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Keywords: montserrat | america | harp | cross | passion | woman | ireland |
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by Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

Official Name: Montserrat
Capital: Plymouth
Location: Caribbean
Government Type: Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom
Flag adopted: 25 January 1999 (Originaly adopted: 10 April 1909)
Coat of Arms adopted: 25 January 1999
ISO Code: MS

See also:


The arms show a woman with a harp, embracing a passion cross.
James Dignan, 27 November 1995

I have been looking through some books, and as might be expected: all books have slightly different images. That is: from c. 1960 on. It doesn't appear in Kannik (c.1959) and in the Observer Book of flags (1959) - no badge reported either.
I just went browsing - about the same result: some 5 pages with a flag of Montserrat, all a little bit different, but one thing in common: no disk! I picked two images - one from <> (defunct), where it looks like a logo - (to view - click here) - and a curious one from the Montserrat Government page (to view - click here) - the CoA looks way too big. Same image on the Commonwealth Games page, My question of course: has there been a flag change in Montserrat? .
Jarig Bakker, 30 January 2000

In the late Wm. Compton's book "The Complete Guide to Flags (1989) [cra89] , the badge in the field has different colors than the larger badge shown to show detail. Both versions are on a white disc in the usual place.
Steve Stringfellow, 7 Febuary 2000

Shipmate flag chart (2000) shows Montserrat blue ensign with badge in white disc meanwhile here and in Flag Database (by FI) have blue ensign without white disc. Which one is correct ?
Nozomi Kariyasu, 17 June 2000

In 1999 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) department in charge of flags, the DCTA, decided, in consultation with the College of Arms, that the badges on many British flags were too small for identification. They also did not match the newer flags granted directly by the Queen, through the College of Arms, which have much larger badges.
So the MoD decided to make the badges much larger - the size and placement of badges on British ensigns was a decision in the power of the Admiralty, and passed to the MoD when the Admiralty ceased to exists as a separate body. So the MoD was simply exercising its authority in the matter, for the better identification of flags.
This meant that the white discs had to get larger. In fact the discs had to be so large that they looked ridiculous and it was therefore decided to discard them as they were no longer necessary, the new badges being clear even without the discs. So the new illustration of the Falkland Islands, Cayman Islands and Montserrat in BR20 (the government flag book) all had much larger badges (but no change to the design of the badge) and no white discs.
Of course the MoD's authority on flags only covers flags at sea, so the Islands concerned are free to continue using flags with discs on land if they wish to, but flags for use at sea should no longer have discs (unless they are old flags still in use). The question of discs of red ensigns is more complex as the size and placement of badges is usually specified in the Statutory Instrument that creates them and it is not clear whether the long standing MoD/Admiralty power over the size and placement of badges can be used to alter a flag created by a Statutory Instrument.
Graham Bartram, 6 July 2000

Original flag adopted 10 April 1909. Currunt flag adopted 25 January 1999.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 10 January 2002

The badge was enlarged in 1999 for use on a Blue Ensign. The badge is also fimbriated white so as not to blend with the dark blue field. I am not aware of any "official" figures describing the badge height/hoist width ratio, so I have guessed approximately 1/2.
Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

Graham Bartram's illustration of this flag in BR20 (which is the nearest we have to 'official specs') actually shows the fimbriated shield at 54% of flag width.
Christopher Southworth, 28 January 2004

The Island

Željko asked about the flag of Montserrat , how an British dependent territory with such a French sounding name ends up with Irish symbols.
Welcome to the Caribbean, where the various islands changed hands between Spain, England, France, Holland, and others countless times. It can make for some very confusing symbology; as it turns out, Montserrat comes by its flag quite legitimately.
It was named by that Italian fellow sailing for Spain, Colombus , in 1493, after an abbey -- one not in France but in Spain. This abbey was supposedly where Ignacio de Loyola experienced the vision which led to the formation of the Jesuit monastic order. It was eventually settled (the island, not the abbey) by Thomas Warner, a Briton, who brought English and Irish Catholics from St. Kitts, and the island soon gained a reputation as a Caribbean safe haven for Catholics, particularly those fleeing from Virginia (which is extremely odd, considering that Maryland, the only American colony with religious tolerance, was right next door...but that's Virginians for you).
Cromwell also sent Irish political prisoners to Montserrat following his victory at Drogheda in 1649. The first African slaves, bought by an Irishman, landed in 1651, and there was a slave revolt in 1768.
The French raided several times during the 17th and 18th Centuries, sometimes aided by the resident Irish, but the island became British for good with the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
BTW, Montserrat was the island hardest-hit by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
The source (Caribbean Islands Handbook 1991, Prentice Hall, B. Box and S. Cameron, eds.) further states:

"The Irish influence can still be seen in national emblems -- on arrival your passport is stamped with a green shamrock, the island's flag and crest show a woman, Erin of Irish legend, complete with her harp, and a carved shamrock adorns the gable of Government House."

Steve Kramer, 26 May 1996

In 1997 the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted and the nine-tenths of the island's population was evacuated.
rob raeside

Governor Flag

by Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

The Badge

by Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

I received a scan from David Prothero of the badge of Montserrat, which shows Erin (the female figure - symbol of freedom for Ireland) holding a gold, or deep yellow harp by her left hand. The colouring of this harp in the original scan is brown, matching the foreground upon which she stands. On the original image there is also a shadow behind her left foot, which I decided to retain in my image.
Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

From Geography of the West Indies" by J.O.Cutteridge: "A peculiarity of Montserrat is that the inhabitants speak with a decided Irish brogue, a circumstance traceable to the fact that a large number of Irish were sent out to the island by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century.  Place names such as Kinsale and Harris Village owe their origin to these early Irish settlers."
David Prothero, 30 January 2004

In 1909 when the arms were designed (by a Mrs Goodwin) all of Ireland was, as we know, part of the United Kingdom, and they were meant to recall that Montserrat was settled by Irish immigrants in 1632.
Christopher Southworth, 30 January 2004

Blue Ensign of Montserrat 1960-1999

by Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

by Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004

The badge was adopted in 1906, whereas the flag only much later, officially in 1960. One version has the badge directly
on the Blue Ensign  occupying an imaginary circle, the diameter being 4/9 the hoist width. A variant may or may not have been extant, and this version shows the badge on a white circle. Both the versions with white disc and without have been reported, but it is not clear which is correct.
Martin Grieve, 28 January 2004


Montserrat is divided to 3 parishes. There are no known flags of those parishes. The parishes are:
- Saint Anthony
- Saint Peter
- Saint Georges
List based on Administrative divisions of the World.
Dov Gutterman, 25 October 2004