After a contest organized by the West Highland Free Press and 369 submissions, the winning design for the Isle of Skye’s flag belongs to Calum Alasdair Munro, a 9-year-old boy from the local area. His flag proposal was approved by the Court of Lord Lyon, the regulatory body for heraldry in Scotland.
The Christian cross, inspired by the Nordic flags (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Faroe …) is the main symbol of the ensign. But in addition, a circle is added at the intersection that forms the Celtic cross to include the Gaelic culture of the Hebrides.
The birlinn, a traditional medieval ship of the region that appears in Scottish heraldry, is situated in the canton. Unlike traditional boats of this type, this design features five oars symbolizing the five areas of the Isle of Skye: Trotternish, Waternish, Duirinish, Minginish, and Sleat.
The yellow and blue colors belong to the first clans of Skye: MacLeod, MacDonald and MacKinnon.
The island of clouds
Rugged, full of cliffs, valleys, jagged coastlines and relief sculpted by glaciers and the sea, the Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides in Scotland. Its coastline is so irregular that no point on the island is more than 8 km from the sea. The Cuillin Mountains dominate the landscape to the south and center, with Sgurr Alasdair Peak (993m) crowning the vast moor.
Its name probably has Nordic roots, as Ski means ‘cloud’ and Ey means ‘island’. But long before the arrival of the Scandinavian peoples, the Picts populated Skye during the Iron Age, just as the Scots did in Roman times. This is the name that the transalpine people gave to this Gaelic people of Irish origin, and that colonized much of Scotland.
In the 7th century the Vikings arrived from what we know today as Norway. They settled on a multitude of islands, which were perfectly suited to their sailing lifestyle, including Skye. Their occupation was long-lasting although not without disputes with the Scottish clans, until the year 1263, when the Norwegians were defeated at the Battle of Largs and Skye became part of the territories under Scottish control.
Echoes of industrialization
For centuries, the MacLeod and MacDonald clans continued to fight on the island, but at the end of the 18th century the objective of the inhabitants of Skye was to increase the population to make use of a type of seaweed called kelp. These algae were very profitable for commercialization in the south of Great Britain, and were used to make soup or as fertilizer.
However, throughout the 19th century land owners focused on sheep farming to produce wool and send it to the biggest English cities, so many peasants (crofters) were forced to leave Skye and had to emigrate to continue with their way of life. This expulsion, known in history as The Highland Clearances, has left the island dotted with old almost-demolished stone houses. Many of them can be seen today in Suisnish, Boreraig, Lorgill and Tusdale.
With a population of approximately 10,000, Skye is Scotland’s favorite tourist destination after Edinburgh. Progress came decades ago, and since the construction of the bridge at Kyleakin that links the island to the rest of Scotland, it is no longer such a remote location for the public.
Skye continues to thrive, as its children honor its history with a new flag.