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Newfoundland Pink-White-Green flag

Last modified: 2003-01-11 by phil nelson
Keywords: newfoundland | canada | color: pink | color: white | color: green | pink white green |
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[Unofficial flag of Newfoundland]
by Zeljko Heimer

Erroneous version
[Unofficial flag of Newfoundland]
by Zeljko Heimer

See also:

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 was wondering the meaning of this flag (does it have something to do with Ireland?) and what was its status ?

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

I have been trying to find out, so far without success, the significance of the colour "pink" in the unofficial Newfoundland "native flag"; pink, white, green tricolour.

It seems a most unusual colour for a 19th century flag.

Is it a mistake and should it be "red"? David Prothero - 12 January 1999

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

However it 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 XIXth 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

I'm sorry, but I remain unconvinced. 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 reprsentations 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

I thought that it was just a plain tricolour.

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