Flags play an important role in national identity. From colours on the battle field, to claiming land or identifying embassies flags continue to play their part. With this in mind I have to admit that one of my pet hates is British people flying the Union Flag upside down.
Flying any flag upside down is inappropriate unless you are in distress, as it represents a direct insult to the nation the flag belongs to.
During the recent bout of national celebration, starting with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and followed by the Olympics, I was dismayed at the number of people carrying flags upside down, particularly the small plastic flags sold on a short stick which had been manufactured incorrectly.
Failure on the flag etiquette was not confined to the crowds and athletes, I noticed that in the main arenas the flags flying around the stadiums and pools were inconsistent in terms of what was construed as up. This showed incompetence and laziness on the part of those that positioned them.
I find it sad that so many people in Britain do not even know that our flag can be hung upside down. To me this is something that should be taught at schools as flags play such an important role in national celebrations and forming national identity. Surely people who go to the length of painting the flag on their faces or carrying a 20 foot mast with a flag on top would prefer to fly it correctly. Anyway enough winging here is my poem;
They stand and wave our flag with glee
these people, so proud of our country.
So proud they fly the Union Flag
upside down, as if it were a rag.
When a flag is inverted
people should be disconcerted.
For it either means they’re in distress,
or they wish an insult to express.
It’s not hard to get it right
It’s all about the amount of white
That sits atop St. Patrick’s Cross
(That’s the red one that goes criss-cross.)
On the side next to the pole
More white should top the red
Which means that at the floppy end
more white should hang below, my friend.
Oh, one other thing – my last;
To fly a flag at half mast,
Just drop it down the flags own height
from the top of the mast, that’s right.
John Carré Buchanan
19 August 2012