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Monday, January 25, 2021
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Our flag’s ship

Dear Editor, 
Our Coat of Arms, which is incorporated into the national flag, includes “…a sailing ship proper.”  There’s no guidance as to what kind of sailing vessel was intended, but one frequently hears the word “schooner” applied to the image appearing in the Unity Flag that is now being standardized.

Actually, the array of sails comports more closely with a clipper and not a schooner. It really doesn’t matter, though, as neither is effective in triggering that burst of nationalistic spirit which our forebears swore to have, and which they did in fact display, as they “drove back the invaders.”

Schooners are peacetime vessels used for the movement of cargo, passengers, et cetera; and more latterly, as pleasure craft. Their shallow draft renders them the vessel of choice for coastal shipping, and anyone familiar with the sand-lighters from Mullins River’s heyday will automatically call one of those vessels to mind on first seeing our flag’s ship. Except for the rigging.

That’s not the imagery we need on a September morning. Whenever we look at our ensign there should be something there that instantly makes us square our shoulders and feel a stirring of the blood, and leavens the pride we have in being Belizeans. Why not replace the lighter, then, with a battleship?

The lowly schooner in the ordinary course does not evoke the imagery of hot hurtling canon-balls fired broadside at “invaders.” A battleship can, as did the Merlin in 1798. A reproduction of a frigate like that, or perhaps a John Serres’ painting such as “The Morning Gun” with a battleship’s gun ports open in action, could fire up our nationalistic nerve centers. Not only when September rolls around, but whenever and wherever we see our flag unfurled.

There’s a flurry of design wainscoting—coloration, realism, historicity—underway as the flag standardization proceeds. We could still make this happen.

Hart Tillett
Belmopan
August 23, 2020.

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