Historic Counties Blogs

ABC Flag Blog

All about county flags from the Association of British Counties

Welcome the the ABC Flag Blog.

As part of our efforts to strengthen the identity and recognition of the nation’s counties, the county flag is a highly effective weapon in our arsenal. A flag often seems synonymous with the entity it conveys, its very existence can reinforce the notion and status of that entity; a bright eye-catching design rippling in the breeze will attract attention of itself and invariably lead to an enquiry about what or where it represents.

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Buteshire PT 1   Buteshire PT 2 Buteshire RB 1

Buteshire RB 2   Buteshire JS

There are several prospective designs for a flag for this county. The first shown is from Philip Tibbetts. In this the four white diamonds represent the archipelago that makes up the county – including Arran, Bute, Cumbraes and Holy Isle – whilst the blue field itself symbolises the Firth of Clyde in which the islands are located. The blue and white diamond pattern also reflects the chequered bar (heraldically a “fess”) of the arms of the Stewart clan

                     Clan Stewart

which originated in the area. On each white diamond is a black ship derived from the former civic arms of Buteshire

Buteshire County council

which recall the stronghold the Somerled dynasty had on Bute – the family was associated with arms bearing a ship


The ships also recall the famous ‘Clyde Steamers’ that served the county and subsequently reference the Clyde itself.

The second proposal from Philip Tibbetts specifically represents the county’s three main islands Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae. Again the blue and white checked fess is recalled in counter-changed partitions of the flag and the same ship theme, as seen in the previous suggestion, deriving from the Somerled symbols, also appears.

Another suggestion for Bute, from Rupert Barnes, features the chequered blue and white bar more prominently and is based on the arms of the Duke of Rothesay (the Prince of Wales)


 and those of the Marquess of Bute,

Marqbuteeach of whom has a quartering of Or a fess chequy azure and argent, that is yellow with a blue and white chequered bar across the middle. Rupert advises that his choice of a pale blue field has no specific symbolism but is used for aesthetic reasons and to aid the effectiveness of the flag. Rupert’s second proposal has the colours found on both local aristocratic arms, replacing the light blue background with a yellow one. Finally, the last shown proposal from Jason Saber, combines Philip’s ships which are an acknowledged local symbol, set against Rupert’s suggested yellow field and blue and white bar.



This proposed flag for Aberdeenshire from Philip Tibbetts, features a rampant leopard. Leopards appear as supporters in the civic arms of the city of Aberdeen

Aberdeen Arms

and a leopard is also the badge of the Aberdeenshire Rugby Football Club

Aberdeenshire rugby badge

the emblem thus has a proven local currency.

The colours deployed, blue and yellow, are taken from various arms used in the locality through the years. Modern Aberdeenshire subsumes two ancient Scottish provinces, Mar


and Buchan


both of whose arms have been similarly subsumed into the arms of the local council

Aberdeenshire Council Arms

 where other charges also use the blue and yellow colour combination. The choice of colours therefore has a demonstrable local resonance.



The crowned red lion passant in Philip Tibbetts’s proposed flag for the county is taken from the Ogilvy family arms



, the original Celtic Earls of Angus – the ancient name of the locality.

The lion is placed in the canton of the field reflecting its placement in the county’s civic arms

Forfarshire CC Arms

Here however it is the only charge, to reference the meaning of the name Angus as ‘unique’. The rest of the field is blue to recollect the colours of the Forfarshire Cricket Club.

Forfarshire Cricket Shirt 2

Forfarshire Cricket Shirt


Camarthenshire proposal

The proposed flag, illustrated by Brady Ells, is his suggestion as a flag for the county based on the quasi coat of arms which featured in the 1933 work Civic Heraldry of England and Wales by C.W Scott-Giles


used informally by the Camarthenshire County Council, prior to the formal award of arms in 1935. The design features two avowedly Welsh symbols, a leek and a harp – the latter being apt as the county is an important centre of Welsh musical traditions and poetry.

Whilst clearly not having a specific nor long standing local provenance, being rather, a combination of generic Welsh emblems, this civic insignia was also used to represent the county in a general way as demonstrated by this Camarthenshire County Bowling Association badge,

Carmarthenshire County Bowling Association.

In 1935 the local council received a formal award of arms

Camarthenshire County Council

which combine two Welsh dragons with two gold lions on a quarted red and gold, counter charged field, the quarters being divided by an an indented line. The lion and indentation are from the arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr, King of Deheubarth, a kingdom occupying the territory of modern day Camarthenshire, in the eleventh century

Rhys p Tedwr Mawr

and it has been suggested that an armorial banner formed from these arms would be an appropriate flag for the modern county which occupies the territory of the anicent kingdom


The erstwhile administration of Dyfed included the Deheubarth, arms to signify the inclusion of Camarthenshire as part of its territorial remit

Dyffed Deheubarth

so there is certainly a precedent for use of this design to represent the county, indeed the flag is fown in the county today, as seen here in flight over Camarthen Castle

Camarthen Castle
An alternative design has been created by Philip Tibbetts, taking the shield from the later council arms arms as inspiration.

PT Camarthenshire

This design retains the same colours and indented divisions of the civic design. The county’s soubriquet of “the garden of Wales” is recalled in the inclusion in each quarter of water lillies, all suitably countercharged in red and gold. These flowers also reflect the county’s recognition as the “Ystrad Tywi” territory i.e. “Vale of the River Twyi/Towy”.


Cromartyshire Mackenzie

The rather eccentric county of Cromartyshire, comprising 23 separate parcels of land amidst the county of Ross (Ross-shire), is a seventeenth century contrivance formed from the estates of George Mackenzie, sheriff of Cromarty after he gained royal favour. Later ennobled as the Earl of Cromarty, the above armorial banner formed from his arms

mck c of awould seem to be the most obvious and appropriate flag to represent this diffused territory, much as the arms of the Earldom of Ross in banner form are proposed as the traditional flag for that county – see the entry on Ross in the “Proposed flags from traditional county emblems” page. This seems a sound notion and certainly makes a very fine flag but unlike Ross and other counties where ancient family arms are no longer used by any individual and can therefore be used to represent the territories where the families were significant in the county’s origins or history, the Mackenzie arms are indeed still the preserve of an individual armiger. They cannot be used to represent Cromartyshire therefore, as an entity in its own right. However the heavily antlered golden stag’s head on a blue field could be the basis of a novel flag for the county. In this proposal from Jason Saber

Cromartyshire JS

the basic design is differenced by the addition of a golden border. Aiming to change the very fine basic design as little as possible and thereby to retain the historical association of the stag’s head with the locality, the amendment is slight and the colour of the added element is also that of the stag’s head to preserve the same theme and feel of the original design. The border symbolises the county’s particular geography, being a shire whose constitutent parts are encompassed within the territory of another county.

An alternative design from Leonardo Piccioni

Cromartyshire Leo

again retains the yellow and blue colour scheme of the Mackenzie arms and cleverly alludes to both the splendid antlers in the original arms of the earldom and the nickname of the Mackenzie clan chief, “caberféidh“, Gaelic for “deer’s antlers” with a knotted saltire, that symbolises crossed antlers. A notable cohesion of an obviously Scottish theme with a resonant local twist!


A third proposal from Philip Tibbetts replaces the blue background of the Mackenzie banner with a black one in reference to the Black Isle upon which the town of Cromarty itself sits and around which the county was formed.

M Fielding Design

ABC Flag Blog is one of the Historic Counties Blogs, official blogs of the Associtation of British Counties.

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