neuviens souhaitent conserver leur drapeau", Radio-Canada, 29 October 2005.
  27. ^ Census Canada 2006, "Ethnic Origin by Sex, Newfoundland and Labrador", Census Canada.

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