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Leeward Islands

Last modified: 2002-09-21 by rob raeside
Keywords: leeward islands | united kingdom | pineapple |
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[Leeward Islands] by Zoltán Horváth

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Description of the flag

The colonial flag of Leeward Islands was used between 1871 and 1956 in the Carribean. The badge was designed by Sir Benjamin Pine, the first Governor. His flag was the Union Jack with the badge on a disc surrounded by a garland of laurel. The flag was used until the dissolution of the Leeward Islands colony in 1956.

Zoltán Horváth, 16 June 2001

A few years ago I came across an antique Union Flag (sewn wool bunting, approx. 18 by 36 inches) with the badge of the Leeward Islands painted on a white disk in the center. The badge is badly designed: a seashore, a body of water with two ships afloat, and more land upon the horizon. Sitting on shore is a large pineapple (approx 3 to 4 times the height of either ship) with three smaller pineapples sitting nearby. Floating above this surrealistic scene is the coat-of-arms of the UK (with supporters, of course.) Upon doing some research into this latest addition to my collection I discovered that the badge was designed by an early colonial governor, Sir Benjamin Pine, and the pineapples are apparently a pun on his family name, the big fruit representing the governor himself, and the little pineapples for his family. In my opinion, the governor should have had his artistic license revoked.

Nick Artimovich, 21 February 1996

The scales are all wrong - the "mutant" pineapple is several times larger than the further pineapples, rather more than perspective should allow, and the nearer ship is smaller than the further one!

Roy Stilling, 21 February 1996

Governor's flag

[Leeward Islands] by Martin Grieve

The flag was introduced in 1874, three years after the Leeward Islands Federal Colony had been established in 1871. It was a re-organisation of the previously loosely associated islands of Antigua, Montserrat, St Christopher, Nevis, Virgin Islands and Dominica.

Usually the flag badge of a colony was derived from the pictorial element of its Public Seal. No seal existed when the Governor, Sir Benjamin Pine, was asked to submit a badge for the Leeward Islands, and he took the opportunity to contrive this bizarre badge, with a large pineapple for himself, three smaller pineapples for his family, and a completely out of scale ship. One has to ask why the Admiralty bothered to insist that all flag badges should be submitted for their approval, if they were prepared to approve this?

In a reversal of the usual procedure, the seal of the colony was copied from the badge, but fortunately revised. The foreground, three small pineapples, and royal arms were removed, and the two ships replaced by a steamer and a sailing ship of equal size, one on either side of an enlarged central pineapple.

In 1940 Dominica was transferred to the Windward Islands, and the whole federation dissolved in 1956. The post of governor of the Leeward Islands was not abolished until 1960, so I suppose his flag lasted until then.

David Prothero, 19 August 2002

Although it is probable that the Leeward Islands badge was designed by the first governor, it seems that the idea that the four pineapples on the badge represent him and his family was a joke.

In the 1894 edition of Flags of the World, F.E.Hulme described the badge and added, "It is jocularly assumed that the centre one was Sir Benjamin himself, and the three subordinate ones his family." In the 1915 edition by W.J.Gordon this has been changed to, "... is a pineapple bigger than either ship, for Sir Benjamin himself, with three smaller ones away to the right, for his family." In the 1939 edition V. Wheeler-Holohan has changed it to, "It is said that these (pineapples) are a pun on the designer's name." This is repeated by H.Gresham-Carr in the 1953 and 1961 editions, and by E.M.C.Barraclough in the 1965 edition.

In 1934 E.H.Baxter in National Flags wrote, "This badge is said to have been designed by the first governor, Sir Benjamin Pine, who placed the pineapples in as a punning reference to himself and his family."

I.O. Evans in the 1959 Observer's Book of Flags wrote, "In the foreground are one large pineapple and three small ones, said to represent a former Governor of the Islands -- Sir Benjamin Pine, designer of the badge -- and his family."

I think that if Sir Benjamin Chilley Campbell Pine, KCMG, had really wanted to punningly represent himself and his family the badge would have included 'pines' not 'pineapples'. The most important of the four Presidencies of the Leeward Islands was Antigua. At one time its principal product was the pineapple which was a symbol of the island before the flag badge was devised.

The first session of the Federal Council of the Leeward Islands was held in St John's Antigua on 23rd May 1872. This was reported in the 25th May issue of Antigua New Era and included; "At Mr Watkins Druggist establishment immediately opposite the Court House, we noticed a very pretty and appropriate device -- a wreath, on a blue ground, enclosing two clasped hands above a pineapple. On the roof of the Court House floated the British Standard, and the Scotch and Irish Flags."

It was also reported in The Weekly Register on 28th May.
"Over the main entrance to the Hall floated the Royal Standard of Great Britain and Ireland, appropriately supported, dexter and sinister respectively, by the Harp of old Erin and the Thistle of Scotland. But where was the flag of the United Leeward Stars -- the flag of the Confederation ? The nearest approach to an imaginary device for such a flag was observed just in front of the grand entrance and over the druggist establishment of Mr Watkins -- a Crown over a hand-in-hand giving the grip of Union over a pineapple guardant."

David Prothero, 20 August 2002

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