The Nova Scotia Gaelic flag

by | Mar 13, 2015

In Nova Scotia, you might have noticed that we have a Gaelic flag. The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Office of Gaelic Affairs, developed and presented a new Gaelic symbol and flag on behalf of the Gaelic community in 2008.

 

Nova Scotia Gaelic Flag image

The Nova Scotia Gaelic Flag

 

In the design of the flag,

The salmon represents the gift of knowledge in the Gaelic storytelling traditions of Nova Scotia, Scotland and Ireland and the Isle of Man.

The “G” represents the Gaelic language and the ripples are the manifestations of the language through its rich culture of song, story, music, dance and custom and belief system.

–“The Gaelic Image,” The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia

The blue colour is the same as the blue in the Nova Scotia provincial flag and coat of arms. I remember hearing that Celtic revival-style knotwork designs were deliberately eschewed in favour of a more modern look.

Whatever the design, a flag for the Gaelic community might seem odd from an “old world” Scottish perspective. The pan-Celtic flag incorporating flags of the “six Celtic nations” uses the Scottish saltire. So why does it make sense to have a separate Gaelic flag here in Nova Scotia?

At our local Acadian French-medium school, the flags of all the nations of la francophonie hang from the ceiling in the cafeteria:

 

Flags of la francophonie in a French-medium school cafeteria

Flags of Canadian francophonie in a French-medium school cafeteria

 

In addition to those flags, there is another set of special flags: the flags of the Canadian Francophonie — the French-speaking communities of each Canadian province. In the case of Québec (officially French) and New Brunswick (officially bilingual), it is the provincial flag itself. In the case of the other provinces of Canada which have Francophone populations of smaller proportions, the Francophone community in each province developed a flag which is based on the design of the provincial flag.

The flag of Nova Scotia francophonie is the Acadian flag, which was adopted in 1884 (pictured just to the right of the Canadian flag in the photo above). The Acadian flag has been incorporated into folk art all over the Maritimes:

 

Acadian flag folk art in the Maritimes

Acadian flag folk art in the Maritimes

 

The Mi’kmaq people also have multiple flags. This is the Santéé Mawióómi or Grand Council flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation, which can be displayed vertically or horizontally:

 

Mi'kmaq Flag

Grand Council flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation

 

So, it’s normal Canadian cultural logic for a national or provincial language group to have its own flag.

Of course a Gaelic flag is not “traditional” and so there were some folks who didn’t like it at first. Someone called it “bradan ‘sa phàn”— salmon in the frying pan. But most of us like our Gaelic flag a great deal and display it daily.

We fly it at our homes, businesses, and institutions…

 

Flag raising at Province House for Gaelic Awareness Month, May 2013

Flag raising at Province House for Gaelic Awareness Month, May 2013

 

We drive around with it on our cars…

 

Nova Scotia Gaelic decorative license plates

Nova Scotia Gaelic decorative license plates (front license plates not required in NS)

 

…even when we have to shovel our cars out of the snow first.

 

Nova Scotia Gaelic decorative license plates (front license plate on a snow-covered car

An Gearran dhà rìribh

 

We use the design in arts and crafts:

 

Gaelic flag fused glass by Mary Lou Beaton, NSCC

Fused glass suncatchers created by Mary Lou Beaton, NSCC (not for sale)

 

We even take it on trips around the world!

 

The Nova Scotia Gaelic flag displayed by Nova Scotian travelers at the Canadian Pavilion, Expo 2010, in Shanghai, China

The Nova Scotia Gaelic flag displayed by Nova Scotian travelers at the Canadian Pavilion, Expo 2010, in Shanghai, China

 

UPDATE: Some folks have asked where these flags can be obtained. When Comhairle na Gàidhlig (The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia) attends Gaelic events in the province, they often have free flag swag. Comhairle na Gàidhlig has also sold fundraising items in the past. At this time it seems that the best thing to do is to contact either the Gaelic Council or Gaelic Affairs (see links in comments below) to ask about availability.

 

Gaelic Council promotional Gaelic flag materials

Gaelic Council promotional Gaelic flag materials

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