Border Life: Understanding the fascinating history of flags

  • Fiona Armstrong meets Philip Tibbetts - Scotland’s chief flag expert


It’s been a busy year for Scotland’s chief flag expert - Philip Tibbetts from Dumfries is Honorary Vexillologist to Lyon Court in Edinburgh, which deals with heraldry and coats of arms.

Philip supervises the registration of new flags, and the way that flags ancient and modern are used in an official way – whether it’s for Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, or more poignantly, at her funeral.

It’s his job to make sure tradition is observed correctly.

Philip Tibbetts from Dumfries is Honorary Vexillologist to Lyon Court in Edinburgh. Credit: Border Life

Philip says flags may be symbolic today, but they were hugely practical devices long ago.

He said: "Flags go back into antiquity - they were really important in communicating at speed and over distance. More so than shouting and, of course, phones did not exist then!

"Whether you were on the battlefield and needed to be able to communicate to your troops, or at sea and no-one could hear you from a long distance - this was light speed communication for the Middle Ages."

Today, flags are more popular than they ever were; at Lyon Court, they estimate the number of new registrations in the past 50 years is probably more than in the previous three centuries.


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