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Newfoundland Pink-White-Green flag (Canada)

Last modified: 2019-04-20 by rob raeside
Keywords: newfoundland | canada | color: pink | color: white | color: green | pink white green |
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Green-White-Pink Newfoundland flag
[Unofficial flag of Newfoundland] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 October 2008

Erroneous Pink-White-Green version
[Unofficial flag of Newfoundland] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 October 2008

See also:

Outside link:

The Pink-White-Green Flag

Newfoundland had an old-established if unofficial flag (vertical tricolour of pink, white and green).
Roy Stilling - 30 April 1996

These are the pink-white-green "Native" flags of 1840 and 1843.

I know that before being part of Canada, an equally vertically divided Pink-White-Green was used in Newfoundland (before 1949).

I believe the flag wasn't official.
Luc Baronian - 31 January 1997

From Simon Fraser's tome on Canadian flags

The first flag to specifically represent Newfoundland seems to have borne a green fir tree upon a pink field. In use early in the nineteenth century, it is likely that this flag was based on a similar flag, but with a white field, that had been flown by the colonists in New England.

Although the pink flag with its tree apparently initially represented all islanders, when a modified version of it was adopted by the Native's Society in the late 1830s, it began to be perceived as the symbol of the English Protestant portion of the community. Irish Catholic immigrants responded by flying a green flag bearing the Celtic harp. In the 1840s, the division between these two groups was exacerbated each spring as up to 10,000 sealers would converge on St. John's before boarding ships for the sealing grounds. During these times, competition was frequently accompanied by religious animosity and a prominent display of opposing flags.

The Pink, White and Green

In an attempt to defuse the conflicts, a delegation representing the government and leaders of both communities sought the council of Bishop Fleming, who was respected by all. Tradition has it that after pondering the problem, the bishop asked that the pink flag and the green flag of the two factions be brought to him. Then joining them with a white handkerchief, which he said represented the white of peace from the flag of St. Andrew, he handed it to the assembled group and said, "Go in Peace."

Phil Nelson - 12 January 1999

This doesn't explain why the green fir tree was on a pink field to represent Newfoundland. I can understand the fir tree (or pine tree) in imitation of New England flags, but feel that the pink field needs some sort of explanation; or if not an explanation, an original example or contemporary painting. The only pink flag relevant to the general area and period shown in the 1917 NGM is that of Tallmadge's Dragoons, not something loyalists in Newfoundland would have copied.

The likelihood of the colour pink being accurate, if relying solely on written descriptions, is weakened by the ambiguous nature of the word "pink". As used in the last century it had eleven different meanings unrelated to colour, and as a colour could mean in today's terms, "pink", or "red", or "a sort of yellow".

In the absence of real evidence I think that "pink" may be a modern interpretation that is wrong?
David Prothero - 13 January 1999

I had simply assumed that we had such evidence. However, if the tricolor was used continuously from the 19th century up to now (and right after the pink flag with a pine tree), I think we would have sufficient evidence. Don't know much about Newfoundland, so I'll leave this research to someone else. If someone does go through with this research, it would make a great article, which would certainly be accepted in Flagscan or even The Flag Bulletin.
Luc Baronian - 13 January 1999

Many scholars favour the notion that these three colours represented the homelands of early British settlers in Newfoundland.

The pink represents the Tudor rose of the English monarchy - the royal line under which Newfoundland was discovered and explored and early settlement begun. The white symbolizes Scotland, since it is the national colour. As the colour for peace, white also represents unity between the English and Irish colours displayed in the Newfoundland flag. The green has long been symbolic of Ireland's identity and thus represents the Irish settlers in Newfoundland.
Phil Nelson - 7 February 1999

I don't find this very convincing. The Tudor livery colours were green and white; the Tudor rose was red and white.

I found out a little more about the fir tree flag. According to The Oldest City: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland by Paul O'Neill, the flag consisted of a green spruce tree on a pink background with two clasped hands beneath. Later the motto "Philanthrophy" was added. Earliest record of its existence was 1837. Ceased use sometime in 1840s. It was the flag of The Native Society founded in 1840 "to protect the imagined rights and privileges of landed planters from the flood of newcomers" to Newfoundland.

My theory is that the hands and motto did not show up well on what was originally a red flag, so the background was lightened to pale red, which became described as pink.
David Prothero - 8 February 1999

There is no doubt that one panel of the tricolour is "pink", though I wouldn't like to define the shade, which in any case, probably varies. I have had confirmation of this from two different sources. One of whom wrote, "It is indeed a strange, one might say provocative, colour for a flag".

This doesn't help with the colour of the pine/spruce/fir tree flag from which the colour pink may have been derived. There are two tenuous associations with the colour. An 1870 proposal, not adopted, for the flag of the Governor of Prince Edward Island had around the badge on the Union Flag, a garland of roses, thistles and shamrock; the roses and thistles having pink flowers; and on British maps countries of the British Empire were often coloured pink.

The spelling of the word "Philanthrophy" is obviously wrong, but I haven't yet been able to find out whether this is a modern typo, or the way it was spelt on the flag.
David Prothero - 11 February 1999

Under the representation of this flag there is a debate about the origination of the pink colour in the Newfoundland flag. I believe the pink third of this flag does represent the British loyalists in Newfoundland. It is the colour of the Tudor Rose, often incorrectly thought of as red. In England, the rose became truly "royal" during the 15th century War of the Roses: The House of York adopted a white rose (R. alba?), the House of Lancaster decided to take a red rose (R. gallica?). The winner of this war, Tudor Henry VII, merged his Lancastrian rose with the white rose of his York bride and thus created the Tudor Rose, the Rose of England, a pink rose.
Edward Smith, 26 April 2000

As David Prothero says, the Tudor rose is red and white, not pink. The red rose came to symbolize the parliamentary sanction whereby Henry VII became king. To add legitimacy to his dynasty he married Elizabeth, heiress of the York white rose. The Tudor rose was originally represented in three ways, but all of them superimposing one rose on another. One rose was half white, half red, split down the middle. Another was quartered red and white. But the most aesthetically pleasing and enduring was the white rose superimposed on a red rose. In some artistic representations the highlights of the red rose are pink (or the red has faded to pink, or bled into the white rose), but it was never the intent to fuse the red and white into a single pink rose.
T.F. Mills, 27 April 2000

However I have now found that in 1874 a proposal (rejected) for the defaced Union Jack of the Lt-Governor of Prince Edward Island had a badge surrounded by a garland of thistles, shamrocks and roses that were definitely pink and not red. ADM 116/185. A single instance, but in the same geographic area.

A more general association of British and pink that comes to mind, was on British political maps, where territories of the British Empire were often coloured pink.
David Prothero, 28 Apr 2000

Why the Pink, White and Green?

Compiled by Temple Butler, Black Bank, Newfoundland, (date unknown).

The following provides background information in relation to the original Newfoundland Flag:

  1. Pink represents the Tudor Rose of England, White from the Cross of St. Andrew of Scotland and Green from the Shamrock of Ireland. (The three founding races of Newfoundland).
  2. Is the oldest flag in Canada other than the Fleur de Lys
  3. Flag contains the Union Jack, representing Her Majesty the Queen, along with Provincial Shield, the oldest provincial coat of arms in Canada (1636).
  4. The only flag in the world that contains the colour of pink.
  5. The colours were adapted by the Mutual Society (1845) of which Richard Barnes the father of compulsory education in Newfoundland was President.
  6. Flown at Government House during the Boyle and Murray administration at the turn of the century
  7. Flown for the Prince of Wales during his visit in 1860 by the government committee of the day on all government buildings.
  8. Flown from the block house atop Signal Hill and shown on 19th century flag charts as the flag of Newfoundland.
  9. In June 1896 the newly formed Police force and Fire departments adapted it as their official banner.
  10. Captain Bob Bartlett on the discovery voyage to the North Pole planted the Pink, White and Green there in 1909
  11. Used on the cover of the sheet music for his Ode to Newfoundland when first published by Sir Cavendish Boyle (Governor)
  12. Used by Newfoundland's greatest Prime Minister, Sir Robert Bond during his election campaign
  13. Used in England as a background for 1911 Coronation Stamp issue
  14. Chosen in 1975 by the Franklin Mint for an issue of silver ingots depicting the most historic banner of North America.
  15. Dr. Whitney Smith, world leading authority on flags in a book published in 1976 by the World Flag Research Centre called the Pink, White and Green one of the most unique flags of North America.
  16. Only flag that has the distinction of having been designed in Newfoundland.
  17. Selected by a committee representing the Newfoundland Historic Society - the Newfoundland Historic Trust and the Newfoundland Folks Art Council.
  18. Recommended to the Provincial Government as being the most distinctive by a majority if the Newfoundland Youth Parliament.
  19. Selected by the Memorial University student body in their newspaper the "Muse" as the most suitable and distinctive Provincial Flag.
  20. In Conclusion this Pink, White and Green with Shield and Jack is distinctively Newfoundland in the it represents all facets of our history and tradition.
contributed by Mollie Butler, 14 November 2000

No British postage stamps were issued for the 1911 coronation. There was a Newfoundland issue but no flag in the background of any of them.
David Prothero, 20 November 2000

Researching the flag, I came across the following poem:

The Pink, the White and the Green, The Flag of Newfoundland
Written by Archbishop Howley.

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.
Then hail the pink, the white, the green, our patriot flag long may it stand.
Our sirelands twine their emblems trine to the form the flag of Newfoundland.

(chorus) Fling out the flag o'er creek and crag.
Pink, white, and green, so fair, so grand.
Long may it sway o'er bight and bay
around the shores of Newfoundland.

What e'er betide our ocean bride that nestles midst Atlantic's foam
Still far and wide we'll raise our pride, our native flag o'er hearth and home.
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.

This led me to the work of Greg Pike. It promotes the use of the Newfoundland tricolour:


Our True Colours by G.A. Pike
Williams OK with changing province's flag by John Gushue
Raising a New Flag by Ivan Morgan
The Newfoundland Tricolour by John FitzGerald
The Flag of Newfoundland by Archbishop Howley

Among other things, the 'handkerchief episode' is called a myth.
Jan Mertens, 13 November 2005

Protest variant

[Flag used in protest] image by António Martins-Tuválkin and Martin Grieve, 14 October 2008

The pink-white-green flag (and it is usually in that order, with pink toward the hoist, though not always) is a "traditional" flag - known quite well in Newfoundland, and after a political controversy in Newfoundland, when the premier ordered the removal of the national flag from government offices for a while, increasingly seen around the island. The badge on it is from an early colonial flag, and I think the combination is probably some flag makers attempt to cash in on the current popularity of the pink-white-green by adding a clearly Newfoundland symbol.
Rob Raeside, 10 October 2005

There was an article in yesterday's (Oct 29, 2005) Globe and Mail (a national newspaper of Canada) with a very interesting article on Newfoundland's green-white-pink flag.

Jist of it: A Newfoundlander has hoisted the "Newfie flag" (as I'll refer to the green-white-pink flag for the rest of the article, the legal flag of the province will be called the "Newfoundland flag") somewhere in St. John's (a high-visibility area if I recall), and has started a petition to get the provincial flag changed to the Newfie flag. The article also states that in recent polls, support of the "Newfie flag" stands at about 1/4 of the population, many see it as only the "flag of St. John's" (the capital city), apparently saying that the rest of the province does not identify with it.
David Kendall, 30 October 2005

Radio Canada reported (29 October 2005) something similar, probably referring to the same polls. According to polls made by the Telelink company upon request by Danny Williams, Prime Minister of Newfoundland, only 1/4 of the population would support the adoption of the "Newfie flag". Nearly half of the interviewed people rejected the proposal, saying it would be expensive and unnecessary.

The Prime Minister publicly supported the adoption of the "Newfie" flag.
Ivan Sache, 30 October 2005

Emergence as a Regional Flag

Since the province added "and Labrador" to its name, the pink-white-green has become identified as the flag of the island of Newfoundland. I'm not suggesting these events are necessarily linked, but I suspect a small surge of island patriotism was engendered by the name change, which has resulted in the flying of the pink-white-green. Other anti-Ottawa events have also caused its resurgence too.
Rob Raeside, 10 January 2007

Newfoundland Natives Society

[Flag used in protest] image by Pete Loeser, 13 July 2017

Newfoundland Natives' Society 1840-c1860
The Newfoundland Natives' Society (NNS), a non-denominational organization founded in 1840 " protect the rights and privileges of Newfoundland-born citizens against the flood of newcomers to the island...", provided Newfoundland with one of it's earliest versions of a "native" tricolor flag. The NNS's first silk flag (image not located) is clearly documented. It had an elaborate shield centered on it depicting "aspects of Newfoundland life". There were clasped hands above the shield and the words "Union and Philanthropy" below it. The whole flag had a red background. However, this original red silk flag was simplified at some time before 1852 into a red, white and green tricolor, these being the official colors of the Society. These Red-White-Green flags were displayed at NNS events throughout the 1850s-1860s. It was this tricolor, the Native Red, White and Green flag, that became the first widely recognized unique flag of Newfoundland. and according to sources many people accepted as the first flag of Newfoundland. I suspect this may have been the predecessor of the popular Green, White and Pink flag.
Sources: "Heritage: Newfoundland and Labrador" (; "Natives' Society" ('_Society); and "Historical Flags of Our Ancestors" (
Pete Loeser, 13 July 2017

Version in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador

[Flag with badge] image by Rob Raeside, 1 July 2017

There is a version of the Newfoundland tricolour (the "pink-white-and-green" or as it's often assumed out this way, the
"Republic of Newfoundland" flag), included in Vol. 2 (1984) of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Andy Post, 1 July 2017

Extract from the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador:

The pink, white and green flag, known as the native flag, developed from the merging of flags flown by two rival groups in the 1800s: the so-called "natives," a group which was composed of well-established citizens of St. John's who were largely Roman Catholic; and a large group of newly arrived immigrants from Ireland. During the 1840s the "natives" formed the Native Society of Newfoundland, an organization, the purpose of which was to safeguard the interests of the "natives" in the face of the large influx of immigrants to the Colony.

The society adopted as its emblem a pink flag with a green fir tree, of unknown origin which had been flown for a number of years. Apparently there was more than one version of this flag flown for the society. One version also showed two clasped hands beneath the tree and the word "philanthropy." The clasped hands were to symbolize unity between the Irish and the English inhabitants of the Colony, and the word "philanthropy" was used in allusion to the charitable functions of the society.

According to Devine and O'Mara (1900, p. 121) "A good deal of ill-feeling was engendered by the society, and bad language and rows were frequently occurring." The newly arrived Roman Catholics (the "Bush-barns" as they were known) began flying a green flag with the harp of Brian Boru to represent their group. The dispute between the two groups reached a peak during the annual wood hauls in the 1840s. According to Devine and O'Mara (p. 121): "the culminating point was reached in February,1843, during a big haul of wood for Bishop Fleming. There was considerable rivalry for the biggest load, and each slide bore distinctive colors. The 'Bush-barns' and 'Old Country' people had a difference of opinion as to which had the larger load, and a row, in which a good many heads were broken, ensued. When Bishop Fleming heard of the circumstance, he called the ringleaders together, gave them a bit of advice, and induced them to join the pink and green together. This they did by sticking a bit of neutral white between, and thus was born the native flag as we have it to-day. A few of the founders stuck to the plain pink for two or three years; ..."

Eventually it was commonly accepted as the native flag although it was never officially made Newfoundland's flag. It was displayed in 1860 during the visit of the Prince of Wales to St. John's; in 1896 it was chosen as the official flag for the St. John's Police Force and Fire Department; it was also flown during the first public performance of the "Ode to Newfoundland" and it flew from public buildings and Government House during the tenure of Governors Murray and Boyle. The Tricolor, as it was known, was also shown on some Nineteenth Century flag charts as the flag of Newfoundland. The song written above by Archbishop Howley about the Tricolor became, according to P.K. Devine, a kind of national anthem.

The Tricolor was used in 1911 in a set of eleven special stamp designs by the Government of Newfoundland. In 1975 the Franklin Mint in New York chose the design of the Tricolor to be set in silver ingots representing the Newfoundland flag. This decision was based on the research of Dr. Whitney Smith, Executive Director of the Flag Research Center in the United States; in 1976 the Flag Research Center distributed a booklet concerning the Newfoundland Tricolor.

In the 1970s the Newfoundland flag became the subject of a heated public debate, when some members of the public began to demand a new distinctive provincial flag. Others wanted the Tricolor to be given official status, while still others argued that the Union Jack was in fact Newfoundland's official flag. In " A Brief Regarding the Proposal of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador For A Distinctive Provincial Flag" the Newfoundland Historical Society, the St. John's Folk Arts Council and the Newfoundland Historic Trust argued in favor of using the Tricolor flag:
"Our three province wide groups are in full agreement with the recommendation of this brief that the pink, white and green flag which history and tradition handed down to us be adopted as the flag of Newfoundland and Labrador with the addition of the shield of the province, entwined by a pitcher plant and surmounted by a Union Jack."

In response to the demand for a new flag, Premier Brian Peckford announced in November 1979 that the House of Assembly would be asked to appoint a committee to investigate matters concerning the adoption of a new provincial flag. In December the Government made a public announcement concerning the formation of such a committee and dates within which the public could voice their concerns and recommendations. The agreed criteria for the flag was that it be "simple, distinctive, attractive and acceptable to the majority of the people" (quoted in Calvin Coish: 1980, p. 29), and that it reflect the many cultural backgrounds from which Newfoundlanders descend.

Christopher Pratt, who offered his professional services free of charge, was chosen by the committee to illustrate various designs in keeping with the committee's criteria. The final decision on a design was made by the committee from a group of six designs which Pratt suggested. The flag was unveiled April 29, 1980 and on May 27 a new Provincial Flag Act (1980, No. 44) was passed in the House of Assembly by a vote of twenty-two to ten. On May 28 the Bill was given Royal Assent by Lieutenant Governor Gordon A. Winter and on June 25 the flag was publicly raised on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, and in front of the Newfoundland Confederation Building. The new flag was officially described thus:
"In this flag, the primary colours of Red, Gold and Blue are placed against a background of White to allow the design to stand out clearly. White is representative of snow and ice; Blue represents the Sea; Red represents human effort and Gold our confidence in ourselves. "The Blue section, most reminiscent of the Union Jack, represents our Commonwealth heritage which has so decisively shaped our present. The Red and Gold section, larger than the other, represents our future. The two triangles outlined in red portray the mainland and island parts of our province reaching forward together. A golden arrow points the way to what we believe will be a bright future.
"But the design of the flag encompasses much more symbolism than this. For example, the Christian Cross, the Beothuck and Naskapi ornamentation, the outline of the Maple Leaf in the centre of the flag, a triumphant figure and our place in the space age. The image of a trident stands out. This is to emphasize our continued dependence on the fishery and the resources of the sea. Hung as a banner, the arrow assumes the aspect of a sword which is to remind us of the sacrifice of our War Veterans.
"Since the whole flag resembles a Beothuck pendant as well as all of the above, the design takes us from our earliest beginnings and points us confidently forward. It, therefore, mirrors our past, present and future."
("Report of Select Committee to Enquire into and to Hear Evidence on all Matters Relating to the Adoption of a Flag for the Province and to Recommend a Special Design Therefore": 1980).

I'll just add that Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador now supplies this link, which contains the bit of information I was looking to confirm—namely, that the Newfoundland tricolour was included on the front cover to the original sheet music of the "Ode to Newfoundland."

Researched by Andy Post, 1 July 2017