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South African Privileged Yacht Club Ensigns

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
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Point Yacht Club

The present constitution of the Point Yacht Club was adopted in 1882 and laid down the following Club flags:

image by Clay Moss, 04 Nov 2007

Club Flag - The club flag shall be a rectangular red flag with a white cross with a white lighthouse in the upper canton next to the staff.

Club Burgee - The club burgee shall be a red pennant with a white cross with a white lighthouse in the upper canton next to the staff.

image by Clay Moss, 04 Nov 2007

In a letter dated 19 April 1937, the Under Secretary of State in the Dominions Office in London advised the South African High Commissioner that the Admiralty had approved the application of the Point Yacht Club for permission to use a red ensign defaced with the badge of the Club, namely a white lighthouse standing on brown rocks, in the lower fly. The decision to grant this Club a defaced red ensign might have been taken to obviate any confusion with the defaced blue ensign of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses which is also defaced by a light-house, but could have also have been influenced by the fact the Club's flags were predominantly red.

South Africa left the British Commonwealth on 31 May 1961 and in 1973 the Point Yacht Club ceased to be listed as a Privileged Yacht Club (Source:  SAVA Journal 3/94: The Union Jack over Southern and Central Africa, 1795 - 1994 [brl94] by FG Brownell).
Bruce Berry, 04 Nov 2007

Royal Cape Yacht Club

image by Clay Moss, 03 Nov 2007

In March 1914 the newly-named Cape Yacht Club, whose predecessor had been the Table Bay Yacht Club, applied for a Royal Warrant. In reply to this request the Governor-General advised the Club that His Majesty the King was "graciously pleased to approve the title Royal to the Cape Yacht Club". On 26 June 1914, the Governor-General, Viscount Gladstone, approved a recommendation that an Admiralty Warrant be issued authorizing the use of a plan blue ensign, but then World War I intervened.

After the end of the War, during which all Admiralty Warrants for privileged Yacht Club Ensigns were suspended, the Club applied for, and was granted,  the privilege of a Blue Ensign defaced in the lower fly with a white anchor ensigned with a Tudor Crown proper. Members of the Club who wished to avail themselves of this privilege had to make application through the Club. Warrants were again suspended during World War II.

The Club's defaced blue ensign was flown from the flagstaff at the Clubhouse until 1966. At that time only three members were authorized to wear it on their yachts. South Africa had by that time left the Commonwealth and a special meeting of the Club resolved that the ensign should be replaced by the South African national flag. The Warrant was duly returned to the Admiralty (Source:  SAVA Journal 3/94: The Union Jack over Southern and Central Africa, 1795 - 1994 [brl94] by FG Brownell).

The Club burgee is triangular, per pale red and blue, charged on the red with a white anchor ensigned with a Tudor Crown proper. The burgee has a narrow border around the edges.
Bruce Berry, 03 Nov 2007

image by Clay Moss, 03 Nov 2007

As a matter to note, I have been in contact with the RCYC's Commodore, and the Club is currently in the process of getting their warrant to utilize their ensign reinstated. I have prepared the above image" to show what a new ensign might look like with a (modern) St. Edward's crown.
Clay Moss, 03 Nov 2007

image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 June 2014

A variant of the RCYC burgee with a white anchor has been put on auction on eBay.

image by Clay Moss, 03 Nov 2007

The Constitution of the Club can be found on its website, which says:

The Club flag shall consist of a red burgee with a blue fly with a white hanging anchor surmounted by a gold crown superimposed on the burgee: an example of which shall be retained with the Club records for reference purposes. ..."

So, Clay's image matches the constitution, in that it has a white anchor. This is somewhat curious, as Clay has been in contact with the RCYC before he drew his 2007 image, which shows a golden anchor, and they apparently verified the drawing. I wonder what that reference specimen retained with the club records actually looks like?

The merchandise pages do show a burgee.  Here the emblem is considerably more abstract than in Clay's images. It also has a rather bland golden anchor, instead of the characteristic anchor in Clay's images that makes the burgee so instantly recognisable.  I don't know how official it is, but we may have to document and
illustrate it as a separate design/variation.

The constitution lists flag officer's positions, but it doesn't elaborate on whether "flag" is to be taken literally, with these officers having specific flags, different from the burgee.

image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg,  31 May 2015

The club's history page, gives more information on the Table Bay Yacht Club as well. As I read it, the Table Bay Yacht Club was founded in 1905 and existed until 1914, when it merged with the   Alfred Rowing Club to form the Cape Yacht Club.   The TBYC's flag is illustrated as a red burgee with a white anchor.  (This suggests the Alfred Rowing Club brought in the blue fly, but that's not mentioned or illustrated.) The problem with all that is that there's still an Alfred Rowing Club in the Cape Town area, with a history older than that of the RCYC, so I may have misunderstood.

The history page then continues with the mention that shortly afterwards, the Cape Yacht Club received a Royal Charter. As one would assume that the crown was added to the burgee once the club became "Royal", it would seem likely that for the short - yet unspecified - while as the Cape Yacht Club, the club used a burgee without a crown.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 June 2014

The club's early records are held by the Western Cape Archives & Records Service (WCARS).  I recently had an opportunity to look at them, and this is what emerged in connection with the flags :

The original Table Bay Yacht Club burgee was red with a white anchor in the hoist. The index to the minutes refers to resolutions about a burgee on 09 April, 02 May and 18 May 1905 but, unfortunately, the Minute Book for 1905 is not there, so it's not clear on which of those dates the design was actually approved.

The club was renamed 'Cape Yacht Club' in January 1914, as it no longer wanted to confine itself to Table Bay.  The 'Royal' title was approved in May 1914, and the burgee was then changed.  The committee resolved on 16 June 1914 that "the flag selected displayed next the shaft the white anchor on a red field of the old Table Bay Yacht Club with a crown in yellow above the anchor and a 'fly' of blue" [WCARS : A 2568 Vol 1/1/1/2].

The privileged ensign was acquired in 1920.  On 20 April 1920, the commodore reported to the committee that he had approached the Admiralty and received a favourable  reply. The options were a plain Blue Ensign or a Blue Ensign defaced with the club badge. The committee decided to adopt the latter [WCARS : A 2568 Vol 1/1/1/3].

The files contain a copy of a Warrant issued to one of the members in 1921. As a matter of interest, the wording was :
"This is to certify that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have been pleased, by virtue of the power and authority vested in them, to authorise the Blue Ensign of His Majesty's Fleet with the distinguishing marks of the Club thereon to be worn on board the "....." being a British vessel registered in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, provided that the Ensign shall not without the consent of Their Lordships in writing be worn on board the "....." while that vessel is lent on hire or otherwise to any person who is not a member of the ..... Yacht Club, or who, being a member of the Club is not a natural born or naturalised British subject" [WCARS : A 2658 Vol 2/1 File 1].
Arthur Radburn, 30 Sept 2014

In 1914, the crown would have been the Tudor crown rather than the post-1952 St. Edward's crown.
Arthur Radburn, 31 May 2015

Royal Natal Yacht Club

image by Clay Moss, 02 Nov 2007

The Royal Natal Yacht Club had its origins in the Natal Yacht Club which was founded in 1858 and on which the title "Royal" was conferred on 17 February 1891.

An Admiralty Warrant was issued on 15 May 1894 for a distinctive blue ensign, bearing in the fly "The Natal Arms surmounted by a crown" for use by the Royal Natal Yacht Club. The device in the fly is a slightly simplified version of that depicted in the Natal colonial seal, excluding the circumscription. It is mainly gold (yellow), with some white detail in the upper crown and in the oval shield of the Royal Arms, while the cap and jewels of the upper crown are red. The placing of the device directly on the
blue field ensured that this Ensign would not be confused with the Natal Blue Ensign, with which it otherwise bears a striking similarity.

This privileged ensign has been in use for more than a century and unlike the other South African privileged yacht ensigns of the Royal Cape and Point Yacht Clubs, it was not relinquished after South Africa left the Commonwealth on 31 May 1961 (Source:  SAVA Journal 3/94: The Union Jack over Southern and Central Africa, 1795 - 1994 [brl94] by FG Brownell).

The Club burgee, which is also in current use, bears on a triangular white field a blue cross fimbriated in red, with the Royal Crown proper in the canton.
Bruce Berry, 02 Nov 2007

image by Clay Moss, 02 Nov 2007

This posting marks the first time that I have sparked a club initiated change in their ensign. Apparently, nobody has bothered to draw up the RNYC ensign or the badge in quite a while. The above illustration represents the club's original ensign. When I submitted this to the club for their critique, I did so not realizing that the UK's Coat-of-Arms had changed slightly over the past 100 plus years.  Evidently, in 1894, the lion faced dexter or to the observer's right towards the fly end of the ensign, and was not wearing a crown. In the current UK Arms, the lion faces the observer and is wearing a crown (top image).

Anyway, I submitted an RNYC ensign with a the current version of the Coat -of -Arms. Needless to say that RNYC's officials realised the error.  However, they liked what I had done, and in their next board meeting, changed their defacement to reflect the current version of the UK Arms.

Among other things, this means that the new badge will have three royal crowns on it. One on the lion's head, one topping off the CoA, and the big crown over everything. As a matter to note, while the lion's crown and the crown on top of the Arms will be "modern day St. Edward's" in style, the big crown over all will be the old Victorian style St. Edward's crown, reflecting the fact that the club gained its royal status during Queen Victoria's reign.

The RNYC's Commodore and I discussed the fact that the RNYC's defacement is in fact the most complex defacement in the British ensign 'universe' and could do with a good overhaul. Simultaneously, the club takes a measure of pride in having the most complex badge and had no plans to make a change beyond recognizing the changes in the British Coat-of-Arms.

I reckon until supplies are exhausted, both ensigns illustrated above can be recognized as "official" RNYC ensigns, although the top version is now correct.
Clay Moss, 02 Nov 2007

The date is not that of the original warrant. In 1893 the British consul in Nice had asked the Board of Trade whether a British yacht that had been lent to an American could fly the US flag. It was decided that Section 105 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 was not concerned with temporary hiring or giving of a yacht, only with the intentional concealment of national character, and therefore a foreign flag could be flown on a British vessel loaned or hired to a foreigner.

As a result the warrants for special ensigns that had been issued to yacht clubs were amended to include;
"The ensign shall not without our authority in writing be worn on board a vessel belonging to the ..........Yacht Club while such vessel is lent, on hire or otherwise, to any person not being a member of the club, or, when being a member of the club, is not a natural born or naturalised British subject."   All existing warrants were cancelled and new warrants issued, all with the date 15 May 1894. [National Archives (PRO) MT 9/471].

In the 1892 edition of Lloyd's Yacht Register the Royal Natal is listed as having a special ensign, and it is likely that the original warrant was issued at about the same
time that the title 'Royal' was granted in February 1891.
David Prothero, 03 Nov 2007