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Last modified: 2023-11-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: jamaica | america | agriculture | sunshine | hope | saltire | caribbeans |
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[Flag of Jamaica] image by Željko Heimer, 25 Febuary 2002

Official Name: Jamaica
Flag adopted: 6 August 1962
Coat of arms adopted: 6 August 1962

See also:

The Flag

The symbolism of the colours is: yellow, sunshine and natural resources; black, the burdens borne by the people; green, agriculture and hope for the future. "Burdens and hardships there may be, but we have hope and the sun still shines".
James Dignan, 22 November 1995

From <>:
"The Jamaica National Flag came into use on August 6,1962, Jamaica’s Independence Day. It was designed by a bipartisan committee of the Jamaica House of representatives. The Flag has a diagonal cross or saltire with four triangles in juxtaposition. The diagonal cross is in gold and one-sixth of the length of the fly of the flag; the top and bottom triangles are in green; and the hoist and fly triangles are in black. The exact shade of green used in the flag is Emerald T8 17, British Admiralty Bunting Pattern. The Flag follows the "Admiralty Pattern" and the proportion is 2 x 1."Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth" is the symbolism of the Flag. Black stands for hardships overcome and to be faced; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources".
See also more information plus explanation of usage (clearly defining the civil and state ensign use of the national flag) at <> and 20 Jamaican Dollar banknote showing the flag of Jamaica at <>.
Both sites claim that the width of the yellow stripes is "1/6th of the length of the fly" of the flag. Now, I read this to be 1/6th of the flag length (horizontal, longer, dimension), however this produces very, very "fat" stripes. Or maybe the meaning of "the length of the fly" is length of the free side, which would be equal what we call hoist. In that case, 1/6 of hoist is maybe somewhat thinner then I am used to envision the JM flag, but much closer to what's usually seen.
Željko Heimer, 23 February 2002

According to [pay00] - National Flag (CSW/C-- 1:2) - The site I mentioned few days ago defines the width of the saltire as 1/6 of hoist (if I have interpreted it rightly, see previous messages). Green shade is defined (though with some system that does not help us much), but the saltire is just called "gold". Usually this is shown as simple yellow (so [pay00], [smi82], [vdv00] etc.) but I guess that it should be darker, as gold should be. At least, the flag used on Salt Lake ceremonies these days clearly had a darker "orange" yellow shade.
Željko Heimer, 25 February 2002

When in Jamaica for at the time of the 40th anniversary of Independence, I heard a local radio broadcast which mentioned a description similar to above, but also described an alternative history. It seems that an unpopular member of the outgoing colonial regime stormed out of a meeting to being discuss the colors of the flag for the soon to be independent country, saying: "I don't care what the flag looks like, as long as it has at least one of the colours from the Union Jack in it!" History shows he was disappointed.
Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the politician or a reference, but it is at least an amusing folk history.
David C. Oliver, 5 June 2003

The colours of the Jamaican flag were described at the time of it's origin as 'Black for the people'; Yellow for the Sun'; and 'Green representing the lush vegetation of the island'.
John McGhie, 5 April 2005

Looking at the Jamaican flag I found out that the "areas" of the three colours have the same size. I looked further into the matter, found the description below I calculated the exact figures, which are √5̅/6−5/1344 ≈ 36.89% for the yellow cross ˝×(1−√5̅/12)˛ ≈ 33.10% for the black and green triangle pairs. It seems that the flag was designed to have equal weight to all three colours (with some rounding allowed to arrive at a simple description).
Helmut Weidner-Kim, 25 September 2017

This is very interesting. Our image does indeed match that prescription with 30276 green pixels, 30276 black pixels, and 31415 golden yellow pixels (plus 1345 pixels of 162 intermediate anti-aliased shades, bring the total to the expected 93312 = 432×216).

The two previous flag proposals also had the same three colors with the same area for each, although much more easily so, as they are made of rectangles, much simpler to measure.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 26 September 2017

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Jamaica: PMS 355 green, 115 yellow and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Jamaica flag colors

This site has listed the colors of the Jamaica flag in two different color schemes, British Admiralty Bunting Pattern and Pantone. Without further adieu (and quoting the website):
"The Correct Colours of the Jamaican Flag
For the printing of the flags by the Print Shop, the following are used, based on the PANTONE COLOUR FORMULA:
Gold = Pantone 109U
    o 16 parts PANTONE Yellow 98.5
    o ¼ part PANTONE Warm Red 1.5
Green = Pantone 355U
    o 13 parts PANTONE Green 80.0
    o 3 parts PANTONE Yellow 18.5
    o ¼ part PANTONE Black 1.5

In the Codes for National Symbols publication (page 3) the colours are defined as:
GREEN = Emerald T8 17 (my note: also described at with the specifications of the flag design)
Zachary Harden, 29 December 2012

Alternate History of the Flag

I have some information which you may find useful - information which is certainly not well known. My father Rev William R.F. McGhie, was a Church of Scotland minister who in 1957 went out to Jamaica to work as a missionary. Both my parents were from Glasgow although we lived, at that time, in Stonehouse in Lanarkshire. Shortly before Jamaica got her independence from Great Britain the Jamaican Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante (who was a friend of my fathers) showed my father designs of the proposed Jamaican flag. It was to be a green, black and gold tri-colour (ie vertical stripes). My father commented that as a Christian country the flag should contain a cross to reflect that fact. My father then sketched the St Andrew's cross replacing the colours of the Scottish flag with the green, black and gold of the Jamaican flag as it is now. Sir Alexander Bustamante agreed that this would be better and the rest is history, as they say. Of course, not many people know this but I can guarantee this is the truth.
John McGhie, 7 February 2005

I can vouch for the validity of the "Alternate History of the Jamaican Flag".  My father, Rev. William R. F. McGhie was one of Alexander Bustamante's chaplains.  Sir Alexander called him 'Padre', and he talked with the Prime Minister often, both on the telephone and in person.  I say 'one of'' because Sir Alexander, who was an unabashed ambassador of Jamaica's Rum industry usually gave that title to many 'men of the cloth', whose advice he often sought after. The first official release of the Jamaican flag (3 horizontal lines) was not well received at all by the Jamaican public, My father was only one of the citizenry calling for a design change, but he did indeed recommend to Sir Alexander that the redesigned flag should have a cross, signifying the history and influence of 'the church' in Jamaica's past.  Sir Alexander asked him to submit ideas for an alternate design.  I can clearly remember my father one morning in his study, tracing the St. Andrew Scottish national flag from an encyclopedia, and applying the existing colors of Green, Yellow and Black into the St. Andrew's cross motif.  I cannot remember if the colors in my father's design were placed in the exact positions as what became the official flag, but the design was certainly his.
John McGhie, 27 March 2005

Coat of Arms

[Coat of Arms of Jamaica] image by Željko Heimer, 25 February 2002

The Coat of Arms, based on the grayscale vectorial drawing from Corel Clipart (with only very minor changes I made and colouring based on several sources). It seems that the Coat of Arms does not appear on any current Jamaica flag (but it did prior to independence), so it is no wander that it is not shown in Album [pay00].
Željko Heimer, 25 February 2002

Am I wrong in saying that the scroll and the helmet should be both the same colour? They are both blazoned "Or", aren't they?
Also, according to Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Heraldry website <>, the current arms have the motto in Latin (on, apparently, a scroll Argent).
Santiago Dotor, 26 February 2002

I shall wait for experts to judge on this, especially the colouring. I think that Ralf is wrong - the Latin motto is older then the current English one (possibly this was the slight change of 1957?) though I have no firm arguments of that, and have to wait for experts to resolve it.
David describes the 1906 Coat of Arms supporters to be wearing blue clothing, this being allegedly changed to green-golden of current design. However, it seems to me that both Nat'l Geographics [gmc17] and Flaggenbuch [neu92] already show the clothing coloured as in current Coat of Arms. Possibly the 1906 grant really contains blue clothing, but the 1957 change might have only proscribed what was customarily "always" in real use.
Željko Heimer, 26 February 2002

DK Flags of the World [udk98] says: "The coat of arms, based on those granted to Jamaica on 3 February 1663, is among the oldest granted to a British colony." No image is shown. Smith [smi75c] seems to be the source of Corel Clipart, and says: "The arms are those originally granted in 1661; the pattern was modified in 1957 by having the motto and artistic rendition altered."
The coat of arms shown on <> (defunct) has minor differences with Smith's image. The dark grey feathers surrounding the helmet are yellow in Smith. Background of the helmet is red in Smith. The reverse of the scroll, as shown below the supporters' feet are in Smith the same colour as the obverse.
Talocci [taL93] says that the supporters of the coat of arms are Arawaks.
Note that elements of the coat of arms (the four pineapples and red cross) are displayed on the banner of the Queen Elizabeth II in Jamaica and the flag of the Prime Minister.
Ivan Sache, 26 February 2002

The Jamaican motto, "Out of Many, One People" was a common unity theme, which had traditionally existed in Jamaica, despite colonial pompousness and assumed privilege.  The authors of the Jamaican motto did not care (or perhaps did not even know) that the motto of the United States "E Pluribus Unum" translated to "Out of Many, One"; it just fitted well with the spirit that existed in Jamaica at the time of independence.
John McGhie, 29 March 2005

Proposals for the Flag

[Jamaica proposal flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 24 June 2016

Smith says "The original Jamaican flag proposal was discovered to resemble closely the flag of Tanganyka, although the design was approved by British authorities, who should have been aware of the conflict."
Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book says "It was originally designed with vertical stripes, but this was considered too similar to the Tanganyikan flag".
The flag of Tanganyika had horizontal stripes, so that I don't understand Dorling-Kindersley mentioning vertical stripes as a source of confusion. The flag drawn by Mark is indeed very close to the flag of Tanganyika.
Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003

To add to this conflict of the origin of Jamaica's flag: Originally Jamaica's proposed flag was to be blue with with a Union Jack in a corner. Flag committee member Dudley Thompson (who practiced law in Tanganyika and also became famous in defending Jomo Kenyatta) added that the color "black" has to be on the flag. Slowly he introduced the colors "green" and "gold" to the committee. True the proposed flag design did resemble Tanganyika's but the colors of Jamaica's flag are genuinely the colors of the Africa National Congress (ANC).
Elliott Thompson, 28 April 2003

The ANC flag was adopted during their party congress in 1925. There is no record on the ANC official website about how they chose the black, green and yellow colours.  I have, however, heard a tale (the source no longer remembered) that a delegation from Jamaica attended this congress as observers that year and that they brought the colours with them as a gift!  If true, this would mean that the ANC received the colours from the Jamaicans and not the other way around. It would also mean that Jamaica's colours date back much further than the 1960's. Was there perhaps an earlier political movement in Jamaica (circa the 1920's) with these colours for a party flag?.
It is to be noted that the ANC was the oldest black African political movement, having been established as such in 1912, but built upon an even earlier movement.  It was therefore regarded as the senior liberation movement in Africa and at least three of the neighbouring countries adapted the ANC colours for their own use. So we see the flags of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe all containing the colours black, green and yellow/gold.
I have not been able the discover any corroborative sources for this tale. No mention is made in the ANC's official history about the origin of the colours except to state the date of adoption.  
Andre Burgers, 28 April 2003 and 29 March 2005

I have no information on the origination of the black, yellow and green colours.  I can't remember my father saying anything about the issue, nor do I think there was any mention of the colours, or the ANC, in the DAILY GLEANER articles that I frequently read.   I rather doubt the story about Jamaica sending a delegation to the ANC in 1925. Jamaica at that time had a British colonial government, and I can't see British ex-pats supporting the ANC in any way.   The Jamaican colonial flag was of course the Union Jack, in some form, and I'm sure the black, yellow and green colors were not adopted until the 1962 pre-independence debates/public contests.  My opinion is that the black, yellow and green motif was a Jamaican original, based on the descriptions associated with the colors i.e. dark days in the past (slavery), green (the land of wood and water), and of course, sunshine.  The colors were appropriate for Jamaica, regardless of any other country or organization that may have used similar ones.
John McGhie, 29 March 2005

image by Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003

I got this flag myself on their independence day in 1962.  I was a sailor On the Lake Champlain. A banner (Arms on white) came with the flag.
Jim Wiseman, 3 January 2003

The flag sent by Jim Wiseman might be an other proposal. Dorling-Kindersley says that there was a public contest for the flag.
My (loose) conclusions are:
- Dorling-Kindersley is wrong.
- Mark drew the flag approved by the British authorities.
- The flag sent by Jim is a rejected proposal, or was proposed for a short period, between the Tanganyika-like and the current saltire flags.
Ivan Sache, 10 January 2003

Dorling-Kindersley is not wrong.  This version of the flag with horizontal lines (there was also one with vertical lines) was printed in the Jamaican newspaper "The Daily Gleaner" in 1962 just before independence.  And yes, there was a public contest For the design of the flag.
John McGhie, 27 March 2005

Historic Suggestion for the Jamaican Flag can be found :
Jens Pattke, 29 September 2012

Political Flags

From what can be seen  on the websites of the Jamaican Labour Party and the Peoples National Party they use (and extensively) plain flags of respectively green (JLP) and orange (PNP). However, watching a very blurred video of a PNP public meeting, it is not inconceivable that some  flags might be defaced with the party symbol of a male head with hat, as seen on the site, although it could equally just be shadows.
Knud A. Berg, 31 March 2006

Storm Warning Signals

According to this WMO page, Jamaica's Storm Warning Signals are:
- 39a (two red pennants above each other): "Gale warnings: winds within the range 34-47 knots."
- 41a (two red flags, pierced black, above each other): "Hurricane warnings: winds above 63 knots."
- 40a (red flag pierced black): "Whole gale warning: winds within the range 48-63 knots."
- 56a (red pennant): "Small craft warning: winds and seas or sea conditions are only dangerous to small craft operations. Winds range from 25-34 knots."
Jan Mertens, 27 January 2008