Thursday, April 9, 2015

Faroe Islands 2015 Stamp Issue
75th Anniversary of The Faroese National Flag

 :: THEME: Faroese National Flag
  :: NOMINAL VALUE: 11.00, 12.00 kr
   :: ISSUE DATE: 24 April 2015
    :: PHOTOS:  A. Vatnhamar & Andrea Ricordi

Merkið (The Symbol) - 75th Anniversary of The Faroese National Flag
Blue as the sky, red as blood, white as waterfall, surf and winter's sounds.

Rarely has the poetic description of the Faroese flag colours been more appropriate than on May 25, 2014, when the Faroese mountaineer Arne Vatnhamar unfurled the Faroese flag on Mount Everest's snow-capped peak, in the dizzying blue altitude of 8,848 meters above sea level.
After years of preparation, the 41 year old Vatnhamar had fulfilled his dream: to plant the Faroese flag on the top of the world's highest mountain.

But the feat did not come without costs. At the final stage, in an altitude of approximately 8,600 meters, Arne became affected by altitude sickness (HAPE) - water in the lungs caused by lack of oxygen. Despite the danger and severe pain Arne continued towards the top - and at 8.15, local time, he became the first Faroese ever to conquer the world's highest peak.

But Arne was in danger because of the water in the lungs. It became urgent to get down from the peak:
"When I was back down again and safe, it was easier to appreciate and rejoice over this achievement," says Arne, who is proud to celebrate "Merki's" 75th anniversary with this picture.

And it was not without reason that the Faroese mountaineer brought "Merkið" with him to the top of the world. We, the Faroese, are generally very happy with our national symbol, which is an essential expression of our national feelings. Perhaps the flag's turbulent history also contributed to its place in the collective Faroese consciousness. For although we celebrate "Merki's" 75th anniversary this year, the flag is older than that.

Merkið – The Student Flag
In the era of national awakening in the Faroe Islands, which started at the famous Christmas meeting in 1888, the need for a unifying symbol arose. At people's assemblies and national meetings different flags were used, for example the so-called “Tjaldursmerkið”, portraying the Faroese national bird, the oyster catcher – or “Veðramerkið”, depicting a ram, which from the Middle Ages had been the regional symbol of the Faroe Islands. 

But in 1919, three Faroese students in Copenhagen, Jens Oliver Lisberg, Janus Øssurson and Thomas Pauli Dahl, decided to create a flag similar to the other Nordic Cross flags. The models for their suggestion were the Norwegian and Icelandic flags, since these countries were considered to be the ones closest related to the Faroes. These flags contain the colors white, red and blue - and since the Norwegian flag has a red background while the Icelandic has blue, the Faroese had to be white in order to stand out from the others. According to Dahl, it was Jens Oliver Lisberg who decided that the cross should be red with blue borders.

For a party held in “Føroyingafelag” in Copenhagen 2 March 1919, the students got a girl by the name of Ninna Jacobsen to sew a table model of the flag. They brought this flag to a flag factory in Copenhagen and made a table model for each one of them. The flag was well received among the Faroese in Copenhagen - and later Lisberg went back to the flag factory and got them to sew a full size banner. He brought it to the dormitory “Regensen”, the home of Emil Joensen, the fourth student mentioned in connection with the flag. They hung the flag out of the window in Joensen’s room, cheered on by Icelandic students who also lived at the dorm. Thus, “Regensen” became the place where the Faroese flag was flying for the first time.

In the summer of 1919 Jens Oliver Lisberg travelled to the Faroe Islands bringing with him the Student Flag, as it was then called back then. His plan was to ask Parliament to recognize it as a national flag but he did not succeed for various reasons. But back in his hometown, Fámjin, the flag was hoisted that very summer - for the first time on Faroese soil. Lisberg left the flag back home when he returned to Denmark - and this, the first Faroese flag, is now on display in Famjin's church. On August 31 1920, Jens Oliver Lisberg died in Copenhagen of the Spanish flu and did not live to see how the flag was gradually accepted by his fellow countrymen.

Throughout the twenties, the Faroese began to accept the “Student Flag” as a national banner. It was named "Merkið" (banner/symbol) and was especially popular among sailors. More and more ships and boats started sailing under “Merkið” and it also became more common ashore on special occasions. This inevitably led to controversy. People wanted “Merkið” recognized as a national flag, while the Danish authorities resisted. In 1938 the Danish representative, prefect Hilbert, suggested in vain that Denmark should recognize the flag.

The final recognition came in April 1940 when communications between the Faroes and Denmark were interrupted due to Germany’s occupation of Denmark. A few days later, the Faroe Islands were formally occupied by Great Britain. Faroese ships sailing under Danish flag with the name DENMARK painted on the sides gave rise to problems. The British Admiralty demanded that Faroese vessels use another flag, either “Merkið” or “Union Jack” - and have the name “Faroes” painted on the sides.

In the days that followed, confusion and controversy arose in the Faroes concerning the matter, ending with Mason, the British consul, deciding on April 25 1940 that all Faroese fishing-  and cargo ships were to sail under the Faroese flag and have FAROES - FØROYAR painted on their sides.

As the war progressed the Faroese flag became the standard of the Faroese fleet. In 1947, April 25 was proclaimed the Faroese Flag Day - and at the introduction of the Home Rule in 1948, "Merkið" was officially declared the national flag of the Faroes.

author: Anker Eli Petersen 

stamp images and description thanks to:

ISSUE DATE: 24 April 2015
DENOMINATIONS: 11.00 and 12.00 kr
PHOTO: A. Vatnhamar / Andrea Ricordi
STAMP SIZE: 30 mm x 40 mm
PRINTER: Cartor Security Printing, France