It’s not the easiest thing to spot, but if you’ve seen it once you will always notice.
It’s a matter that has certainly come to the attention of local resident Joanne McDuff, who contacted the Caymanian Compass to note that the Union Flag – the flag of the United Kingdom – has been flown upside down in various places in the Cayman Islands on several occasions.
“[The Union Flag] forms part of the Cayman flag so I don’t know how they get it wrong. I know many Brits don’t know how to fly the flag, either, but I have found it upside down in so many places here and all over the world.
“The broad white stripe should be at the top adjacent to the flagpole, and if it’s not on a flagpole and is just on the wall you assume the flagpole is to the left,” explained Mrs. McDuff, who spent 14 years in the police service in the north-west of England prior to a career change to human resources and a subsequent move to Cayman with her lawyer husband.
Indeed, strictly-speaking there is a significant meaning to flying the Union flag upside down, which is considered a signal of distress, explained Mrs. McDuff, who added that it could also convey an altogether more pointed message if done on purpose.
“It also exists as a concept in many countries as an insult to the queen, although it’s not punishable by death any more, it’s just something that vaguely annoys, now.
“I am trying to educate people and even have printed leaflets in my car with a picture of the flag, how to fly it and why it shouldn’t be upside down. I carry them with me all the time.”
She added wryly that often people do not realise that the flag is upside down and on more than one occasion she had been met with a shrug or a blank stare.
“The hotels are usually apologetic and get it changed but I have had to go back more than once and find a manager to speak to,” said Mrs. McDuff. Local businessman Robert Hamaty of Tortuga said that although on occasion this kind of thing can happen to any business that flies flags, education of staff is ongoing.
“I have different people putting them up and I have showed and explained [how to do it correctly] many times; it’s not done on purpose and means no disrespect,” said Captain Hamaty.
The Union Flag features elements of the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick of England, Scotland and Ireland respectively. The 17th-Century flag of St. Patrick is rarely used to represent Ireland and is considered to be an element of the 18th-Century Fitzgerald family crest.
The 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty meant the creation of the Irish Free State but as six counties of Northern Ireland opted to remain part of the UK and a partition with the rest of Ireland occurred, the St. Patrick element was retained. Wales, also a country of the United Kingdom, is not represented on the flag due to its annexation by Edward I of England in 1282 and redesignation by its conquerors as a principality of the English crown. Over the years, there have been several redesigns of the Union Flag mooted to incorporate the St. Davids cross or Welsh dragon, but none adopted.
Because the flag flown from the bowsprit of a ship that often denotes nationality is known as a jack, the Union Flag is also popularly known as the Union Jack.
Ms. McDuff concluded that while she realised it was a matter with which people were not necessarily au fait, nonetheless there was one obvious reason that the flag’s correct way up should be easy to identify.
“It is part of the Cayman flag so you would hope that people still had some sort of loyalty to the flag. I just find it very disappointing that it is upside down because it is my flag and I want it to be flown right.
“We’ve got a big royal wedding coming up next year so it’s a great opportunity to say if you’re going to fly it, fly it correctly. If ever my friends and I have a Last Night of the Proms party they are very conscious of how they fly the flag because they know it’s a pet hate of mine.”